The Nebula June 1994 Newsletter of the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society
THE BIG ONE!
Annular Eclipse at 12:02 p.m. with a Celestron C8 and Meade solar filter.
Ring of Photons
On Tuesday, May 10, 1994 at 12:03 p.m., two mutually exclusive events occurredsimultaneously over the grounds of Purdue University; clear skies anda solar eclipse. While some could debate as to which event had thegreater cosmological significance, the members of the Wabash Valley AstronomicalSociety were there with their telescopes, solar filters, pinhole boxes,and Mylar glasses to observe a ring of photons that were created by thechance alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. Crowds of curious onlookersgrew in direct proportion to amount of light covered by the shadow of theMoon as it slowly traveled across the Sun's disk. By mid-eclipse, over600 people were eager to view the last great annular eclipse of the 20thcentury occurring over the United States. They weren't disappointed.
Relativistic Time Effects
Einstein was right when he said "all things, including time, are relative."Solar eclipses are a testimony to the fact. As 1 waited for totality, timeseemed to move in uniform, linear manner with plenty of opportunities toobserve peeks at the Sun, take pictures, and explain the events of theday to those who had gathered around my telescope. However, during thesix minutes of totality a great time compression effect occurred. Within30 seconds, my carefully developed plans of observing and photographingthe eclipse quickly fell apart as the Moon raced across the Sun's disk.Pinned in by the crowd, I had only enough time to snap a few quick pictures,and watch the eclipse by projection on the telescope that was next to me.Based upon these events, 1 can see why a true eclipse chaser should havethree telescopes, one to view by, one to photograph by, and one to showprojections to everybody else.
As I stepped onto the mall at about 10:00 a.m., it was clear that somethingspecial was about to take place. Unfamiliar telescopes and an elaboratelybuilt information booth were signals that more than just club members wouldbe observing today. Amazingly enough, the weather gods were uncharacteristicallygenerous and we were blessed with a sky that a cloud wouldn't dare to disturb.
Bill Annis at the WVAS Booth
I decided to bring my binoculars and to project the sun through themonto a white piece of paper stuck inside a small box. Certainly a crudesetup next to some of the other equipment, but it was a way I could participatein the event rather than be just another onlooker.
I was proud when the first image of the sun glowed onto the paper; actuallysurprised. I'm always surprised something I try actually works the firsttime, no matter how easy others make it look. In addition to the successof the binoculars, I enjoyed all views of the sun, whether projected ontovarious flat white objects or seen directly through solar filters. Joeand I both commented that solar observing is much more interesting thanwe ever expected, and given the cloudy evenings here, probably less frustrating.
Members of the public safely view the eclipse through a WVAS pinholebox.
My uncle says that everything in nature follows the "bell curve", andcertainly the crowd fit that description. Starting off with only the equipmentoperators and a few other curious people (probably a Purdue grounds crewwondering who's ruining their grass), the number of people grew slowlyuntil around 11:30 when people arrived in droves. Some brought blanketsand staked out a place on the ground for optimal viewing, while otherspositioned themselves next to the projection screens for clear sight. Somewere so desperate they formed a ring around my humble binoculars. Thenthe cheer went up as the moon veiled the sun, which was when my image decidedto leave the box. I finally got it back in view and an impressive sightit was. But the moon was not to be stopped and before I had time to losethe image again, it found the other side of the sun and continued its trek. The crowd stuck around for a short while, maybe as surprised as I was athow quickly it was over!
Aaron and his famous 8" inch scope.
Certainly I'll remember the day well. The eerie light that shone aroundannularity, in some sense bright and in some sense dark, can never be duplicated.Then there were the looks on people's faces as they watched the happenings,people who rarely look up from their day to day lives. And I was struckby how much more there is to the universe than what I'm able to touch,or hear, or even see.
Joe Poirier ran one of the Meade 6 inch telescopes and gave solar projectionsviews to countless viewers.
Afterwards I talked to people who weren't the least bit interested inthe eclipse. I was surprised at first, but then understood. Some peopletalk of opening night of a show as an historic moment; others can't resista book fresh off the new book shelf.
WVAS members chase the eclipse with dual telescopes.
The electricity of certain moments isn't wasted on everyone; only achosen few get to experience the excitement. I was glad I was chosen tofeel the thrill of the eclipse. It kind of puts things in perspective forme and my place in the universe.
George Wyncott gives a live interview to Channel 18 reporter ChrisParente about the eclipse.
Now I sit here on the evening of the partial lunar eclipse looking outat the first rain in over a week. I see that the weather gods are backon vacation, but this time I don't really mind.
Temperature changes plotted during the eclipse.
Article by Greg Rhoads