Archive for August 24, 2017

Ephemeris Extra: My report of the total solar eclipse August 21, 2017

August 24, 2017 1 comment

In planning for this eclipse may main goal was to keep away from crowds and traffic as much as possible.  I originally wanted to stay in Springfield, IL so I could go west or south.  Earlier in the previous week I talked with the University of Missouri Extension service, and offered my services, so I felt kind of was obligated if the weather was half way decent. They were set up at the Howard County Fairgrounds in Fayette, MO.  It turned out that I couldn’t get a room in Springfield, but could 60 miles north in Bloomington.  One of the enticements to placate my granddaughter about the trip, was to visit some Lincoln sites in Springfield, which we did on Sunday the 20th.  On Saturday and Sunday the 19th & 20th the weather forecast for Fayette looked bad with clouds and rain in the afternoon.  So I made plans and checked routes in the direction of Paducah, KY.

Traffic heading south on I-55

Traffic heading south on I-55 by Springfield. Photo by Stephany Farrell.

I decided, after seeing the traffic heading down to south Illinois on I-55, that if the weather forecast improved for Fayette, MO I’d head there instead. By 11 p.m. the forecast for Fayette improved markedly. It was for partly cloudy skies, and the rain forecast for the afternoon was moved to Tuesday.

We headed out from our Bloomington, IL motel at 3 a.m. The sun came out just before we entered Missouri. The sky was mostly clear with cirrus and some stratus clouds, mostly in the south and west. There was no unusual traffic all the way there.

We were the first to arrive at 8 a.m. About a half hour later we were joined by folks in two cars from Ottumwa, IA. We all stuck pretty much together for the day, away from the building where most of the people, and entertainment was. All in all there were no more than a hundred people there.


Beautiful, but not so friendly clouds. Photo by Stephany Farrell.

Definitely unfriendly clouds

Definitely unfriendly clouds. Photo by Stephany Farrell.

As first contact approached it got progressively cloudier. After first contact I went over to the big shed where the entertainment was and some vendors, and gave a short talk on what to expect as totality approached.  We had a $5 hamburger lunch provided by the Howard County Cattlemen’s Association. And bought $10 eclipse T-shirts. For the most part the Sun was visible through the clouds, if hazily. After first contact the skies worsened, eventually losing the Sun at one point, but then the Sun’s image improved, and continually so up to 4th contact. At totality the Sun’s inner corona was visible, but nothing beyond that. So my grand photographic plans were for naught.

However my little action camera recorded the sky for a 45 minutes or so around the time of totality. And with playing it back yesterday, found that it recorded the Moon’s shadow going over very well. From it I’ve created 2 videos, one showing totality in real time, the other a time lapse 2 minute video of 20 minutes centered on totality, in which the shadow of the Moon can be seen passing over us, darkening the translucent clouds from west to east.  See the update below.

I gave my granddaughter, Bernadette (Bea) the job of recording the temperatures as the eclipse progressed.  Here is a chart made from her data:

Bea's temperature chart

Bea’s temperature chart. From data taken by Bernadette Farrell.

The high temperature going in was 94.7 degrees, and the lowest was 78.2 degrees just after totality ended.  It was stinking hot going in.  But around totality there was a cool breeze coming from the southwest.  It was refreshing.

I was going to spend more time soaking up the ambiance of the surreal world of totality this time, instead of staring at the Sun and sky. Well, I got it.

My videos of the eclipse are here:

The eclipse crew

The eclipse crew: Left to Right – Bob, Bea and Stef.

Update: Below is an 11 MB animated GIF file of totality with the action camera mentioned above  Starts at 14:09:59 and loops to 14:12:59.  The eclipsed sun is the donut at the top of the image.  around mid eclipse I pivot tha camera up the eclipse path to the northwest, then pivit down the eclipse path to the southeast, before returning it ti the sunward view.

Eclipse sky at Fayette MO
Eclipse sky at Fayette MO, August 21, 2017. Credit Bob Moler.

08/24/2017 – Ephemeris – Centaur or Teapot?

August 24, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 24th. The Sun rises at 6:55. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 36 minutes, setting at 8:32. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 10:17 this evening.

This time of year when the bright Moon near full is reluctant leave the evening sky the Moon after New is taking its time to enter the evening sky. Three days after new and the Moon sets at the end of twilight. At that time the constellation of Sagittarius the archer is low and due south in our sky. Sagittarius is a centaur, one of two in the sky. These half man and half horse creatures are rarely seen outside of Harry Potter movies. Since we’re more familiar with teapots, the stars here make a very passable stout little teapot of the children’s song. The Milky Way even looks like steam rising from the spout. And as the night progresses or the days go by, the teapot will tilt to pour its tea on the southwestern horizon.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Sagittarius finder

Sagittarius finder animation for 2017 with Saturn nearby. Created using Stellarium and GIMP