Christmas Eclipse Watching

Leigh-Anne and I promised ourselves that, barring horrendous weather or cloudy skies, we would go somewhere this morning to watch the eclipse. Neither of has has seen a solar eclipse of any kind since the total eclipse of Nov. 1994. (As an aside, if you’ve never seen one, do whatever you have to do to see a total eclipse. It’s an incredible experience. There’s one next year visible from Africa and parts of Europe.)

Well, today was a beautiful, clear day in Northern Virginia, so we drove about 3 miles down the road to a park off of the G.W. Parkway along the Potomac. We took along my 114mm Newtonian reflector 'scope. I set up the scope and began trying to align it with the Sun. Since you can’t look through either the finderscope or the eyepiece, you have to watch the shadow of your scope on the ground to get a good idea when it’s aligned.

I could see it was getting close when a circle of bright light came out of the eyepiece of the finderscope and appeared on the ground. A few adjustments showed light streaming out of the scope’s eyepiece as well. I stuck my glove over the eyepiece for a moment to confirm that, and to my surprise the bright pinpoint of light on my glove began smoking. Ooops! Glad it wasn’t something more flammable.

Once we had it centered, we were able to project a clear, sharp image of the Sun through the 25mm eyepiece onto a piece of posterboard. It was about 11:10, and although the eclipse had just started, you could already see a tiny bite taken out of the Sun by the disc of the Moon. We had both underestimated how cold it was, especially on the river, so we took turns sitting in the car to warm up.

A lot of joggers were out, including a few who asked me ifit had started. There were also several couples and families there who had some to see the eclipse, and I was able to provide a few of them with a terrific projected image. There was an older Asian couple, and the woman told me she had never seen an eclipse before. It was kind of nice to be able to show her something new and amazing.

We tracked it with minor adjustments every few minutes. It was great to be able to see more and more of the Sun disappear minute by minute. At one point, a large, thick cloud passed in front of the Sun, enabling as to look directly at it and see the eclipse head-on. Despite the cold, we stuck it out through maximum, about 12:45, and left for home shortly after.

I wish there had been more kids down there. “Sidewalk astronomy” is a great way to get kids interested in science, and show them something incredible. Maybe next time.

Not necessarily:

Last lunar eclipse I was out with a pair of binoculars and a kid (maybe 7 years old) with his dad asked if he could look. I let him, and after a few gosh-wow comments, he asked his dad what was causing it.

I swear I am not making this up.

His dad said “No-one knows. No-one can explain it. Scientists don’t know everything.” and before I could say anything he said “Let’s go” to the kid and dragged him off. I didn’t want to chase after them to embarrass the dad and maybe get into a confrontation. It was pretty sad.

And I’d fully intended to watch the eclipse today too, but I woke up to grey skies and snow.


Here’s a picture I took outside my apartment at the peak of the eclipse this afternoon.

I didn’t have a fancy-shmancy telescope like Phil does, but I did try the poke-a-whole in the cardboard trick. That worked, and I could see the eclipse. But, being alone, I couldn’t photograph it.

Then, I remembered someone mentioning a colander and I grabbed mine out of the kitchen. I held it between the sun and my camera and shot. You can see several mini-eclipses in the refractions in the picture.

It’s not perfect, but it’s still cool. Or so I think.

i was with my family in wilmington, we would either look out the window or run out for a few minutes. we had nifty solar viewing glasses i bought from the site mentioned on it was a very cold and clear day in de so we had a great view of it. we also kept an eye on cnn’s live coverage. fantastic show from mr sun and ms moon.

It was a clear cold day today - lovely eclipse weather - so I bundled up and got in the car. We drove downtown to pick up my guy Eric at the Berri-UQAM metro station, then drove up Mount Royal. We hung out in a parking lot and I watched the eclipse through my welding goggles, which I passed around. We got some photos which I will share when they become available.

Montreal had something like 70% of totality. It was very impressive.

Eclipses are always a letdown.
People try to ooh and ahh, but it’s never really anything to do twice.

It’s a mistake to over-hype stuff like this because it turns people against science.

Down here in FL, it was terrific eclipse-viewing weather - 70 and sunny. (Nyah nyah, Phil, Leigh-Anne, and Montfort!) Of course, we only got to 35% of totality, so without the eclipse glasses which Mrs. F. had bought, it was impossible to tell anything was going on.

Which got me to wondering: have there actually been documented instances of people seriously screwing up their eyes by looking at the sun during eclipses? You’d think that if there’s a real risk, occasionally some bozo would look at the sun during a near-total eclipse and fry his eyes. But I’ve never heard of it happening. Any of my fellow ignorance-fighters know anything about this? Or should we punt this one up to the SD Science Advisory Board, or even - dare I say it - Cecil?

According to this article; during an eclipse in 1970, 150 people damaged their eyes. That is scary. I took pictures the safe & lazy way. I stayed indoors and by using an index card with holes poked in it I got pictures like this.

By the time the clouds opened up in my area, the eclipse was over.

I heard this tip on the news, I tried it, and it works:

Take a CD that has a black label. Hold it to your eye and look through the label side, and you can safely see the image of the sun.

Hey, and a vB viewing tip for the subject field, too!


I was busy watching 7 nibling and my daughter tear through dozens of presents. By the time we left my sister-in-law’s, it was long over. I didn’t remember until later that afternoon.

And of all things, my wife and I were in Maine, where the eclipse was around 60% totality.

Shoulda set my alarm.

Montfort, I was probably the one you remember mentioning a colander. That was a pretty neat photo… um… but the idea was to use the colander just like the pinhole camera… you just get lots and lots of eclipses projected on the ground instead of just one. But considering how it looks like you’ve got a wire colander, that might not have worked anyway. The ones I’ve used have larger holes, spaced further apart, so the images don’t all run together. I shoulda been clearer, but I didn’t think about it…

Dire Wolf, I take science reporting on the news, local or national, TV or newspaper, with a serious grain of salt. I couldn’t say for sure if the black-labelled CD is really dangerous, but I always steer away from “home-brew” eclipse viewing devices that require you to look through something. Your retinas don’t have pain receptors, so you won’t know there’s a problem until it’s too late.

[pedantic planetarium presenter hat off]

It was cloudy and rainy in Houston. I had a nasty cold so I stayed in. It did seem unusually dark during the day. But it would have anyway so dreary the weather.

Yeah, it probably was you, and yeah, I tried that. But, since it was a wire colander it didn’t work that well. The photo doesn’t capture the eclipse as well as I’d like it to have (and as well as the colander presented it to my eyes, not my camera), but, as you said, it’s still a pretty neat photo.

Thanks for the tip, next time I’ll get a real colander. :stuck_out_tongue: