Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ring of Fire

Every 18 years the northwestern United States gets an amazing daytime sky show. The moon passes between the earth and sun creating a unique solar eclipse. Since the moon is further from the earth, it's not large enough to create a total eclipse. With perfect alinement, the moon passes in front of the sun leaving just a sliver of sun shining all the way around the moon creating a Ring of Fire. The next time we'll be able to locally see this event is in 2023.
Trajectory where ring of fire was visible

We drove four hours north to Redding, California's Sundial Bridge for one of the best views of the Ring of Fire. The perfect alignment of the moon and sun only lasted four minutes but we thought it was worth the long drive.

Ring of fire diagram

We can't directly look at the sun because the sun's rays would burn our retinas. To look directly at the sun we had to wear special solar glasses or welding glasses to protect our eyes. These lenses are so dark that everything looks black unless you're staring at the sun. We were extremely lucky and bought two of the last few solar glass in northern California after waiting over an hour in line.
Protective sunglasses
Laure and the sundial bridge
A view of the solar eclipse through our new glasses.

Another way to view the solar eclipse is by watching the sun's shadow through a small pinhole. Several people at the park had homemade pinhole eclipse watcher set up to share with others. We are able to create a pinhole with our hands and watch the shadow change as the moon passed between the earth and sun.
Homemade eclipse shadow watcher
The shadow of the Ring of Fire
Creating pinholes with our own fingers.
 Seven Rings of Fire
Spaces between tree leaves also casted eclipse shadows
We're already talking about a road trip to see the Hermit Eclipse on August 21, 2017. It will be a total solar eclipse that runs the full length of the continental United States.
Trajectory of 2017 total solar eclipse

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