After the annular eclipse, part 2

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Here are some further thoughts about the annular eclipse of May 20, 2012, which I viewed with a group of some 20 friends (if you haven't, read part 1 first).

5) The eclipse itself was a spectacle. Granted, it was not a total eclipse, but there was majesty nonetheless. I've observed several annular eclipses, but during this one the Moon stood farthest from Earth. This meant a thick annulus (ring) of solar disk surrounded the Moon at maximum coverage. For whatever reason (maybe because it was so different than the others), I found it particularly appealing. Our surroundings darkened (to the point of "creepy," according to Mike Marcotte), but it never got down to the range of twilight darkness. Still, even non-astronomers could tell that something odd was happening.

6) We sighted Venus more than 20 minutes before the eclipse reached its maximum. My wife, Holley, was the first to spot it. Each second that ticked by until mideclipse made Earth's sister planet easier to see. We just covered the Sun with a hand, and there it was. Then, about 7 minutes prior to maximum, I discovered that you could see Venus even if you didn't cover the Sun. Staring at the planet with the brilliant solar orb (sorry, "ring") just below it was surreal.

7) Nobody had any equipment problems. In fact, this was such a careful group that few people forgot to bring everything they needed. And nearby stores had ample supplies to replace what was left behind. (The tally amounted to two hats, a 9-volt battery, and a small camera tripod.)

8) It was great to experience the excitement of the people who happened to be in the park with us — especially the children. One little girl went from person to person exclaiming, "I saw the Moon!" And beyond this event, they were fascinated by our travels. " Ooh, you've been to China?" "I want to go to Spain." and "Where's Namibia?" were some of the things we heard. And, seriously, Mike Reynolds (an Astronomy contributing editor and dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Florida State College), you've really been to 60 countries? I have to pick up the pace!

9) The immediate camaraderie among our friends was heartening, and not unexpected. This event grew out of a text I sent to Dave White in Tucson, Arizona, more than six months ago. I wrote, "Hey, Holley and I are thinking ..." his quick reply was, "Count Sunni and me in!" Subsequent conversations with more friends eventually led to a group of 20 people, most of whom had never met the others, gathering under the Moon's antumbra in Page, Arizona. Everyone had a great time getting to know one another. And as we parted, I heard several people ask the question trip-planners live for: "What's next?"

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