Near-Total Eclipse of the Eclipse

We drove down into Iowa Sunday, to put us in striking range of a variety of viewing sites in the totality zone on Monday.

Even Sunday, we encountered traffic and crowding on Interstate 35; we had to wait for a table at a Culver’s down in Iowa.  We did seem to be a bit ahead of the crowd, since our hotel’s parking lot was nearly empty when we got there (or maybe the people on I35 had planned ahead further than us and had hotels down in the totality zone).

Weather forecasts looked fairly dismal. We poked at them a lot, and on Monday morning we chose Falls City Nebraska as our viewing site.

The route there was all back roads, and we encountered no particular traffic. However, the town was quite active, with clear eclipse events at various places, and many optimists hoping to sell $20 parking. We ended up in the parking lot of an empty fast food facility, with a good view of the clouds overhead. A number of other group showed up there shortly.

We can see the sun!

There were thinner spots in the clouds, and occasionally you could tell where the sun was; or even see the disk (filtered by the clouds; at this stage, with the eclipse protective glasses you could see nothing at all, you couldn’t even tell where the sun was behind the clouds).

This raised a technical point I hadn’t really planned for. With the eclipse glasses, or the solar filter over the lens on the camera, you could see nothing at all. Sometimes the clouds were heavy enough we couldn’t tell where the sun was, but when they thinned and you got hints of the sun, sometimes a view of the full disk, you still couldn’t see anything through the filters. This made it difficult to get the camera trained and ready to capture anything that might briefly show through the clouds.  It also left me bouncing back and forth between filters and no filters, trying not to expose my eyes or even the camera sensors to the bare sun, but needing to use bare eyes and sensors to find it much of the time. (There don’t appear to be any weird blind spots in my eyes today, I seem to have been careful enough or lucky enough.)

A bit after first contact, shot through a solar filter (and the clouds).

The clouds thinned out a few times, and we got views near first contact, and occasional views thereafter.

We got some very heavy-duty insectile assistance while waiting for the eclipse to start. Looks like a very big wasp, and we saw it entering and leaving a crack in the pavement, so I guess ground-dwelling. Carrying something even bigger than it was; food for itself or for the next generation I guess.

 

The light seemed to dim in definite steps as we neared totality, not continuously. It was a weird effect, and repeated a number of times. People watching seemed to agree on when a step had happened.

It did get very dark. We had something like a sunset (except that the sun wasn’t there) all around the horizon; it was dark overhead, but light on all sides, with the sun out there clearly lighting up the clouds. Not sure one would see this effect without the clouds; though just the diffusion of light passing through the air might be enough to give a similar effect.

Half a hair short of totality, through clouds but without solar filter (nothing at all was visible through a filter).

And we got a very brief view in early totality through the clouds, where you could see a bit of corona. I got one photo then, too.

We stop to check out the reappearance of the sun when the clouds suddenly clear after totality.

We hung around to watch the sun come back, and got to see a bit for a while, until the clouds got serious.  Then we headed out—and the clouds cleared and we got bright sun a few minutes later (clouds had been solid to the horizon before) and we got some good clear views of the late stages (I didn’t take photos of the sun then).

Again, nothing much in the way of traffic delays on the back roads, but Interstate 35 was jammed. We had lines for the bathrooms at every stop, and visibly heavy traffic (and much heavier than the southbound traffic) all the way back up to the Twin Cities.  The trip back was over 3 hours longer than it should have been, due to these traffic delays.

Very close to sunset, we did run into a very nice double rainbow.

And got home by 1:30.

 

Still no Moon Colonies

Here’s how I was marking the occasion, 48 years ago:

Shot off my parents’ B&W television

While we’ve done amazing things with remote sensing and with robotic exploration, we haven’t done much more with manned exploration. Given the success of the robots, we couldn’t have gotten that much information for the same money with men. But as somebody who grew up on “the conquest of space” it’s still a major disappointment.

I have several rolls of such shots. They’re all Kodak Tri-X, bulk loaded, shot with my mother’s old Bolsey 35 I believe (I didn’t get my Miranda Sensorex until December of 1969). Developed with stainless steel tanks in a dish pan down by the laundry sink, contact printed in the waterless darkroom the other side of the basement.

The white bands diagonally across many pictures shows that the shutter speed of the camera wasn’t well-enough synced to the scan rate of the TV. The TV scan rate would be extremely accurate or the picture would be complete hash, so the shutter was off.  This was a leaf shutter, not a focal-plane shutter, which affects the symptoms.

This was roll 108; I started the numbering system at 100 to make room for filing older negatives as I found them and organized them.  This was so long ago that the negatives were in glassine sleeves.

Glassine sleeves!

A few of the individual photos:

Survivorship Bias

Abraham Wald
Abraham Wald

Abraham Wald is the mathematician who took one look at the charts showing where planes getting back from missions had been damaged, and realized that the parts that needed extra protection were the undamaged areas.

Great article (from 2013) on “survivorship bias”, including the Abraham Wald story and quotes from Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer, here.

Note to self: maybe I should keep track of David McRaney.

SkyCube crowd-funded satellite nearing launch

Well, by some definitions it was launched weeks ago. It’s on the ISS, and they’re prepar2014-02-20_10h05m01sing it for deployment with a group of other tiny satellites.

I helped (slightly) to sponsor the SkyCube satellite via their Kickstarter campaign. Being able to tweet from space briefly, and being able to direct the camera to take images occasionally, has a pretty high cool value.

Year of our moon landing 43

I was 15, living at home, and working in the Carleton computing center that summer. We had a B&W TV, but that’s all they were broadcasting from the moon anyway.

I remember making a reel-to-reel tape of the commentary of the landing, and shooting many B&W negatives of the TV screen as things progressed. I still have the negatives, but now we have access to much better pictures from the cameras the astronauts had with them.