Eclipse Video

If you were one of the millions who watched the eclipse in August and haven’t run across this video yet, it’s well worth watching. It is a compilation of personal photos and videos of the eclipse submitted to Celestron by eclipse watchers across America.

We were at Makanda, IL, which is near 1:55 in this video. I still get chocked up watching it!

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Eclipse Road Trip

The Astro Babes took part in the Great American Eclipse last week, although we split up and observed from two different vantage points close to the centerline.

Amy chose to go West with Astronomy Magazine and several of the NPMAS members to St. Joseph’s, MO, while Mars Barbie, Judy (an eclipse buddy), and I headed south to the centerline in Carbondale, IL.

Judy started the trip by saying that she’d read that 12.2 million Americans lived inside the path of totality, over half the nation lives within 400 miles of the path of totality, and 80% of Americans live within 600 miles. We joined those last two statistics as we headed out Sunday morning on our 582 mile trek to the center line.

Along with many other eclipse goers, we spent Sunday night at a Walmart Superstore.

The Carbondale Walmart turned out to be a good choice for us for a number of reasons:

    1. It was a safe place to sleep.
    2. It had warm running water and indoor toilets.
    3. It was air conditioned.
    4. They had all our eclipse needs, including Darkest Hour Black Cherry Eclipse Soda, tee shirts, Moonstock Wine, and eclipse cups and shot glasses.

As the sun rose on 8/21/17, we were still debating where we were going to view the eclipse. Most of the action was at Southern Illinois University where they had a Comic-Con, a marketplace, a craft fair, a carnival, and NASA scientists on hand to answer questions. We had a parking spot there, and it was still possible to buy a ticket to the guided eclipse experience that would include 14,000 other people at Saluki Stadium. Heck, Mat Kaplan of Planetary Radio was going to emcee the event that we could also watch live on the Saluki Stadium scoreboard. NASA was going to stream the eclipse coast-to-coast live from SIUC, and there were tons of news trucks with 300 journalists from 80 news outlets there.

Saluki Stadium had to be the center of the eclipse universe, right? But if that wasn’t exciting enough, we could have driven just north of Carbondale to a vineyard called Walker’s Bluff and joined a four-day music festival celebrating the eclipse. Who wouldn’t want to experience the total eclipse of the Sun while listening to Ozzy Osbourne sing “Bark at the Moon” during totality?

But Judy and I opted for a quieter, more outdoorsy experience, so we headed eight miles south to the centerline and Giant City State Park.

According to these guys, who were part of the Continental-America Telescope Eclipse Experiment (CATE), the park was on the actual centerline at the PLD, the Path of Longest Duration, at 2 minutes and 42 seconds, which is why they were there.

The CATE project hoped to capture images of the inner solar corona using a network of 68 telescopes operated by scientists, students, and volunteers. Along the 2,500 mile path of totality, each clear site hoped to produce more than 1,000 images, beginning with a partial solar eclipse and ending with 2 minutes of totality. The resulting dataset would create 90 minutes of continuous, high-resolution, and rapid-cadence images of the Sun’s inner corona.

Judy and I were just outside of Makanda, IL, a village where the eclipse was expected to last 2 minutes 40.2 seconds. Our location was 2 minutes and 40 seconds – close enough. Giant City State Park filled to capacity as the eclipse start got closer.

We also appreciated the shade (rather than the sun-baked aluminum bleachers at Saluki Stadium) because it was 93 degrees and humid that day. I took this picture from the spot where we ended up.

While waiting for the eclipse to start, we wandered around the park and talked to a lot of people from all over the country who were really excited about the eclipse. Turns out that many of them had joined us in the Walmart parking lot the night before.

About 40 feet from our spot, we found this guy. Pete was a bagpiper from Virginia, and he took a break from playing jigs to explain how his bagpipe worked.

As the eclipse began, I started getting organized, finding all my times and securely taping filters onto my binoculars. Mars Barbie took the opportunity to catch some eclipse rays.

Judy and I ended up sitting next to these three guys from Chicago. They didn’t know much about the eclipse, but were interesting companions during the wait for totality.

I’m sure that everyone has seen these by now, but to me it meant that totality was approaching, and I felt my heart rate increasing by the second. When I first noticed the crescent shadows, I looked around and saw that everyone was either talking or looking up – hardly anyone noticed the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground, so I made it my mission to point them out to as many people as possible.

A few minutes before totality, Judy, Barbie and I settled down on a blanket to wait for the show. Here’s Judy and Mars Barbie waiting for totality.

I laid on this blanket and watched the approach of totality through my binoculars, which turned out to be a blessing because the magnification made it easy to see the beads and the ring. When totality did arrive, it took my brain a few seconds to realize that I could now look at the sun directly. I moved the binoculars away and was blown away just like everyone else in totality.

A minute or so into totality I realized that I could also remove the solar filters that I had so securely taped onto the binoculars, and had to literally rip them off to get a look at totality with the binoculars. It was indescribable.

I’d been warned not to bring a camera or worry about taking pictures, but at the last moment, I pointed my phone at totality and took only one shot. Here it is!

As soon as totality ended, I raced to our white car parked nearby, and looked for the elusive Shadow Bands. They were faint, but I did see them. So we saw it all – Baily’s Beads, the Diamond Ring, the Corona, the Shadow Bands – we saw them all from that small state park in Illinois. What a treat! Our neighbors to the north in Carbondale weren’t quite as lucky – Carbondale was clouded out during totality, although I read that the clouds did give way for a partial diamond to appear.

Barbie wasn’t too happy with all the traffic we had to deal with on the way home, which also included a two-hour nap in a BP gas station somewhere north of Champaign, but we made it in one piece. It was quite an adventure – can’t wait for 2024!!

–Lynn

Supermoon With a Super Eclipse

The Astro Babes were together watching the mosquito-filled eclipse Sunday night. We watched the Moon darkening over the bay of Green Bay, which added a whole new dimension to the eclipse. The moonlight was very bright and sparkly on the water when we first arrived at the beach, but the reflection also faded with the Moon until it also disappeared.

Although we originally had planned to complete the requirements for the Astronomical League’s Lunar II observing program, we had been promised a solid wall of clouds all night so weren’t prepared when the skies cleared and the eclipse was in full swing. Thanks, weather guys.

Yesterday we heard from our fellow club member Rodrigo. Once again, he compiled a great montage from Sunday’s total lunar eclipse over Wisconsin. Thanks for sharing, Rodrigo!!

Moon Eclipse 9-27-2015 low

Here’s what Rodrigo had to say about his amazing picture:

This one is a composition of different times (20 min intervals) from 8:00 pm to 10:50 pm. The pictures are exposed to match what I saw naked eye. So some of the faces are actually HDR of the moon shoot so the bright portion is not overexposed (moon #4 and #8). I used my Orion 80mm and tracked with my small Meade LXD 75 and Canon no mod Xsi. The first portion was between 1/400s and 0.3″,  ISO 200 and Totality was 8s ISO 200, and then I used ISO 400 and cut the exposure to 4″ due to the wind.

Annual Picnic at Parmentiers

Small crowd at the annual astronomy club picnic Tuesday night. P9026915Maybe 20 this year, compared to 40 or 50 last year when the sun was shining. We’re betting it was the weather.

The picnic started at 6:30, and we were lucky enough to dodge the rain that had been predicted for picnic time and into the night. It was muggy, sticky and just generally unpleasant out there today.

However, despite the humidity hovering in the mid 90’s, we still had a great time.

Wayne cooked up all the burgers and dogs, and everyone bought a treat to share.
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Amy and I left around 8:30, when Dick was setting up to show some amazing weather videos that Tony took at the Nebraska star party.

We already saw them when we were at the Minnesota star party. Plus, it was getting late on a work night, and we’re pretty whimpy. Yawn!

Lynn

 

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Jupiter Triple – Check!

Here's a bad selfie of me with the three shadows on  Jupiter.
Here’s a bad selfie of me with the three shadows on Jupiter.

Ok – so a clear night and a telescope would have made this a bit more satisfying, but hey, we can’t have everything!

On the night of the triple shadow transit we were, of course, clouded out. We weren’t alone this time, practically the entire U.S. was under a blanket of clouds. So that’s where we went – to the cloud! If we can’t watch a live transit, we would settle for a live webcast of one.

Yay Griffith Observatory! They came through with a promise of a clear sky and a live broadcast. I tuned in, made sure Lynn was online too, and made myself comfy on the sofa. There were over 1400 people online, and the comments were streaming so fast that I could feel the excitement! Plus, I was sharing this experience with people from all over the world!

Then Jupiter came into view. Well, the hazy blob appeared on screen. It seems that high altitude winds were making the view unstable. Fortunately Lynn was quicker than I was when someone posted an URL for another live webcast from Brazil. She texted me the new site and we both switched to Brazil.

Jupiter was setting there, and the sky was clear! Perfect! By now I had moved to the recliner, and had hooked up my TV to act as a monitor, thanks to Lynn for the idea. Why can’t all observing sessions be this comfy?

As the shadows crawled across the face of Jupiter, I was transfixed by the image. Checking this rare event off of my ‘must see’ observing list completed a very hectic week for me. Sure it would have been nice to be peeking at this through the eyepiece, but sometimes we have to take what we can get.

So here’s your lesson for the day, when a rare astronomical event is clouded out, somebody somewhere will be showing it on the net. You gotta love technology.

Amy

Happy New Year!

What a year it’s been! Amy found Uranus with 2015-logoher binoculars (no small feat!!) and we both learned how to use setting circles. We gave one of our Lynn & Amy Shows at the Neville Public Museum to a captivated crowd, and together attended our very first star party in Minnesota. We went to the annual club Perseids picnic last summer, and uploaded our 100th blog to this website.

November and December were especially busy as our jobs bogged us down. Then the shopping and baking season kicked in and we prepared for family time and Christmas and the company that it brings. I baked a zillion Christmas cookies, and got to spend a whole week with my first grandson who is quickly figuring out how to pull himself up and stand on his own. It was magical.

However, along with the joys of Christmas comes the crappy skies of Wisconsin. As the atmosphere above us grows colder each winter, the condensation and cloudiness spread out horizontally and results in mostly overcast days and nights. The clouds pretty much roll in here late in November and stay until the Messier Marathon. Then, when it does warm up a little, we are stuck with ground and air temperatures that are almost the same, which brings fog and condensation. Oh, and living a few miles away from a Great Lake doesn’t help much either.

And if that’s not bad enough, the cold temperatures discourage all except the heartiest from going outside for more than a few minutes – even on the clearest nights. Right now, the wind chill is double digits below zero, and last night the actual temperature was -7°F. If I heard right, the wind chill could dip below -30°F tonight. Sigh.

However, despite all the current weather gloom, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming year, starting off with the NPMAS Christmas Party this Wednesday (the White Elephant Gift Exchange is always a hoot!). Then there is some winter camping at Camp U-Na-Li-Ya in a few weeks, lots of blogs to write, and a calendar full of meetings and pizza at Happy Joe’s. There will be warmer nights of observing at Parmentier’s, public observing events, meteor showers, a couple of total lunar eclipses, the New Horizons spacecraft arriving at Pluto, and hopefully another great trip to the Minnesota Star Party.

The year 2015 promises to be a great year for the Astro Babes, and we hope it is a great year for you, too. Happy New Year!

– Lynn

One Small Step……..

apollo 11
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Apollo 11 Astronauts

This past weekend we celebrated the historic moon walk, and success of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. It was one of those moments in time that remain engraved in ones memory, as clear as the day it happened.

I was a 10 year old kid on a family vacation. My brave parents bundled up six kids in a station wagon, attached a pop-up camper and headed westward. Our goal was the same as many Midwest families: Yellowstone. But the timing of this particular vacation overlapped a significant historic event, the moon landing!

Not to worry! My parents had the good sense to plan ahead and find a campground with a working TV.

Being only 10, I wasn’t really sure what was happening, but I could tell it was big. All the campers headed to the building, filling the tiny room. When I realized what I was about to witness I was stunned. My world just got a whole lot bigger.

I stared at the TV so hard I thought I’d get sucked up into it.  I remember it all; those historic first words, that little hop they had to do to get to the surface, everything. The whole world watched as Neil Armstrong took that first step. We actually managed to unite the planet, even if only for a few short moments. I will always be grateful to my parents for making sure we witnessed this historic event.

Neil Armstrong's First Step on Moon

The moon changed forever for me that night. It was no longer just a beautiful addition to our night sky. It had become a place that people had visited. It had become a place that someone had actually reached out and touched. That fact still takes my breath away.

I still am stunned at the beauty of space, what we’ve seen and discovered since then. From planet hunting, visiting asteroids, looking back at Earth from Saturn and roving around Mars, we’ve done some pretty amazing things!

So – where were you on July 20, 1969?

Amy

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Asteroid Observing?

One of my favorite observing nights was a journey Vesta out to Cedar Drive Observatory, owned by fellow club member Tony Kroes. Lynn and I went out there to see an NEA, or Near Earth Asteroid that was tumbling by at a distance closer to us than the moon. I’ll give you a minute to wrap your brain around that one.

This was something that allegedly we’d be able to see through our binoculars, so ever optimistic, we arrive with a small star chart with the approximate path of the asteroid printed on it. It became clear that we just wouldn’t be able to find this thing ourselves so leave it to Tony to find this moving target.

I’m sure I actually dropped my jaw the first time I saw this piece of space rock roll on through the field of view. This is one of the reasons that I became interested in NASA’s Dawn mission. The Dawn spacecraft’s mission is to visit not one, but two asteroid belt objects, the two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. These two asteroids can, at times, be viewed through binoculars!

What’s cool about these asteroids is that they represent the beginning of our solar system. They hold secrets to how our solar system formed, and why there’s an asteroid belt at all! What’s also cool is that this year they can be seen in the same field of view!

So – here’s your challenge – go to www.heavens-above.com and click on the ‘Asteroid’ link then – you guessed it, find Vesta and Ceres! Make sure you observe them more than one night to see the movement. They’re getting dimmer so your better get out there soon!

Amy

Cosmos Finale Was a Big Hit

Hope everyone enjoyed the Cosmoscosmos2 finale as much as the Astro Babes did this past Sunday. We began the series with a party at Amy’s house and ended it with a party at Lynn’s house. There were plenty of munchies (including Ships of the Imagination, meteoroids, spiral galaxies, planets, stars, and shuttle tiles). We even had a celebrity appearance by one of the Astro Babes’ guest bloggers,  Barbara Millicent Roberts (aka Mars Barbie).

There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about the possibility of a second season of Cosmos, especially after Fox began referring to current episodes as “Season 1.” Ratings have been up and down, but the show consistently brought in more than 3 million viewers each week. The second-to-last episode beat out NBC and CBS in the

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Cosmos munchies included meteoroids, spiral galaxies, planets and stars. Yumm! Luckily our spouses were there to help us with the celebration.

coveted 18-49 demographic with 1.3 million viewers, and the finale reached 3.52 million viewers in that same demographic with some stiff competition from the other networks and cable channels.

If Cosmos returns, it might not be the same show we’ve grown to love because Fox might be shopping for another host. In mid-March, Neil deGrasse Tyson said in an interview with Space.com that he currently has no plans to host another season because it took a lot of time and kept him away from his family. He could change his mind though.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed and watch for the official announcement from Fox.

Lynn

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