Solar eclipse was real-life astronomy lesson for millions

Across the country, the solar eclipse Sunday seemed to kindle an infectious enthusiasm for astronomy.

In New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, Jay Anderson, a Canadian eclipse expert who runs the website Eclipser, marveled at the spectacle. He particularly enjoyed how the eclipse happened on a Sunday. The last “ring of fire” eclipse Anderson attended in the United States, he said, was “characterized by warnings not to watch and descriptions of the dangers of looking at the Sun, despite the fact that we all do it on occasion.”

“This one, being on a Sunday when schools could not intervene with their overly protective attitude, got the whole countryside watching, and the general message seems to have been to go out and enjoy the spectacle, with proper eye protection. It’s a good message to carry forward, with a major total eclipse coming to the U.S. in five more years,” Anderson wrote to The Times.

PHOTO GALLERY: ECLIPSE VIEWS AROUND THE WORLD

Anderson said where he was located, skies were completely clear too clear, even, because he likes “a little cloud to give the event a bit of drama.” There were eclipse veterans and newcomers, and he enjoyed watching the character of light change off the red rocks of the canyon.

“That change in the lighting is very familiar to me (I’ve seen more than 20 eclipses), and it lends a kind of other-wordly feeling to the environment that seems to be signalling that something is afoot. It’s not ominous, but I can imagine that unsophisticated societies, unaware of an eclipse, would be drawn to looking upward because the landscape had adoptedthat strange illumination,” Anderson wrote.

“We had fun making crescent suns for the kids by interlacing our fingers to create pinhole images on the ground, and showing them the gradually encroaching Moon. Ipassed out lots of eclipse glasses and filter material for cameras, and the whole mood was one of good company and camaraderie,” he wrote. “I had a good time, watched the Sun set behind the hills while still a crescent, introduced a few more people to the magic of celestial geometry, and took a few photos for my memories. A good day.”

The partial solar eclipse reached its peak in Los Angeles at 6:38 p.m., and visitors at the Griffith Observatory counted down the seconds at the top of their lungs before letting out a wail of excitement.

“The light is dimmer. The air is cooler,” a woman said over a loudspeaker. “Nature gets a little strange during an eclipse.”

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(1) Solar eclipse was real-life astronomy lesson for millions
URL: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/05/solar-eclipse-was-real-life-astronomy-lesson-for-millions.html



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