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Saturday, August 19, 2017

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE?

I have.  When I first met my wife Pearl in 1962 we were already looking forward to at least 29 more years together, for she knew that on her birthdate in 1991, July 11, there would be a total solar eclipse right over her favorite mountain, Mauna Kea.  To the right is the only souvenir remaining from that experience.

We stayed at the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua-Kona.  However, the general region seemed a bit cloudy, which was somewhat worrisome.  I brought  a bottle of Dom Perignon, given to me by Joyce Patrick, who was working in first class when I had just returned on United Airlines from Japan just prior to the Big Island flight.  I  had dinner with David and Joyce last month.

So anyway, back to 1991, we went to the home of a friend who ran the energy program for the State of Alaska, and also lived on the Big Island.  He had invited JoAnn Yukimura (left) and her husband John.  I had known JoAnn since she was a high school student and I was a process engineer at the Kilauea Sugar Company on Kauai.  I had just graduated from Stanford, and she was on her way there next.

Well, it was cloudy up on the hills above Kona, so we decided to drive up the mountain.  Hardly perfect, but openings occurred through the clouds, so we did see totality.  It was eerie and coolish, both in temperature and experience.  I heard that for those who attempted to see this rare happening, only 5% actually did, for it was raining and very cloudy over the state that day. 

Incidentally, if you had clicked on JoAnn Yukimura above, you would have read about the mass transit system Panos Prevedouros and I planned for her island when she was Mayor way back 27 years ago.  He is now anti-rail.  If only the City and County of Honolulu adopted this idea I later recommended, we would have finished that debacle by now, and would have been well on our way to becoming THE world headquarters for...you name it.  Read my Huffington Post article about this solution.  Maybe it's not too late for a 2025 World's Fair.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, total solar eclipse, which is a rare natural phenomenon.  Very few currently living in the USA have seen one.  Why?  The previous totality across the country occurred on 8June1918.  You need to be more than a hundred years old, and lived in this tiny band from 44 to 70 miles wide along the path, similar to the upcoming one.  Further, to quote from Wikipedia:

This eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991[12] (which was seen only from part of Hawaii).[13]

Thus, Monday, 21August2017, will be a big day for a continuous, but limited path--only 70 miles wide--from Oregon to South Carolina.  See that shade to the above left?  The moon shadow does NOT show where totality will occur.  In reality, only that tiny black dot represents the total eclipse.


I was tempted, but won't go into the actual science of eclipses to explain why.  Instead, I will just use umbra (which is that dark band of totality, where the penumbra is where you can only see a partial eclipse) and share bits of interesting and worthy info understandable to a fifth grader:
  • An eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and blocks the Sun from Earth.
  • If the Moon were in a circular orbit, and a bit closer to us, in the same orbital plane, there would be a total solar eclipse every month.
  • However, the Moon's orbit is tilted relative to our planet and elliptical.
  • Hawaii will be in this penumbra, so will see a partial eclipse lasting one hour 35 minutes:
    • begins at 5:50 AM
    • max at 6:35 AM
    • ends at 7:25 AM
  • This 2017 total eclipse will:
    • begin on the Oregon Coast as a partial eclipse at 9:06 PM (PDT)
    • end along the South Carolina coast at 4:06 PM (EDT)
  • The next total eclipse trail across the U.S. will occur on 8April2024 (right)
  • Carbondale, Illinois calls itself the Eclipse Crossroads of America, as it will be in totality for both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses.  Amtrak will run a special train, the Eclipse Express, from Chicago to Carbondale, that day.
  • You must use special eclipse glasses.  Click on this NASA site.  They also show you how to make a pinhole in a pinch.  Here is a second way.
Have you ever wondered how magical it is to have a total eclipse?  How did our Sun, Moon and Earth position themselves such that this perfect syzygy occurred?  The Sun is 400 times the diameter of the Moon, and by pure coincidence (although some would argue for divine intervention) is also 400 times the distance away from Earth, relative to the Moon's distance.  We are the ONLY PLANET IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM that experiences a total eclipse.  This photo of the 1991 total eclipse was taken by Fred Espenak.

However, the moon is moving further away from us by 4 centimeters every year.  Thus, someday there will only be annular eclipses, as to the right.  The next eclipse of this type will occur over the U.S. (only western portion) on 14October2023.
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That Eastern Pacific anomaly I mentioned yesterday got a name today, Kenneth.  However, all signs show him soon becoming a hurricane, but in time weakening, causing no danger to Hawaii:


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