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Eclipse Blitz on January 18

The sun twinkle? Slithering bands of darkness on the ground? Planets in the daytime sky? Shadows that are sharp while others are concurrently fuzzy? The invisible part of the sun visible? Crescent suns appearing under a tree? Birds returning to roost midday? The sun setting behind mountains--on the moon? A diamond ring in the sky? It's a wacky day when the moon cuts in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024!

Update: See for recording of Eclipse Blitz presentation.

To wrap your head around these rare enigmas, please join me in-person as I present Eclipse Blitz to the Michiana Astronomical Society (MAS) on Thursday, January 18, 2024, at 7 PM in the Centre Branch Library in South Bend, IN. The meeting and presentation will also be available for viewing online via Teams, with information to appear on the MAS Facebook Group.

There's a lot happening on Eclipse Day, and preparation in advance will help you better experience the multiple phenomena occurring in a very short time.

In introducing resources featured at I will help you extract pertinent information from interactive eclipse maps. For eclipse safety, there's one source for authoritative advice--the American Astronomical Society's How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely. I'll boost your viewing options while dropping that clunky box that you stick your head inside. Meanwhile, I'll present projection techniques that include pinhole projections, Sun Funnels, cooking utensils, and mere crossed fingers.

A slew of activities before the Big Day will enhance your game plan by letting you know subtle--and not at all subtle!--features to observe. While I'll be blasting through some of the better-known eclipse sights, at the MAS meeting I'll go into a little more depth about two oddities that challenge our usual visual perception.

First is the the bizarre nature of shadows when the sun seemingly changes shape. Usually the sun is a round disk, as simulated by the lighted circular mirror. But when you cover the bulk of the circle, a sliver of light remains along an axis that yields asymmetrical shadows--In one axis the shadows are focused, in the other axis the shadows are fuzzy. Bizarre.

Another surreal sight that is well known but not frequently explained is the Purkinje Effect. When the sun diminishes to a crescent, not only does the amount of light change but the nature of the sunlight changes. Meanwhile, your eyes are transitioning from photopic vision (cones) to scotopic vision (rods), and in compensating they perceive the surroundings as a metallic, silvery hue.

Models will help you envision the 3D dynamics of the earth and moon in orbit around the sun. Telescope owners will benefit from using their equatorial mount to enhance a demonstration using a scale model on a stick.

The activities get fun, too, because you can't go wrong with shaving cream and kids, right? And then there is the simulation of eclipse phases with cream sandwich cookies. Yum.

Eclipse Blitz will quickly cover a lot of material, but the intention is to give you a glimpse into the multitude of eclipse highlights to anticipate on April 8. Strap yourself in for a ride and seek to be both relaxed and bedazzled when one of nature's greatest spectacles unfolds.


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