On Sunday, I got to witness an astronomical event that I've wanted to see since I was in elementary school. I remember learning about eclipses and wishing I could view one myself. I finally got the chance (nearly 10 years later), and it was at one of the most beautiful places I've been — the Grand Canyon.
The eclipse began around 5:27 p.m. We had one of our Galileoscopes set up with a solar filter so we could view the progress of the eclipse. Watching the Moon “eat” the sunspots as it slowly made its way between the Sun and Earth was pretty entertaining. The excitement radiating from the crowd became more and more potent the closer we got to totality. Finally, at around 6:30, annularity was achieved.
Nicholas MacDonald took a solar filter sheet and attached it to his camera and ended up with some really great pictures of the eclipse and some sunspots. The rest of us who only had point-and-shoot cameras or iPads had to make do with just holding the eclipse glasses in front of the lenses of our cameras. I did manage to get one or two decent photos through the Galileoscope, but mine are nowhere near as awesome as those taken by people who had DSLR cameras.
After the eclipse, the class headed to the V-Bar-V Heritage Site near Sedona, Arizona, to see the petroglyphs of some ancient astronomers. Eric Webb, a23-year-old animation major, provided this recap:
Monday was personally more amazing for me than viewing an annular eclipse over the Grand Canyon among a large crowd of tourists. On this day, our small group of astronomy students got to look back on past astronomy students — those of the ancient past. We visited a site called V-Bar-V where ancient tribes (more than 900 years ago) created petroglyphs that let them track the seasons, utilizing the position of the Sun’s light relative to the symbolic carvings in the massive cliffs and boulders of the site.
At first glance, the almost childlike doodling carved into the cliff side seems like insignificant gibberish, but when the Sun reaches its peak, the symbols are slashed by shafts of light that line up with significant patterns indicating what time of year it was and what should be done to prepare for future endeavors. The relative crudeness of the carvings is quickly forgotten when you realize that the people that made them had no metal tools and basically created the whole motif using stone on stone. It was most interesting to learn that the site had been vacant for a century or two before Columbus was even born because ancient peoples had a basic understanding that staying in one place for too long depletes the resources and makes the place uninhabitable — a lesson “civilized” society could learn a great deal from.