Eclipse News

What’s in the Sky on August 21st?

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The moon’s shadow will take approximately 90 minutes to travel from the Pacific (Lincoln Beach, OR) to the Atlantic (Awendaw, SC).  As it traces its path the shadow crosses four time zones and August 21st the day continues along its merry way.  In terms of local time, the 2 hours and 32 minutes of eclipse in Lincoln Beach will be over and folks will be packin’ it home almost 2 hours before the partial even begins in Awendaw.

Let’s do the time warp again.

World Turnin’

All of this time slippage is due to the fact that we (and everything around us) are all gravitationally glued to a planet that is spinning on its axis at 1,000 mph.  The moon’s shadow is outpacing the spin of the earth by the speed of sound, sliding across the surface of earth at 1,7000 mph.  All of this racing through space means folks in Lincoln Beach will see an AM Eclipse and those in Awendaw will see a PM Eclipse, mid-afternoon in fact.  No worries, the sun does this every day, with or without the moon there to block its light.

In The West

It will be mid morning and the sun will be Ante (before) Meridian (AM).  At totality the sun will reside to the east / southeast, about 40° to 45° (~ half way) high in the sky.

In the East

 It will be mid afternoon and the sun will be Post (after) Meridian (PM).  At totality the sun will reside to the west / southwest, about 60° to 65° (~ two-thirds) high in the sky.

What’s Up?

During totality the light will resemble that of late twilight, not the dark of midnight, allowing brighter stars and planets to peep out.  If you are in a spot with an unobstructed view of the horizon, you will see the stunning 360° ring of what appears to be sunset near the horizon.  The sun will be positioned in the constellation Leo the Lion on August 21st, only 1° away from the 1st magnitude alpha star of the lion, Regulus.

Four planets – Jupiter, Mercury, Mars & Venus – will be arrayed along the ecliptic, the path in the sky through which sun, moon and planets move.  The most obvious will be -4 magnitude Venus, lying 34° west of the sun in Gemini, making its appearance 10 minutes or so before totality begins.  The King of Planets – Jupiter – lies on the opposite side of the sun from Venus in Virgo, a distant 54° from the eclipsed sun shining at magnitude -1.4.  Although both Mercury and Mars are also lingering in Leo they will be tough to pick out, being significantly dimmer than their planetary sister and brother.  Mars will be easier to bag, especially with binoculars, it will sit 8° west of the sun.  Lil’ ‘ol crispy Mercury shines at a dim magnitude 3, dim at least for twilight conditions and very difficult to pick out.

The moon, planets and stars accompany the sun on its daily trek from east to west, accounting for the differences in what is visible and where.  A point east of Alliance, NE is where totality will begin when the sun is closest to the meridian (noon), although the transition between Mountain and Central Daylight Saving Time occurs in the same area.  From that point eastward the sun will begin its descent to the western horizon.

 

In this year on 17 September that novelty appeared. The Sun became dark on a Wednesday at about the third hour and it lasted for the space of two hours. Above the Sun and Moon, which were joined together – that is, the Moon was covering the Sun – there appeared a very large star with fiery rays like a torch . . . Many people viewed the rays of the small Sun by reflection in a mirror or in clear water. And the rays of the Sun were so small and so dark, on account of the Moon covering the Sun, that there did not remain unobscured as much as 3 fingers of the Sun. . . Everyone appeared deathly pale.

Historical Eclipses and Earth’s Rotation, F. Richard Stevenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pg 421.

Referring to a total solar eclipse visible in Perugia, Italy in 1354

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