Friday, May 25, 2012

Annular Eclipse trip - Day Three (Sun 20 May) ECLIPSE DAY!

Solar eclipses occur when the sun, moon and earth line up precisely, so that when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, it blocks the sun's disk. In a total eclipse, the moon covers the sun completely, and the moon's shadow falls on the surface of the earth. The sun's corona and prominences are visible. During an annular eclipse, the moon is further from earth, and is too small to cover the sun completely. No shadow falls on the earth's surface, and the sun appears as a dramatic glowing ring in the sky.


** Even with over 90% of the sun's disk covered, it is still too bright to view directly. Filters and proper eye protection must be used during ALL phases of an annular eclipse.

We've been chasing eclipses since viewing our first total solar eclipse in 1991, in the Sea of Cortez. We have seen 5 total eclipses and 3 annulars (counting this one). In addition to Mexico, eclipse chasing has taken us to the Caribbean, Pacific Northwest, Southern California coast, Zambia, Egypt and China. So a road trip to Tonopah was relatively easy compared to some of our previous eclipse viewing ventures.

Downtown TONOPAH, Nevada

Tonopah is located about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno in west-central Nevada, at an altitude of just over 6000 feet.

Tonopah began life as a mining town around 1900, with the discovery of gold and silver.

Today Tonopah still has a small town feel with many historical buildings still standing.

CLOWN MOTEL - Tonopah, Nevada

The town is also home to the Clown Motel which - oddly enough - is located next to a cemetery. If that combination doesn't creep you out (and if you aren't coulrophobic) the motel advertises some pretty cheap rates.

We opted for the Best Western...


A flyer from the local astronomy club (Tonopah Astronomical Society) said there would be a public eclipse viewing at the Tonopah Mining Park, which was about a block away from our hotel.

Since we were already able to view annularity from Tonopah, we decided to join the event with our scopes.


There are miles and miles of abandoned mining tunnels below the Park and the entire town.

Sometimes sink holes appear unexpectedly, like this one in a corner of the Mining Park's parking lot. The larger "glory hole" behind it had actually swallowed up an entire building many years ago, when the mine was still in operation.

There were a lot of nice scopes and set-ups for the eclipse. Many people were local, but others (like us) had travelled from out of the area. One gentleman had come all the way from Maine!

The Tonopah astronomy club had safe solar viewing glasses and filters available for sale, and they sold out quickly.

Our regular field scope, which we normally use for birding, was fitted with a Baader filter for safe solar viewing. And a good friend also loaned us his Coronado PST, which gave views of the solar surface and prominences.

People were simply holding their digital cameras or phones up to the telescope eyepieces to take eclipse pictures, and getting really good results. We also encouraged eyeball viewing through the safely filtered scopes.

The entire eclipse lasted just over 2 hours, with first contact at 5:18pm. At our location we had about 3-1/2 minutes of annularity as the moon passed centered in front of the sun. The last bite of the moon slid past at 7:38pm, as the sun set in a low bank of clouds on the western horizon.

These are my 2 favorite pics: one during annularity, and the other at sunset.

"On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight."  ~ Amos 8:9

Tonopah Astronomical Society:

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