Experience a Solar Eclipse
by Vincent S. Foster
You don’t witness an eclipse…you EXPERIENCE it!
You can literally feel the ominous shadow of the moon before it arrives. The temperature drops. The wind picks up speed. The sunlight slowly dims, bathing your surroundings in an eerie twilight that produces colors with shades rarely seen in the natural world. Then it is time. Moments before totality a wall of darkness comes speeding towards you at up to 5,000 miles per hour—this is the shadow of the moon. You feel alive. You feel in awe. You feel anxiety. Then—totality! Where the sun once stood, there is a black disk, outlined by the soft pearly-white glow of the corona, about the ...view middle of the document...
There are significant changes in weather during eclipses. As the amount of sunlight is reduced, the temperature begins to fall. This results in corresponding changes in the barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, dew point and humidity. These changes can sometimes result in unexpected fog or dew. As the sun dwindles to a smaller and smaller crescent, the surrounding landscape very gradually takes on a late-afternoon appearance in the final minutes before totality. The changing colors of the landscape and clouds can be quite striking as well with yellows and oranges most often seen. Animals are very perceptive to changes in their environment. Livestock, wild birds, squirrels, insects and even domesticated pets will behave in interesting ways. Some animals, accustomed to feeding schedules, dictated by dawn and dusk, exhibit changes in eating habits. Roosters crow on cue as twilight comes and goes, while mosquitoes may go on a feeding frenzy. Fish are reportedly more willing to bite around totality. Note the changes you observe in your surroundings.
Photography Project: As a side project, take a photograph of a light-colored surface, such as a bed sheet, sandy ground, the side of a house, a street or a piece of white cardboard. Projected on them will be the leaf-formed pinhole camera images of crescent suns. Still or video available-light photographic sequences at fixed aperture and shutter speed, would be useful in determining where these images are first and last visible on each side of totality. Photography of diminishing light effects may be attempted, especially with low-light video cameras. Also, don’t neglect photographic studies of wildlife behaviors and photo documentation of chart recordings from weather instruments.
The Lunar Shadow and Sky Darkness
Observing Project: Observe and record features of the lunar shadow and sky darkness in response to the following questions:
1. How many seconds before totality was the shadow seen?
2. In what direction did the shadow become visible?
3. How did its darkness, appearance and color compare with the surrounding unshadowed sky?
4. How would you describe its very rapid motion and changing appearance, color and shape?
5. In what directions did you have time to look during as well as immediately before and after totality?
6. How would you describe the appearance and color of the sky in each of these directions as totality progressed?
7. When and how did the shadow disappear?
8. Describe how the light changed as the eclipse progressed (include any times as accurately as possible).
9. What stars and planets were you able to identify?
10. How soon before totality did stars and planets become visible?
11. How long after the end of totality did stars and planets disappear?
12. What kind of weather conditions existed during the eclipse (include the fraction of sky obscured by clouds and the direction of clouds, types of clouds, cloud coloration, sky coloration haze, etc.)?