Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse - May 20, 2012

Let's get to the good part right now! On Sunday afternoon (May 20, 2012) we will be seeing an annular or partial solar eclipse. It depends where you are at the time the Moon moves in front of the Sun. 
Ring of Fire - observed by the Hinode spacecraft on January 4, 2011 - Credit: NASA/JAXA Hinode
I will be launching late Sunday afternoon on another mission to the Edge of Space. The students from Earth to Calculus will be launching me, along with some cameras, to the Stratosphere. The goal is to not only see the eclipse from 100,000+ feet, but to look down and see Moon's shadow move across the land. 

This flight will be special. My 4th flight overall and my 1st with International participation. If my new UK Spacesuit arrives on time, I will be wearing it proudly. That's right. The wonderful Sue Drage from Rugby in England made me a suit out of recycles plastic bags. All started when I was on the BBC Vic Minett Afternoon radio show three weeks ago. The wonderful Vic put a call out for somebody to knit me a new suit. And sure enough, only a week later I was on the show again and was told that Sue Drage was making me a suit

But not only that - last Monday (on May 14, 2012) I was asked to be on the Vic Minett Afternoon Show again. I had suggested to make a "Space & Science" segment and I got some wonderful scientists and a real astronaut to call in. And even though it was very short lead-time we pulled it off. We had the local astronomer Dr. Joe on the show and then NASA Astronaut Mike Fincke called in and he was wonderful. Dr. Lucie Green, a UK solar scientist, also interviewed and throughout the show listeners could submit space poems. 
Iron Mike talked about this picture on the BBC radio. It was funny! Me mentioned "livestock"... ;-)

Well, the recording of that special show with all the guests on it will go on the Golden iPod (yes, it is golden - just like the records on the Voyager spacecrafts) and I will be playing the show back during my ascent to 40 km altitude. 

Here is where you come in. I might have some memory left on the Golden iPod. Do you want me to take a picture, maybe a song you have written, or a poem you have created, with me? Then email it to me! Please keep it under 20 MB as the attachment. It must be an original art work of yours. I will take it with me on my flight and then return it to you after it has been to the Edge of Space.  Send it to CamillaSDO at gmail dot com (get it?). 

Vic Minett (on the left) with Sue Drage and the new spacesuit for me. Huge thanks! 

What is an Annular Eclipse?

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but the lunar disk is not quite wide enough to cover the entire star.  At maximum, the Moon covers almost the entire Sun - but parts still visible from the Sun show a "Ring of Fire" around the Moon. (see top picture!). 

An annular eclipse is different from a total eclipse. During a total eclipse the Moon covers the entire Sun, reducing daylight dramatically and showing the Sun's corona. But because the Moon's orbit is elliptical, during an annular eclipse our orbiting body is too far away to fully cover the Sun for us down here. 

Please, please do not look unprotected at this beautiful event. Even though 94% of the Sun will be covered, you can still damage your eyes. A #14 welder's glass is an appropriate choice. There are also many safe solar viewing products out there. Here is a great 3 minute movie from Science@NASA about the annular eclipse. 

If you are within the dark corridor (Nor Cal, part of NV, UT, AZ, NM and TX) you will actually be seeing the Ring of Fire. For all others it will be a solar eclipse. 

A closer look at the areas you will be able to observe the "Ring of Fire". 


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