Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse was visible today in much of the southern hemisphere.

People turned up in Australia in large numbers.  Some Queensland hotels had been booked more than three years in advance, and 50,000 people came to the region to see it.  For those of us not in the sweet spot of viewability, technology came to the rescue.

There were two live streams at provided by a single crew.  The stations were 70 km apart, just in case the weather didn't fully cooperate.  Foresight is king.  The primary angles were wrought with cloud throughout, but one of the alternates was completely unobstructed.  Only one of the two streams had audio, so you could alt-tab between the two with no need to mute anything.

And the best part is - all of the technology was solar powered.  Is there even a need to elaborate on the pure awesomeness of that statement?

The broadcast was a resounding success.  Not a single glitch, audio nor video - and this is while I had about 30 other tabs open.  To declare that spending 90 minutes of my life experiencing this powerful phenomenon from such a distance was a worthwhile investment of time would be an understatement.  This kind of technological achievement did not even hit the radar of our wildest dreams a decade ago.

I took screenshots from the different angles at various intervals.  The first image was taken seconds after the moon began to cover the sun, which they referred to as "first contact."

And finally, totality - which lasted about a minute and a half.  During totality, animals armed with their sixth sense (read: virtually anything but humans) immediately tap into this new and foreign environment.  They behave differently and make unusual sounds.  Temperatures have been known to drop 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than mere minutes earlier.

The sun is 390 times further from Earth and 390 times larger than the moon, which is why they appear to be the same size when they are lined up exactly.  Neat how the universe has worked these delightful little things out.

Incredible shots from the first alternate angle:

A third angle:

And finally, a shot taken by the fine folks at NASA:

By sheer coincidence, my newest bucket list addition:

Experience a solar eclipse for real.

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