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Eclipse May 20, late afternoon in the Western US:
May 17, 2012 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Where will you be on May 20th/21st? There will be an annular solar eclipse late afternoon that will be visible in the Western US: "On May 21, 2012, an annular solar eclipse begins over southeast China and passes over Japan. When the eclipse crosses the International Date Line, the local date becomes May 20. The eclipse then enters the California/Oregon border, passes in the late afternoon over Nevada, Utah, Arizona, a corner of Colorado, New Mexico, and ends at sunset in Texas." As a warning, please don't scorch your eyeballs! There are guidelines on safe viewing.
posted by dfm500 (37 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Phil Plait's write up is good, with lots of links. Also, #BadAstrohipster.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:00 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be looking for alien visitors clustered around the path of the eclipse.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:06 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm in Japan, and the eclipse will happen about 7:30 am Monday morning. Looking forward to it! I suppose I'll make a pinhole camera with a piece of cardboard, unless I come across some actual protective sunglasses.

I remember an eclipse back sometime in the mid- or late-80s in the U.S. It was a beautiful sunny summer day and for five minutes it got dark, really dark. I can see how early civilizations would've been freaked out by such a thing.
posted by zardoz at 5:07 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm finally going to be in the right place for one of these, which hasn't come together for me since high school in Illinois in the early nineties. This one will happen right during my commute time, and end during my first period class. Sadly, I don't know that my school is planning anything nearly as cool as when I was a student. We were all allowed to go outside, and the science teachers passed around various glasses and other tools for watching the eclipse.

If you've got nothing hand, look at the ground under any tree. The gaps in the leaves provide the pinhole effect, allowing you to see hundreds of tiny little eclipses.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think that I will be able to see it from the Bay Area (CA), but if I can, I think I will buy a welding mask (#14 glass, or darker), watch with my kids, then return the welding mask.
posted by dfm500 at 5:09 PM on May 17, 2012


Looks like we are right on the edge here in Santa Fe, NM. A sunset eclipse might be a nice sight if the sky isn't cloudy. Yay!
posted by jabo at 5:22 PM on May 17, 2012


That linked eclipse site is amazing. Those maps are so beautiful!

According to this calculator we'll have an 89% magnitude eclipse with 84% obscuration in San Francisco, between 5:15pm and 19:39pm. Maximum is at 18:32. It'll look like this. Fog might be a problem; at maximum the sun is pretty low at 19°. I'm considering heading up to Red Bluff or Redding for a better look, hrm.
posted by Nelson at 5:27 PM on May 17, 2012


I'll be on the roof of my daughter's elementary school, which they're opening up to the children and parents for the big event! We're all really psyched. Weather forecast calls for clouds, though... Keeping our fingers crossed for good viewing weather.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where will you be on May 20th?

At my birthday party. (If my wife and kid decide I'm worth it and throw one.) 44° 22' 50" N... but way too far east this time.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:50 PM on May 17, 2012


We're going to be driving to the total eclipse area from southern California. Looking forward to it very much!
posted by stoneegg21 at 5:56 PM on May 17, 2012


Also in Japan; I like how the central line passes right through Tokyo.

Confused the map of Japan reads "Annular Solar Eclipse over China", though.
posted by 23 at 6:09 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm going to try to drive up to Redding and I've got my eclipse glasses for watching!

Though the annoying thing is that I've read at least 3 different time estimates as to when this starts and for how long it goes, so fuck if I know at what point in the night I'm leaving to go home for the next 3 hours. Grrr.

But still, I'm just happy to have an eclipse happening in my end of the state, on a weekend, during daylight. The last eclipse I stayed up to watch was at 3 a.m. and guess what, it was super cloudy to boot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:13 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm not in Japan, Southern China nor the US, so I guess I'll miss out.
posted by mattoxic at 6:26 PM on May 17, 2012


The gaps in the leaves provide the pinhole effect, allowing you to see hundreds of tiny little eclipses.

That is my most indelible memory of the partial eclipse in 1990. Every little dot of sunlight that reached the ground from between the leaves was a tiny crescent.
posted by caryatid at 6:53 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


> I don't think that I will be able to see it from the Bay Area (CA), but if I can, I think I will buy a welding mask (#14 glass, or darker), watch with my kids, then return the welding mask.

why not? it won't be an annular eclipse but darn close. you only have to get up to redding or so to see the 'ring of fire'. otherwise, from the bay area, the moon will never cover up the sun completely. it will be a crescent shape at the moment of maximum eclipse.

the risk from the bay area is that it will already be foggy during the eclipse, since it's happening in the late afternoon.
posted by joeblough at 6:57 PM on May 17, 2012


That is my most indelible memory of the partial eclipse in 1990. Every little dot of sunlight that reached the ground from between the leaves was a tiny crescent.

me too!
posted by joeblough at 7:00 PM on May 17, 2012


Hey, if you're in the Bay Area I'm trying to arrange a meetup at the Exploratorium's eclipse-viewing party.
posted by Quietgal at 7:38 PM on May 17, 2012


Question for anyone who has seen it before. Is it worth a 200mile drive to see the "ring of fire" as opposed to just a pretty good partial eclipse from my front garden?
posted by Long Way To Go at 8:42 PM on May 17, 2012


The one-minute demarcation on this map of Texas is about 45 miles from me. Does this mean we won't see the eclipse at all because of sunset, that we will only see a partial eclipse or what exactly? Is it worth driving to see for one minute?
posted by tamitang at 9:25 PM on May 17, 2012


The gaps in the leaves provide the pinhole effect, allowing you to see hundreds of tiny little eclipses.

That is my most indelible memory of the partial eclipse in 1990. Every little dot of sunlight that reached the ground from between the leaves was a tiny crescent.


Wow, I'd never heard of this. Sunday afternoon I'll be looking down instead of up!
posted by wallabear at 9:43 PM on May 17, 2012


Not that we're close enough to see the whole thing, but 90% chance of rain that day.

Vancouver - the astronomer's version of a siberian gulag.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:01 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it worth a 200mile drive to see the "ring of fire"

Yes.

posted by DreamerFi at 10:29 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am sorry for the short answer, but the difference is something I cannot really express in words - perhaps other MeFi can do a better job
posted by DreamerFi at 10:31 PM on May 17, 2012


If you've got nothing hand, look at the ground under any tree. The gaps in the leaves provide the pinhole effect, allowing you to see hundreds of tiny little eclipses.

I remember this when there was a partial eclipse in the UK a while back. Really weird and awesome. I also set up a mirror in the garden to project the image of the sun onto the wall in our living room which worked pretty well.

The way it got dark was strange too because it's not like sunset, everything just gets dim, like someone's turned down the gamma setting.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:08 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's worth the drive. I made a drive from Portland, ME, in the Sixties, where there was a 99% eclipse, up north to where thousands of photographers and other gawkers were lining the roads and hills...although it was a bit cloudy, the darkness was amazing. You don't get to see that very often!
posted by kozad at 10:03 AM on May 18, 2012


Not only will this be my first "total" eclipse (yea!) but I'll be watching it from one of the most beautiful places in the world: Zion National Park!
posted by PixieS at 12:18 PM on May 18, 2012


We are driving north to Glen Canyon/Lake Powell to watch the eclipse. It was what my 4 year old wanted to do for her birthday this week after hearing about it at our science center.

Also, I totally just gave myself a bloody nose running into my backyard fence testing my eclipse glasses. Can't see anything (but the sun) in those things!
posted by Lapin at 12:40 PM on May 18, 2012


It's really cool. I would totally drive 200 miles for an eclipse. Get the eclipse glasses; it's so cool to be able to look at it without damaging your eyesight. Most people will not have eclipse glasses, so get extras if you can. The pinhole/lens effect is nifty, too.
posted by theora55 at 1:56 PM on May 18, 2012


Thanks for pointing this out, Ghidorah. The way I explain it is the random motion of the leaves form serindipitous, momentary gaps which act like pinhole cameras. Nominally, the images formed, the dapples, are all circles or an ellipses -- but during an eclipse, I've seen the crescents. Wondering if, during an annular ellipse, one sees O's at totallity? Report back here tomorrow, if you do!
posted by Rash at 2:13 PM on May 19, 2012


Sadly, the forecast for the greater Tokyo area is for cloudy weather. Never have I been quite so disappointed in Japan's stunning inability to live up to the image given to me by watching anime as a child. Seriously? Not even a weather dome?
posted by Ghidorah at 3:02 AM on May 20, 2012


Cloudy may mean you can view the solor display directly, if there's enough (but not too much) cloud cover.
posted by Rash at 8:39 AM on May 20, 2012


Not even a weather dome?

Dude, we've *totally* got a weather dome here in Tokyo. We just keep it a secret from you Chiba riff raff.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2012


Rash, there was a pretty solid warning against looking, even with cloudiness. As it is, I caught an earlier train this morning, an I should get to the station near my school right at the peak. We'll see (or not, really) how it goes.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:20 PM on May 20, 2012


So. I looked. Not the smartest thing I've ever done. I can still sort of see the after image when I close my eyes (about 25 minutes later). When I got to school, there were a bunch of students out on the campus with the special glasses, and one of my third year students was kind enough to lend me her glasses. We didn't get any of the ellipses in the shade, the moon was too small, and the sunlight too bright. There was a noticeable dimness, but it never got 'dark.' Still, pretty snazzy.

Now I just need to sacrifice a virgin to appease the fire demon in the sky, and apologise for our transgressions. With luck, the fire demon will look kindly on the sacrifice, and return to us.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was one hella kinkan nisshoku, y'all!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:36 PM on May 20, 2012


I drove with my friends from Flagstaff, AZ to Wupatki National Monument to see the total eclipse. One of the best parts was seeing all of the cars pulled over to the side of the road and people standing there and staring at the sky with their special glasses. We must have seen over a hundred people doing this. At the monument, the local astronomical society had a telescope set up and gave everyone a chance to look at the eclipse close up. It was fantastic.
posted by mollywas at 11:47 PM on May 20, 2012


caryatid: "That is my most indelible memory of the partial eclipse in 1990. Every little dot of sunlight that reached the ground from between the leaves was a tiny crescent."

I saw this yesterday!
posted by brundlefly at 2:22 PM on May 21, 2012


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