by William J. Bechaver

Well, the astronomical event of the year finally arrived, as the total solar eclipse lived up to all the hype and expectations on Monday.

Viewing conditions were mostly favorable in our circulation area. I hope everyone enjoyed a clear and safe view of the event.

I decided to travel to Atchison, Kansas to view the National Event in its totality.

The day started off mostly clear, with high clouds, but ominous storms were building in the west.

There were actually a couple of periods of rain as the event approached, with spells of clearing and sunshine in between.

Not familiar with Kansas weather patterns, I was ready to travel to where viewing conditions were most favorable.

Then, as the event was to begin, the sun came out, and promised to provide some periodic viewing opportunities.

But, that was not to be from our viewing point, so, we decided to move across the river, into Missouri. But the rains seemed to move into the area, obscuring all viewing opportunities entirely.

As we awaited the moment of totality, it seemed to be more clear north of Atchison, so we headed out once again, with the big moment approaching, and our chances of direct viewing becoming doubtful, and seemingly unlikely.

So, surrendering to our climatic fate, we pulled into a solemn cemetery, to enjoy the moments of darkness that were about to descend.

Then, with great fortune, the clouds above began to thin, as the world around was shrouded in darkness. It was an eerie few minutes as daylight was staved off by midday twilight. The night amid day was completely silent.

Then, just as suddenly, the clouds to the west began to brighten, as the shadow was moving off to the east, and the sun was returning, the brighter edge of the shadow moving toward us, returning light to the world.

The birds began to sing as if it was early dawn, and above, the clouds broke and we could see the brilliant hairline edge of the Sun shining brightly as it emerged from beneath the Moon.

From that point on, we were treated with favorable views of the rest of the eclipse event, but I noticed the increase of traffic on the highway, with everyone returning south following totality, and completely missing the following hour and a half of favorable viewing of the rest of the eclipse that follows totality. But for us, from that point on, viewing was almost completely uninterrupted.

So, as the eclipse event from start to totality was almost totally lost to the storm, from totality to conclusion, we had quite a favorable view, as most had given up, incorrect in their assumption that totality was the conclusion of the event, and not the midpoint.

Now, with the Moon’s big encounter behind it, the encore is still to come.

On the night of Thursday 24 August, the Moon will lie near mighty Jupiter in the evening sky. So, as the Sun sets, far now to the west of its encounter with the Moon, look for the nice pairing of the Moon and the largest planet in the solar system. The next evening, note how far past Jupiter the Moon has moved during the course of the day.

Then, on Tuesday 29 August, the Moon and Saturn will make a nice twosome in the evening sky, following sunset, and until the pair sets just around midnight. Again, the following night, you can see how far the Moon progresses in a day, and look to the west, and find Jupiter, to see how far the Moon has moved during the week. Note also, how high it is at sunset, and how far it has moved from its removal of the Sun from our daylight sky!

Thanks for the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

• · William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.


    by William J. Bechaver

Well, the astronomical event of the year has finally arrived, as we will be treated to a solar eclipse.

The eclipse event, which takes place this Monday 21 August, has been dubbed the National Eclipse. It is the first total solar eclipse to be seen from coast to coast in America, and exclusively in America. The totality will not be viewed in any other country. Also, the eclipse will be viewable in every contiguous state, to differing degrees, though only along a narrow path across the country will it be seen in totality.

Here in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, viewer can expect to see an eclipse with about eighty six percent of the sun blocked from view.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and Sun, casting its shadow across the surface of the planet.

The event here will start at about 10:30 a.m., though looking for the first thirty minutes or so will only show a slight part of the sun covered, and may be hard to detect. Maximum coverage here will be at about 11:50 a.m., with approximately 86% obscured. 

Keep in mind, the further north you are, the more will be covered. If you were to travel far enough north, into Wyoming, totality will last just over two and a half minutes.

As with all solar eclipses, viewing safety is the primary concern. Eclipse viewing glasses are available. Remember, viewing through a photo negative, x-ray, or even a welder’s shield, is not recommended.

The safest way to view an eclipse is making a simple pin point projector, and viewing the image on a sheet of paper, held just a couple of feet away. Safe viewing tips, and ways to make your own viewer are readily available on line.

The total event, from start to finish, will last just under three hours, so you have plenty of opportunity to get out there and watch the progression. I suggest start looking at the onset of the event, and then go out about every ten minutes, to see the progression of the Moon crossing in front of the bright disk of the sun. Remember, never look directly at it with the naked eye.

An overture to the big event will occur just a couple of mornings earlier. On Saturday 19 August, before sunrise, the Moon will pass very near Venus in the early morning sky. The pair will rise at about four o’clock in the morning, and will be a beautiful sight in the morning twilight until the Sun rises to obscure them both more than a couple of hours later. The spectacle will be a beautiful prelude to the big event, a few days later, when the Moon will encounter the Sun in the most spectacular of fashions. 

So, get out there on Saturday for a preview, and of course, Monday, during the day, for a rare daytime astronomical event, and enjoy with all the citizens of our country, our National Eclipse. Whether total, or partial, it will be a great event to witness, on an astronomically historic day.

Thanks for the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

• · William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

Below is a link for ways to make a simple viewer at home, to safely view the eclipse…. And other interesting information about the eclipse from our friends at NASA.