Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar eclipse

Being friends with an astronomy professor comes in super handy when there's an eclipse! We drove about five miles south of Ann Arbor to get a clear view of the horizon. We ended up on Platt Road outside the Toyota complex, with another set of astro geeks across the road. When the security guard drove by to figure out what we were doing, and Pete enthusiastically and with some amount of detail explained the finer points of the eclipse, I felt like I was on The Big Bang Theory (ooh, I wanna be Amy Farrah  Fowler!).

He has a telescope (8 inches, baby!), and made filters (of mylar model rocket parachute material) to make the sun viewable, as opposed to looking like a huge piercing bright light.

Check out the detail! The little brown marks are sun spots. It's all the telescope; I just put my trusty Canon PowerShot lens up to the telescope lens! The ragged edge is due to the earth's atmosphere. It was moving like waves, which was really cool.

 The eclipse started for us in Michigan at 8:21 p.m., as the sun began to set.

 The moon is passing between the earth and the sun, blocking our view of the sun.

 Or, an invisible Cookie Monster is taking a bite.

 It started getting cloudy.

 And cloudier...

 And cloudier...

 and cloudier still as the sun was setting.

 Finally the clouds obscured the view entirely.

It was still a cool sunset, though.

Wikipedia has an animation showing how it would have looked if we had been able to see the entire eclipse, without clouds and in an earlier time zone with enough time before sunset. In the animation, the eclipse starts at the opposite end of the sun as my photos show--that's because the telescope flips the image.