2012 Annular Solar Eclipse


This Extra Credit will be worth 2% so it is a big one, but will require some planning and hours of transportation on your part.  This year, an annular solar eclipse will be visible to us on May 20, 2012 in Northern California.  

Since this is a very rare opportunity, (the last visible solar eclipse in California was in Southern California in 2005, and this was only a partial solar eclipse), I'd like to offer the opportunity and encourage you to go see it.  I will be trying to see it myself since I have yet to see a solar eclipse with my own eyes (believe it or not). 

Of course the success of this extra credit depends upon the weather.  If it looks like it will be raining or heavily overcast in the location you plan to go to, you either go to a different location which will be clear or if all areas are overcast, you cannot do the extra credit and you shouldn't make the drive up.  However if it looks like it will be partially sunny or clear, it would be worth your while to see it!  Be sure to invite your family and friends so that they have the opportunity to see it too.

The Details:

1. Reread Chapter 1: The Cycle of the Sky PowerPoints on solar eclipses and focus in particular on the information about annular eclipses and how to view eclipses safely.

2. Purchase eclipse glasses (85 cents each) to view the eclipse safely from this website: http://www.rainbowsymphonystore.com/eclipseshades.html 
Ordinary sunglasses will not work and can cause eye damage if you use them to look at the Sun!  Make sure that you order it way ahead of time so that it arrives on time.  If you cannot purchase it, I will try to have a few available in my office.  You can email me to ask if I have any available and arrange to pick them up from me.  If you have binoculars, you may also want to purchase solar filters for your binoculars (about $20.00 for a pair).

3. Visit this website to see the path of the eclipse and the time that it will occur:

You will need to move the cursor and zoom in on the map to the location where you would like to see the eclipse.  The best locations to see the eclipse (since it will last the longest there) is anywhere on the red line.  But if you don't want to travel that far, anywhere within the blue line, the annular eclipse will be visible (but it will be a little shorter the farther you go away from the red line).  The difference is about 4 minutes between the longest duration (~5 minutes) on the red line and shortest durations (~ 1 minute) near the blue line. 

4. Determine what time the eclipse will start and end.  If you click on the location, you will see the end and start time of the annular eclipse.  But the time shown there will be in Universal Time (UT).  To convert it to Pacific Daylight Time (which will be the time system that we are in, subtract 7 hours from the UT time.

For example, in Shasta National forest (which is where I might go), the start of the eclipse will be 1:25am UT.  So subtracting 7 hours from this gives you 6:25pm PDT.   

5. Look for directions to the location on Mapquest and estimate how long it will take to drive there.  You might think of getting there the day before and spending the night (good excuse for a little vacation).    

6. I would recommend to get to your observing site a few hours early so that you are ready for the eclipse.

7.  Once you are there, make sure you have your eclipse glasses ready.  DO NOT attempt to look at the Sun without wearing your eclipse glasses as it could cause severe eye damage.  

8.  As the eclipse is happening, ask a person to take a picture of you with the solar eclipse visible in the background.   Time the eclipse to see how long it lasted from beginning to end. 

9.  Take pictures of your surrounding area, other people, and of course the eclipse itself.  

10. After the experience, you should write a report about the eclipse.  In your report:

The deadline this activity is Tuesday, May 22nd for the T Thurs class and Weds, May 23rd for the MWF class.