Solar Eclipses-A look into the skies

Solar Eclipses: Mary and Family Viewing the Eclipse Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Mary and Family Viewing the Eclipse
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Photo of Her 2013 T-shirt
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer, T-Shirt image Copyright 2012 Betchart Expeditions Inc. Photo of Her 2013 T-shirt
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
T-Shirt image Copyright 2012 Betchart Expeditions Inc.

Photo of Her 2013 T-shirt
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer, T-Shirt image Copyright 2012 Betchart Expeditions Inc. Photo of Her 2013 T-shirt
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
T-Shirt image Copyright 2012 Betchart Expeditions Inc.

When I looked up at the cloudy sky on October 14, I was dismayed. I was so looking forward to watching the partial solar eclipse, predicted to be at its height at 80% in Cache Valley at 10:15. Now the sun was hidden behind heavy clouds. Refusing to give up all hope, I slipped my eclipse glasses into my pocket and headed up a hiking trail on the Wellsville mountains. At 10:10 I stopped on an open ledge, put the glasses on, and looked up into the sky.

I saw nothing but absolute, total black.

I waited a few minutes. I put the glasses back on.

This time I saw the darkness thinning. And behold! A golden croissant appeared in the black sky.

In very slow motion, the moon continued to slide across this glowing crescent, reducing it to a thin golden semi-circle.

It was spellbinding for me because this partial eclipse was so different from the 3 total eclipses I’d already seen. This time my attention was on the big black moon rock sailing slowly across a spot of light. In the past, watching a total eclipse was all about the sun disappearing.

My first eclipse was in 1961. My high school physics teacher had taken us on an all-night bus ride. In the morning, the bus pulled over in an olive grove. I will never forget how the color drained out of the countryside. The birds stopped singing. We felt the chill as the temperature dropped.

My second total eclipse was on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We were on course to intercept the path of totality when it started raining. The shop’s captain gunned the engines and somehow found a bit of open sky. We counted down: 3,2,1, Zero! The sun disappeared and the stars came out. We took off our glasses. We held our breath. And then a tiny spot of hot sun poked out on the the sun’s aurora, and what looked like a giant engagement ring spread across the sky.

My third eclipse was near the Grand Tetons in 2017. This time I was fascinated by the small crescents of sunlight shadows dancing across my shoes.

In ancient times, the temporary extinguishing of the sun caused quite a bit of fear. The Chinese thought a giant dragon was taking bites out of the sun. They beat drums to drive the dragon away. In other countries, warriors shot flaming arrows into the sky to reignite the lost fireball.

We still have much to learn about the moon, the sun, the stars, and beyond. But what I learned this year was that the sun is 400 times the size of the moon. The moon is 390 times closer to the earth. This allows the sun and moon to appear to us to be the about same size. So, when the moon slides between us and the sun, sometimes it covers it completely. But when the moon is at its farthest from the earth, it leaves the fiery edges of the sun exposed – the Ring of Fire.

It’s a math problem with moving parts, but mathematicians can predict exactly when the next total eclipse will be visible in North America.

Set your calendar for April 8, 2024.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers. T-shirt image © 2012 Betchart Expeditions Inc.
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

“Some Tribes are allowed to view the eclipse while others, like the Navajo and Ute Indian Tribes, do not look at it. This can include reflections (water, mirrors, windows, etc.) or photos.

Please avoid posting videos or photos of the eclipse on social media – some Tribes are forbidden to look at the eclipse, including images and videos…”
2023 Annular Eclipse, San Juan County Economic Visitor Services, https://www.utahscanyoncountry.com/2023_annular_eclipse

Strand, Holly, Ring of Fire, Wild About Utah, May 17, 2012, https://wildaboututah.org/ring-of-fire/

Eclipses, NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/

2023 Solar Eclipse, NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2023/

[Future Eclipses] April 8, 2024, Solar Eclipse, NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/

2023 Annual Eclipse, Bryce Canyon National Park, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/2023-annular-eclipse.htm

Annular Solar Eclipse, October 14, 2023, Capital Reef National Park, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/annular-solar-eclipse.htm

Atlantic Crossing Total Eclipse 2013, Betchart Expeditions Inc.,
Webpage: https://www.solareclipsetrips.com/europe_atlantic2013.htm
Mailer: https://www.solareclipsetrips.com/pdf_files/atlantic_cros_final_1300_01x.pdf
Memorable Images: https://www.betchartexpeditions.com/trav_atlantic_crossing2013.htm

Special Annual Event: Perseids Meteor Shower

In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, as seen from Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Courtesy NASA, Bill Ingalls, Photographer
In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, as seen from Spruce Knob, West Virginia.
Courtesy NASA, Bill Ingalls, Photographer
The Perseids meteor shower is one of the most popular events of the year for sky watchers. A meteor shower is simply an increase in meteor activity which is produced when the Earth passes through a trail of debris that is also in orbit about the Sun.

Perseids debris comes from the Comet Swift-Tuttle, the largest object known to make repeated passes near the Earth. Its nucleus is about 6 miles across. Most of its meteoroids are the size of sand grains; a few are as big as peas or marbles. When they enter Earth’s atmosphere, they are called meteors. Almost none hit the ground, but if one does, it’s called a meteorite.

The Perseid shower is detectable from July 25-Aug 20, but meteor activity rises sharply around Aug. 12. For example, on the 25th you can expect to see a meteor every hour. Maybe 5 an hour by the 1st of August, up to 15 an hour by August 10th. But then on August 12, the number will spike to 50 -80 /hour and in some years up to 200! Then the number will quickly subside until Aug 20, when you’ll be back to 1 an hour.

Perseid meteoroids are fast. They enter Earth’s atmosphere at roughly 133,000 mph– or 60 km per second. They also make a sound! Fast-moving meteoroids ionize the air in their path leaving behind a trail that can briefly reflect radio wave from TV stations, RADAR facilities or AM/FM transmitters. A “radio meteor” is the short-lived echo of a radio signal that bounces off such a trail. Scientists at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL have established a radio meteor monitoring system. Here’s what a typical echo sounds like against some background static:

https://www.spaceweather.com/meteors/audio/geminidecho.wav (Editors note: Content AWOL as of 8/2021
Original article quoting sound found at https://www.spaceweather.com/glossary/nasameteorradar.html)
See NASA Radio Meteors: https://science.nasa.gov/search?search_api_views_text=radio+meteors (accessed August, 2021)

Hmmm… Kind of reminds me of a whale song.

This year, August 12th features a gibbous moon which means lunar glare will wipe out the path of the smaller meteroids . You’ll want to find a spot in the moonshade which will minimize glare. Or you can watch during predawn moonless hours on August 12th which will be the peak of this year’s show. No worries for those of us who can’t stay awake past midnight though. There will still be so-called shooting stars even while the moon is out—just less than when the moon has set. Furthermore, Jupiter is almost opposite to the sun with the planet coming physically closest to the Earth in its orbit . That means good viewing as Jupiter will appear very large. Look for it together with the moon in the constellation Sagittarius in the southeast sky. Depending upon your viewing equipment, you may be able to see some of Jupiter’s moons as well as the Great Red Spot, which is a gigantic hurricane-like storm twice the size of Earth on Jupiter’s surface.

For a sociable viewing experience, sky watchers in Northern Utah are invited to the Stokes Nature Center/American West Heritage Center Star Party August 12th from 9-1. We’ll have powerful telescopes, experienced interpreters, and all sorts of fun activities for adults and families. For more information see www.logannature.org or www.awhc.org

Credits:


Photo: Courtesy NASA, Bill Ingalls, Photographer, https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/behold-the-perseid-meteor-shower
Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Additional Reading

Harbaugh, Jennifer, How many Perseids will I see in 2021?, NASA, August 9, 2021 https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/tag/perseids-meteor-shower/

McClure, Bruce, Perseid Meteor Shower 2021 Reaches Its Peak, EarthSky, August 10, 2021, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower/

Pop! Ping! Perseids! Science@NASA (accessed July 31, 2008)
https://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast13aug99_1.htm

Philipps, Tony. 2008. The 2008 Perseid Meteor Shower Science@NASA (accessed July 31, 2008)

Radio Meteor Listening.
https://www.spaceweather.com/glossary/forwardscatter.html (accessed July 31, 2008)

Ridpath, Ian. Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy. 1997.
NY: Oxford University Press

Harbaugh, Jennifer, How many Perseids will I see in 2021?, NASA, August 9, 2021 https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/tag/perseids-meteor-shower/

McClure, Bruce, Perseid Meteor Shower 2021 Reaches Its Peak, EarthSky, August 10, 2021, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower/

Dark Sky Parks

Dark Sky Parks: The Milky Way Courtesy Pixabay
The Milky Way
Courtesy Pixabay
Chances are that if you step outside your front door at night and look up, you can get a pretty good view of the night sky. Even if you live in a bigger city or town, a short journey by car, bike, or foot can usually get you to some amazing stargazing places. And that’s because you live in a wonderfully wild place called Utah.

We are lucky to be able to experience natural darkness in so many places around Utah. Over 99% of all people in industrialized nations today live under light-polluted skies, and 2/3s of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. But in Utah, we have the darkest skies on average out of any state in the lower 48, and the recognition for these pristine conditions has reached international levels. The world’s first dark sky park was designated right here in Utah at Natural Bridges National Monument. In fact, with 18 official certified dark sky places, Utah has the highest concentration Internationally recognized dark sky places in the entire world.

More and more, we are recognizing how important natural darkness is to our natural and human communities. Wildlife depends on natural darkness for their survival, and light pollution can interfere with reproduction, migration, and even predator avoidance for some wildlife species. For humans, increased light pollution can interrupt sleep patterns, interfere with immune responses, and increase risk for obesity. Naturally dark skies can contribute to positive experiences for people outdoors as well, like an experience of awe.

So next time you want to head outdoors to connect with natural world, consider going somewhere at night. If you want to visit a designated dark sky area, jump online and search “Utah dark sky parks” and plan a trip. Who knows? Maybe you will even get a better night sleep and reduce your stress.

I’m Zach Miller, and I’m Wild About Utah.

Natural Quiet and Darkness in our National Parks-Credits:
Photos:
    Courtesy Pixabay,
Audio: Courtesy and Copyright
Text: Zach Miller, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Additional Reading

Leavitt, Shauna, Dark Skies, Wild About Utah, January 1, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/dark-skies/

Leavitt, Shauna, Natural Quiet and Darkness in our National Parks, Wild About Utah, May 6, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/natural-quiet-and-darkness-in-our-national-parks/

Strand, Holly, Of Shooting Stars, Wild About Utah, August 6, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/of-shooting-stars/

Cokinos, Christopher. 2009. The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars. Penguin Group, Inc. https://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Sky-Intimate-History-Shooting/dp/1585427209

Cedar Breaks National Monument Designated as an International Dark Sky Park, https://www.nps.gov/cebr/learn/news/cedar-breaks-national-monument-designated-as-an-international-dark-sky-park.htm

Burkitt, Bree, Cedar Breaks recognized as Dark Sky Park, The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/local/cedar-city/2017/03/09/cedar-breaks-recognized-dark-sky-park/98980850/

Spotlight – The Cedar Breaks National Monument Master Astronomer Program, Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, https://cpdarkskies.org/2018/10/17/spotlight-the-cedar-breaks-national-monument-master-astronomer-program/

Clear Sky Charts, Utah, Attilla Danko, ClearDarkSky.com, https://cleardarksky.com/csk/prov/Utah_charts.html

Utah Leads The World With Nine International Dark Sky Parks, International Dark-Sky Association, https://www.darksky.org/utah-leads-the-world-with-nine-international-dark-sky-parks/

Dark Sky Parks, Utah Office of Tourism, https://www.visitutah.com/things-to-do/dark-sky-parks

Top 5 Star Gazing Spots in Utah, Utah.com, Utah Travel Industry Website, https://utah.com/article/top-5-star-gazing-spots

Eyes In The Sky: Exploring Global Light Pollution With Satellite Maps, International Dark-Sky Association, https://www.darksky.org/eyes-in-the-sky-exploring-global-light-pollution-with-satellite-maps/

Dark Skies, Antelope Island State Park, https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/dark-skies/

Utah State Parks Dark Skies Program, State Parks, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://stateparks.utah.gov/resources/utah-state-parks-dark-sky-initiative/

Stargazing, Arches National Park, https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/stargazing.htm

Lightscape / Night Sky, Arches National Park, https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/nature/lightscape.htm

Night Skies, Natural Bridges National Monument, https://www.nps.gov/nabr/learn/nature/darkskypark.htm

Marc Toso, AncientSkys.com, https://www.ancientskys.com/

Experience the Magic of the Stars at Utah’s State Parks, Utah State Parks Blog, State of Utah, April 13, 2023, https://stateparks.utah.gov/2023/04/13/experience-the-magic-of-the-stars-at-utahs-state-parks/

Equinox, or Equilux?

Equinox, or Equilux: Seasons Courtesy NASA https://www.weather.gov/dvn/Climate_Astronomical_Seasons
Seasons
Courtesy NASA
https://www.weather.gov/dvn/Climate_Astronomical_Seasons
We raced west toward home from the high plains, trying to beat the heavy snow that had been forecasted for Labor Day evening. Finally in the canyon—the revelation that seasons had passed while we were away. Temperatures plummeted, and the forests reacted. Favorite stands of aspens were already aglow above that familiar bend in the river. Meteorological fall had promptly arrived.

Its astronomical counterpart—the autumnal equinox—is a bit of a misnomer. The word equinox is our late Middle English iteration of the Latin term for “equal night,” but, astronomically speaking, this isn’t exactly true. The equinox is the single moment when the Earth’s axis is pointing neither toward nor away from the sun, providing entire hemispheres equal portions of light. This year’s autumnal equinox occurs at precisely 7:30 AM on Tuesday, September 22nd, and though daylight and night will share almost equal portions of the clock that day, they don’t split it evenly until two or three days later on what is called the ‘equilux’, meaning “equal light.”

Earth Orbit - With Date Spans, Courtesy National Weather Service (NWS)
Earth Orbit – With Date Spans
Courtesy National Weather Service (NWS)
https://www.weather.gov/abq/clifeatures_springequinox
It works like this. We count daytime from the moment the sun peeks above the horizon to the moment it sinks below. But, of course, the sun isn’t a light switch. We have several minutes of twilight before the sun rises and after it sets thanks to the lens-like refraction provided by our atmosphere. So, on the day of the equinox, those several minutes of twilight before sunrise and after sunset offset the equal exposure of the sun’s rays to our hemisphere by a small margin, giving us a tad more daylight than night. The equilux has to wait for Earth’s tilt to allow darkness to catch up.

But wait. It gets a little more complicated. Because the Earth’s axis begins tilting away from the sun immediately following the autumnal equinox (or toward it following the vernal equinox), different latitudes will experience the equilux at different intervals. As a rule, the closer one is to the equator, the longer they will wait for the equilux to occur in the fall and the sooner it will arrive in the spring. That is, unless you live within 5 latitudinal degrees of the equator. Then, sadly, you don’t get an equilux at all, ever, because you always have more than twelve hours of daylight.

Depending on where you live here in Utah, you will experience the equilux sometime on September 25th or 26th. So, this week, take out your stopwatch, and turn your eyes skyward.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy Weather.gov, US National Weather Service(NWS), https://www.weather.gov/dvn/Climate_Astronomical_Seasons
Photos: Courtesy
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, 2020

Sources & Additional Reading

The Equinox Isn’t What You Think It Is, PBS Digital Studios, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVDCsXUygEw

Kher, Aparna, Equinox: Equal Day and Night, Almost, https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equinox-not-equal.html

City of North Logan, Utah, USA — Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, September 2020, Time and Date AS, https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/@7173983

Seasons, SciJinks, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, https://scijinks.gov/review/solstice/seasons/

Which Pole is Colder?, Climate Kids, The Earth Science Communications Team, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/polar-temperatures/

Earth’s Seasons – Equinoxes and Solstices – 2018-2025, The U.S. Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department, https://www.weather.gov/media/ind/seasons.pdf

Changing seasons, Climate Resource Collections, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/climate/changing-seasons

Boling, Josh, A Solstice Vignette, Wild About Utah, December 16, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/a-solstice-vignette/

Equinoxes, National Geographic, https://youtu.be/kaG6PTVrFP4

What is an Equinox? National Geographic, https://youtu.be/enlih8M5DN0

The Autumnal Equinox is Near, Watch the Skies Blog, NASA, https://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/tag/equinox/