29 August 2017

8/21/2017 - Totally Two

This amazing app also announced things like "look for crisp shadows" and "look for right or left facing crescent shadows." We couldn't see them on the ground, but it showed up beautifully on our green camp chairs.

It also announced "observe changes in nature." Skies became darker as the eclipse proceeded. Insects (especially grasshoppers) and birds got louder as the moon advanced across the sun. A hawk and other birds started flitting more actively, thinking it was dusk. We all closed our eyes for a bit to take in the changing sounds of nature. Temperatures lowered and later raised about 12 degrees over the time lapse.


Finally max coverage or totality was approaching. We watched for two effects (which weren't announced by the app).
First was Bailey's beads. Bailey discovered this phenomenon. Because of the hills and valleys of the moon's rough surface, light is shown unevenly at next to last glimpse before totality. It appears as a beaded "necklace" effect. None of us caught that. See: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/bailys-beads-effect.

Then just before totality, the last glimpse of the sun appears as a flash of "round" light to the side of the sun. This is called the diamond ring effect (like engagement ring). Everyone was looking for this effect. All saw it, but me. Dang missed it, but I'll know better next time. Not sure what I was doing. Probably taking a photo. See: https://sunstopper.wordpress.com/tag/diamond-ring-effect.

This happens again at the very moment the moon moves off the sun, but we were too busy getting our eclipse glasses back on to catch it. Ron was also looking for a big shadow to go racing across the open field. He did not see it.

At the exact moment of the max eclipse time, the app said "glasses off." We all took off our glasses and marveled at one of nature's most exciting moments. We each took a quick peek through Ron's binoculars rigged with its own solar "sunglasses." I took four photos. Here are my two best. I was not expecting a black and white result. I thought there would be yellowish tint around the moon from the sun's hot corona.



So many things to see and experience. Changes in temp. Sounds and sites of nature. Changing light. The dusky "sunset" behind us. Compare this with the same field above behind our chairs. The sun and the moon. All so incredibly amazing. A fleeting moment to remember for all time.


The max time for the max sun coverage was 2 minutes 40 seconds in the 100% viewing band a few miles away. We were at 99.9%. We had 2 minutes and 37 seconds view time without our solar protection eye gear. It went so fast that it seemed like maybe 30 seconds before the app called "glasses on" and then a few seconds later a more urgent "glasses on." So we obeyed and unenthusiastically put our glasses on.

Ron also took a pocket camera video of the field to see if it would capture the sun/shade line sweeping across. Did not capture, but for 3-4 minutes you can hear our oohs and aahs and comments. (I'll try to upload this file later as the file size is too big at this point.) You can also hear the sound of a loud jet planes. It was irritating. I much preferred to have listened to the sounds of nature. Anyway, we found out the story behind the jets today on a Nova episode.

NASA scientists figured a way to "stretch" and document max totality viewing time. Two jets from Ellington Air Force base in Houston would follow the path of the eclipse. The sun's shadow moves 1,600 miles per hour. These Viet Nam era WB-57 jets with telescopes and video cameras installed on their noses traveled ⅓ of that. So, one flew 50 miles ahead of the other. As one fell behind the shadow's path, the other jet took over giving over 7 minutes of documentation. This more than doubled the viewing time of scientists on earth.

We sat in silence for a moment taking a deep breathe, trying to take it all in. Imagining what people in olden days, who did not understand astronomy or science, thought about this phenomenon. Maybe they thought the world was ending. For us it was an extraordinary moment...spiritual, fascinating, amazing, other worldly.

We stayed a bit longer, but not all the way to 4th contact. After the big moment, it seemed a bit of a letdown to see the the moon slide away and the sun to return to normality. On the way back, the radio station we were listening to posed the question, "I wonder how many babies born today will be named Eclipse?!"

8/21/2017 - Totally Part One

The next morning we met at 7:15am for a quick breakfast at the hotel. Biscuits were outstanding. I made a cheesy egg sandwich out of one and Mike had gravy over two. Then we headed out in search of the perfect viewing spot along the Ohio River. It was already 79 degrees and not much in the way of clouds. Yay!

This eclipse was very special because we had not experienced a TOTAL eclipse of the sun in the USA since June 8, 1918 (99 years ago). Neil DeGrasse Tyson also pointed out this eclipse path would only occur within the US and not any other country. So unusual! Ron stated he had been waiting "his whole life" to see it. Dixie was dressed, oh soooo appropriately, for today's event.

In simple terms, here is what we would see. The moon passes between the earth and sun and the three orbs line up precisely. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but it is also 400 times closer to earth than the sun, so it appears the same size. From the right viewing angle, the moon will entirely cover the sun and make a shadow racing across earth's surface. The only light comes from the sun's corona (outside flaming surface), appearing as a "halo" around the moon.

Ron had scoped out a tentative spot in the 100% viewing zone. The drive from our hotel was 1-½ hours and about 68 miles down 2-lane roads. Much of our route followed the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (more later), according to signs along the way. The road ended at an old ferry crossing on the Ohio River. At 9:45am, it was already quite crowded there.
We turned left and drove about 10 miles looking for the perfect spot close to the river that wasn't crowded. No luck. We returned back to the ferry crossing and continued on in the other direction. We drove a few miles to a dead end and back-tracked about ½ way. There was a turnout under some shade trees and we chose that spot. Not another living being around. All in all we were there about three hours and only eight cars drove by.
One reason we picked this spot was that we hoped to see the shadow of the eclipse moving quickly across the wide expansive field.

The landscape around us was mostly soybean fields--in front of us and behind down a short trail.
That was a bonus for me because I always wondered what soybeans as a crop looked like up close. See the fuzzy pea pods hanging down the center of the stem in this pix.
Beyond the field was the Ohio River. We saw a long large barge easing its way down the river. The white you see is one boat, or maybe a couple hooked together, pulled by the helm to the far right.
And beyond that were rock cliffs and a resort or something hidden in the trees. Here's a close up of what you can barely see it in the upper right corner of the me/he shot above. (What a great camera I have!) We wondered what the eclipse view would be from the resort as they were facing directly into it.
We were all prepped with sun glasses (used before the eclipse), solar eclipse safety classes, hats, sunscreen (thanks, Dix), chairs, binoculars, multiple cameras, picnic lunch, and lots of water. By now the temp was 93 degrees. Ron set up his camera with a timer to get this shot of our crew. As we sat here, the eclipse would occur behind us. When it started we would move from under the tree and turn our chairs around to face the sun.













I had downloaded the Solar Eclipse Talking Timer app ($1.99). It was developed by plastic surgeon Dr.  Gordon Telepun. He has a keen hobby interest in astronomy and particularly solar eclipses. The app even had a test button, so you could simulate what was going to happen and be more prepared. NASA actually used this exact app in announcing various phases of the event. Wow, amazing app! It certainly enhanced our experience.
Once we were at our destination, the app found our longitude-latitude position. It then configured the app to verbally announce various phases of the event at the exact right times.

11:54:13 - 1st contact - when the moon firsts starts covering the sun. Ron took this pix with his cell phone through his solar glasses at the start of the event. The moon was moving in from the top right. I tried taking a pix, too, but pretty tricky. I did not want to take a chance and accidentally view the sun, incurring eye damage. This shows the first "bite" out of the sun.
13:22:06 - 2nd contact - when the moon nears completely covering the sun
13.23.25 - Max eclipse - when the moon hits the perfect mid point of covering the sun
13:24:43 - 3rd contact - when the moon starts uncovering the sun
14:49:17 - 4th contact  when the moon completely moves away from the sun

To be continued ...

24 August 2017

8/20/2017 - The Sun is My God

It gives me warmth. It feeds me. It allows life to continue in all flora and fauna. I love it.

So when we heard about the total eclipse that was "peaking" nearby, we were all excited. We had planned to watch it at home in the "89% coverage" zone, but friends Ron and Dixie asked us to join them on a quick road trip to Kentucky to view it in the 100% total eclipse area. Our destination was in the band just southeast of St. Louis.
Ron arranged the details. That was a wonderful break for me as I usually do all the planning for twosome or group trips in our family. He did a fabulous job. We booked our hotel at the Sleep Inn in Henderson, KY. He suggested picnic lunches and chose dinner spots for our evening meals.

We got a pick up from Ron and Dix at 9a on Sunday morning. It was sunny and 64 degrees at departure. We each had a bag and plenty of food. Guys hopped in the front seats and gals in the back. They have a newer Prius, so there was plenty of room to stretch legs and spread out our traveling gear.
They don't have a GPS, so Ron had planned a route to our destination with paper maps and Internet search info. Our journey was 420 miles with 6 hours and 39 minutes of travel time. The route was pretty direct. I-94 to I-69 to Henderson.

Pretty smooth sailing except just south of Indianapolis due to I-69 extension construction. Mostly low, flat fields of corn and soybeans everywhere you looked. Lots of folks of every persuasion on the road. Here's one bunch of colorful guys and gals.
We spied this "eclipse or bust" car on the road and a pix of it ended up in the Great Photos section of the Washington Post.
We stopped for lunch at 1:30pm. Dix Google-mapped to find a spot with picnic tables. We searched several parks, but not quite what we were looking for. So we stopped along the road under a HUGE shade tree, near a small creek, and just ate out of the trunk.

Outside of the giant redwoods in California, this is one the biggest trees we have come across. It would take at least three grown men with arms outstretched to surround it. Some of the lower limbs were bigger than normal-sized tree trunks. This photo does not do it justice. Later Dixie and I tried to identify it (although we had not grabbed a leave, darn!) and think it was a northern catalpa.

The temp was 90 degrees and humid. Little sweat bees were enjoyed our fine food spread as much as we did. Luckily we did not get any in the car to bother us there.

Filled the tank at Loogootee, Indiana, at $2.35 a gallon. Cheaper than Michigan. The lowest we saw on this trip was $2.09.

This eclipse event was supposed to produce the "biggest traffic jam in America" because so many people were traveling to the "total" zone. We really didn't have a problem except in some construction areas. Along the way we saw people on the roadside selling "eclipse" glasses. Ron and Dixie had already picked up a four-pack for us. 

Last stop of the day was our hotel in Henderson, Kentucky. Glad we made our hotel reservations last October, because nothing but "No Vacancy" signs along the road. Got to the Sleep Inn at 3:43pm. Temp was 97 degrees. The room was big, clean, and comfortable. We refreshed and met in R&D's room for a round of cocktails and chatter.

At 6pm we ambled to the Tokyo Sushi and Hibachi Restaurant next door to the hotel.
"Q" or Bill Q was the owner, we think, and our waiter. He had the best sense of humor ever and kept us laughing throughout the whole meal. His two young boys napped on a nearby sofa. His gorgeous wife was behind the sushi bar in full Geisha dress and hairdo with "chopsticks" holding it up. She looked authentic Japanese with a more slender face, but Bill said the whole family was from China.

Ron ordered a small veggie rice. For $5, he got enough to feed three people. Dixie and I ordered veggie tempura and Mike ordered veggie tempura with shrimp. It was served with a wonderful mushroom soup, small side salad, and a large variety of veggies. Yum!
We had made fast friends with Bill by the end of the meal. He must have liked us, too, as he brought four clean sake glasses to our table and a big bottle of Japanese plum wine. He poured each a cup of the wine. It was so tasty we asked him to bring the bottle back, so we could photo the label.

He returned with that bottle and yet another bottle that he said was the good stuff. He poured a round of that and it was! This was all after we had paid our bill, so no expectation that we should pay for these extra treats. What a nice gesture. Yes, southern hospitality is wonderful, even if it is coming from a non-native.
By 9pm we were ready to settle in for the evening. We were tired from the drive and excited for the next and special day to begin.

23 August 2017

8/19/2017 - Grand Opening of Little Free Library in Downtown Kalamazoo

I have been working with Downtown Kalamazoo, Inc. for about three years to establish a little free library. It is located at the Arcadia Festival site in the kids' playground. This play area is enjoyed mostly by under-served children. I hope to bring a smidgen of joy and light into their little lives. We are officially #54899 in the world-wide network of LFLs.

A location was chosen which was convenient to the playground and a picnic table.
The library box itself was converted from an old phone stand that is wheelchair height (just the right height for kids to reach in). Patrick (friend and employee of DKI) converted the box from its unused location on Kalamazoo Mall to the park. He added a door with plexiglass window and shelves to accommodate various book sizes. He painted it forest green to match the rest of the park "furniture."
A cement pad was added to support the box and a stepping stone was later added so folks don't have to stand on wet grass or mud while looking for books. As most people are looking down at their smart phones as they pass, soon I will paint "READ!" on the stepping stone. Maybe that will catch their eye and encourage them to look up.
Books had been collected over the last six months and I had nearly 300 to start.
Finally the grand opening day was August 19.

We had about 20 kids (although we had planned for 75). Here are some of our first customers after the ribbon cutting. They all got a tutorial on how to use the book box. 

Then each child received a 12-pack of sidewalk chalk and a choice of two activity books with crayons.
 They got right to work using the chalk.
Thanks to my crew for helping with the grand opening. Martha on left, me, Dixie, and my mom (seated). My sis helped out, too, but she is taking the photos. Thanks to all!

I'll give you an update in a few week to let you know how it is going.