Rising the Black Sun (SLP)
July 21, 2009 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow, July 22 2009, we will witness the longest solar eclipse of our century. Instead of the sunrise, people will see a black hole rising in the sky and birds will be unsure if the day is beginning or not. It might become the most viewed eclipse ever.

If there are any mefites in Shanghai, Surat, Vadodara, Bhopal, Varanasi, Chengdu, Chonqing, Wuhan, Hefei, or Hangzhou, please for the love of dog, report in!
posted by canine epigram (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
yeah, i think "we" might be the wrong pronoun here.
posted by auralcoral at 1:49 PM on July 21, 2009


yeah, i think "we" might be the wrong pronoun here.

Yes, there are a lot of people in China who are online, but I think there aren't that many reading MetaFilter. Or were you talk of the global "we"?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2009


None-the-less, still interesting.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on July 21, 2009


When am I supposed to save the cheerleader?
posted by mattdidthat at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2009 [18 favorites]


I have the perfect video for this event.
posted by Xoebe at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


When am I supposed to save the cheerleader?

Before she signs up for another season.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


And don't forget your pinhole cameras for safe eclipse watching! All you need are a white card (or card box lined with white paper), a piece of aluminum foil, and something to poke a tiny hole in the foil.
posted by bettafish at 1:58 PM on July 21, 2009


You don't have to be able to see it for it to be a fascinating celestial phenomenon. Come on, where's the wonderment and awe underneath all the Metafilter "meh"? Solar eclipses can't even move you?
posted by blucevalo at 2:02 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just got this email from my cherished mother, but I don't have the equipment to follow up:
Hi all,

Just a heads up!

There is a chance that we might be able to see a total solar eclipse on the Dish Network satellite feed.

On Tue there is a total solar eclipse that will be visible, in some form, to most of the eastern hemisphere. Dish Network has a channel called Dish Earth that is a video feed off their geo-sync satellite. The channel is 212 for me. I don't know if it's the same for all.

Well, the eclipse ends about 9 pm PST somewhere over the Polynesian islands, apx 10 deg south by 160 deg west. Based on my un-scientific estimates, and a comparison of google earth to the view of the feed, there is a chance that we will be able to see the shadow of the moon on Dish Earth.

Hope your summer is going well!

love to you all!
I have no way to confirm or deny my mother's conjectures... but it would be cool to see!
posted by muddgirl at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2009


Wait, so now we're griping about Metafilter not being US-centric enough?

(Seriously, this is cool.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:05 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


love to you all!

Love to you, too, muddgirl's cherished mother!

-IRFH
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:06 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not sure how well it will work, but here is a place saying they have a live cam going -
http://www.live-eclipse.org/
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2009


NSFR
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


that would have been a hell of a birthday gift if it wasn't on the wrong side of the world. better luck next time, god.
posted by klanawa at 2:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


And don't forget your pinhole cameras for safe eclipse watching!

B h. Th se ind ect me ods s k. I al ys l k dir tly at ecl ses. Re ly c l.
posted by @troy at 2:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have the perfect video for this event.
posted by Xoebe at 4:53 PM


I was ready to argue that this video would be more appropriate, but that was awesome.
posted by Kabanos at 2:14 PM on July 21, 2009


filthy light thief : None-the-less, still interesting.

Considering your username, I have to assume your taking the moon's side in all this...
posted by quin at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Xoebe: "I have the perfect video for this event."

No, I've got the perfect video for this event, at least given the OP's particular wording. ;-)
posted by WCityMike at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kabanos: "I was ready to argue that this video would be more appropriate, but that was awesome."

That'll teach me not to preview. *sigh* ...

posted by WCityMike at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2009


"you're taking"... damn it.
posted by quin at 2:18 PM on July 21, 2009


Also note: this wold be a good time to be kidnapped by a primitive tribe in the region as eclipses always prove that you have supernatural powers.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


So. Cool.

Now ... how to get to Shanghai by sunrise tomorrow?
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2009


Get drunk in a Portland, OR bar.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:35 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's my birthday eclipse, and I'm on the wrong side of the planet!
posted by jb at 2:38 PM on July 21, 2009


please for the love of dog

So racist to assume that all Asian people love to eat dogs.
posted by straight at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2009


I'm in Shanghai, but won't likely be getting much love from the eclipse, as we've had thunderstorms all night
posted by FuManchu at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2009


eclipses always prove that you have supernatural powers
Until they say, "Hey, that was cool! You'll have to do it again when the king gets back."
posted by joaquim at 2:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh definitely just MeFi.

many MANY people in the world will see this and i wish i could too.
posted by auralcoral at 3:02 PM on July 21, 2009


Also note: this wold be a good time to be kidnapped by a primitive tribe in the region as eclipses always prove that you have supernatural powers.

As do false teeth, Guy Zero - if your eclipse timing sucks!

(Pulling out your dentures was another great confound-the-natives wheeze from Rider Haggard)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2009


AAAAAAAH THE GIANT SPACE DRAGON IS EATING THE SUN

oh, wait...

AAAAAH THE GIANT SPACE DRAGON IS PUKING UP THE SUN
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


There hasn't been a total solar eclipse in North America for awhile, right? Not since the 70s, IIRC. And we've got awhile to wait yet -- the next eclipse visible in the lower 48 won't happen for another 15 years: April 8, 2024, to be precise. But when it does happen, it'll be a doozy, cutting a swath across Mexico, the Midwest, and inland New England, passing "directly over Dallas, Texas, Indianapolis, Indiana, Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York, among other places," according to Wikipedia.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2009


Correction: The first total eclipse in the US is only eight years away -- August 21, 2017. It'll cut a similarly generous path, from Oregon to South Carolina.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:33 PM on July 21, 2009


I won't be able to see this one. What's the best vantage point for the one in 2132? I'd like to make hotel reservations.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:41 PM on July 21, 2009


There hasn't been a total solar eclipse in North America for awhile, right? Not since the 70s,

According to this it was February 1979, which is odd because I was sure there was one when I was in college in the early '90s. I guess it must have been a partial or something.
posted by quin at 3:43 PM on July 21, 2009


Yeah, I saw one in southern Canada in the 90's, but it may not have been complete. It was definitely an eclipse though - all the shadows got freaky and I used a piece of boxboard w. a pinhole to project it onto the ground.
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2009


The first total eclipse in the US is only eight years away

Can't wait that long. I want my epic eclipse now!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2009


Shoot, I'm on the wrong side of the planet. However, I plan to approximate the experience by walking around all morning with my eyes closed.
posted by pemberkins at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "Can't wait that long. I want my epic eclipse now!"

Don't complain! After this long dry spell, we're due for an eclipse bonanza in the next century. From 2017 to 2099, the eastern United States alone will see six total eclipses, with eleven visible somewhere in the country over the same time period -- an incredible number for such a small area.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2009


If I could find any place on the goddamn net telling me what time it's happening here -- in Korea we should get a pretty good show -- I'd be happier. But I can't. Stupid internet.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:59 PM on July 21, 2009


Never mind. Looks like it'll be around 11am here -- in about two hours. And we should get totality or nearly so where I am.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:04 PM on July 21, 2009


Well, I'm in Shanghai. But I'll most likely be in a conference call at the time. I might sit outside for it though.
posted by michswiss at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2009


A coworker of mine also noted that because "the planets will be lined up" there will be tsunamis. He also somehow roped an Obama press conference into the mix and then, I swear I'm not making this up, put on a tinfoil hat. Literally. He has a huge ball of it in his office. I wish I was joking. (It's possibly he was joking. But he really does have a huge ball of tinfoil in there. And a big red D [for Doom, I assume] on the 22nd.)
posted by DU at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2009


Man, I wish I was in the right hemisphere to see the black sun approaching and cutting a swathe across the globe Z҉A҉L҉G҉O̚̕̚
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:15 PM on July 21, 2009


Jay Pasachoff (astronomy professor at Williams College and long-time eclipse chaser) is blogging it for the NY Times. Looks like the weather at his location cleared up just in time.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:24 PM on July 21, 2009


Looks like between 10:40 and 10:50 am here. I'm a couple of hundred kms north from the path of totality, and I have my pinhole thingy made. Missed the last one a few years ago, so I'm all over this. The skies are mostly clear (unusual during rainy season), so I'm hopeful.

Wouldn't have known about it if not for this thread, so hooray for Metafilter coming through again!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2009


Aw, and I got so excited.

still badass
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2009


According to this excellent calculator, I should see maximum coverage of 88% beginning 12:32:55 AM UT and ending 3:10:00 AM UT. I'm 20 minutes in apparently, but can't discern any coverage yet.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:52 PM on July 21, 2009


Can someone explain, exactly, why one should use one of those pinhole thingies to view a solar eclipse?
posted by kafziel at 5:57 PM on July 21, 2009


Now I know how people feel when an FPP links to content not available in their country.
posted by Zed at 5:58 PM on July 21, 2009


Can someone explain, exactly, why one should use one of those pinhole thingies to view a solar eclipse?

Retinal damage.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:07 PM on July 21, 2009


Can someone explain, exactly, why one should use one of those pinhole thingies to view a solar eclipse?

1) Looking directly at the sun under any circumstance is a bad idea
2) It's a lot easier to see the profile of the moon covering the sun's disc
3) It's a lesson in physics and astronomy and photography all in one
4) It's just so cool...
posted by michswiss at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2009


Showing about 30% coverage now -- the morning sunlight was blistering 30 minutes ago, but it's much dimmer and cooler. Looking like late afternoon through my office windows, even though the sky is clear.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was sure there was one when I was in college in the early '90s.

I remember this one too. I was outside the bookstore in St. Louis where I worked, so it had to be some time between '92 and '96, when the asshole owner fired me for reporting him to the Department of Labor for not paying overtime. Good times.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:11 PM on July 21, 2009


I told some of my coworkers in the building that the eclipse was happening, and they were all like 'yeah, uh, cool, I guess'.

I wonder why some people (people like me) get incredibly excited about things like this, and others seem completely uninspired by it. The serendipitous fact that our moon is just the right size to cover the disc of the far-off sun blows my mind every time I think about it. The elegant dance of the spheres gives me a tempered-steel science hardon, I tell you.

Not that I said that to my Korean colleagues, as misunderstandings would have inevitably ensued.

Up to almost 50% coverage now, and the temperature feels like it's 5 degrees cooler. About 15 or 20 minutes from max, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:20 PM on July 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sadly, most of Japan is covered by clouds and rain, so we're unlikely to see any of it. The maximum totality in Tokyo is about 75% by 11:15 or so.
posted by armage at 6:29 PM on July 21, 2009


70%-80% coverage now with a high hazy layer of cirrus clouds; weird dim light makes me feel kind of weird, and dim.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:30 PM on July 21, 2009


Coming to maximum now on the south coast of South Korea -- a bank of thicker cloud has intervened, but it looks like it will pass before we reach the 88% or so of max coverage.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 PM on July 21, 2009


Totality in Shanghai now. I'm inside, but it's dark, dark, dark. Everyone is scurrying to windows and outside. It's raining and cooler. Can't see the sun.
posted by michswiss at 6:40 PM on July 21, 2009


Mini-guide to webcams. Great cover - Black Hole Sun.
posted by tellurian at 6:40 PM on July 21, 2009


Yep, we just passed max coverage here, too. Patchly mid-height clouds intervening a bit, but not enough to obscure the sliver of disc completely. It's twilight dark now, and delightfully cool.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:50 PM on July 21, 2009


i think this is fantastic. thank ytou stavrosthewonderchicken for the play by play.
posted by lapolla at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just saw it. Pretty rad.
posted by bardic at 7:11 PM on July 21, 2009


so cool, thanks for the updates!
posted by mdn at 7:13 PM on July 21, 2009


Can someone explain, exactly, why one should use one of those pinhole thingies to view a solar eclipse?

Okay, time for some absolutely wild conjecture about why looking at eclipses is dangerous, when it doesn't hurt the way looking right at the Sun does. I have always wondered "why wouldn't it hurt and make you look away?" I've never quite seen anyone actually sit down and do this, so this is entirely speculative.

Fact #1: Your pupils contract via the pupillary light reflex and you feel discomfort when you look at the Sun directly. It's bright, and you have a urge to look away. This is an obvious protective mechanism.

Fact #2: Your retina doesn't hurt when it burns.

Fact #3: In terms of evolution, most species rarely encounter situations in which they are exposed to ultraviolet light without visible light. What this means is that I could put a high-UV diode out there and your retina would cheerfully burn as you stared at something that, to your senses, isn't putting out light.

Fact #4: Diffraction, in optics, includes phenomena when light bends as it hits an edge. Everyone, get your Pink Floyd albums out. Take a look at the prism. Note that the red light barely bends, but the violet light bends more. Prisms aren't diffraction, but you get the idea of light sorting itself out, and that the red light bends least. Edge diffraction isn't as powerful as the dispersion from a prism, but bear with me.

Fact #5: The solar corona is weirdly hotter than the rest of the sun, despite being on the outside. It's so hot, it puts out a lot of ultraviolet radiation. An awful lot.

Let's put this all together.

As the Moon's edge cuts into our sunlight, it should diffract around the edges. The visible light will be bent the least, but the ultraviolet light should be bent the most. That means that, even though the visible light is blocked, ultraviolet light bends around the edges, shining right into your eyes. And we're also getting some coronal action, without the rest of the sun, so that's even more ultraviolet.

Looks dark, but you're getting a nice UV dose. Your pupils, since they do not see any serious visible light, fail to contract, letting all of that UV in to burn your retina.

Bam, painless retinal burn from looking at an eclipse. I tend to view #4 as highly speculative, and if I didn't have my optics books packed up I'd run the numbers on it, but it could be a contributing factor.
posted by adipocere at 7:15 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I couldn't resist sneaking a couple of quick peeks through the gathering cloud cover as we approached max. I'm hoping I didn't fry the ol' retinas too badly!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:17 PM on July 21, 2009


Wait so wait wait, it's going on right now? And I won't see it in NY? Is there a live webcam showing it? I only found the NYTimes live blog.
posted by muckster at 7:51 PM on July 21, 2009


Well, the eclipse ends about 9 pm PST somewhere over the Polynesian islands, apx 10 deg south by 160 deg west. Based on my un-scientific estimates, and a comparison of google earth to the view of the feed, there is a chance that we will be able to see the shadow of the moon on Dish Earth.

You have a science- and math-literate mother. Nice. I'm jealous, no disrepect intended to my own mother.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2009


Screw China, they're always getting eclipse action. I'm waiting for eight years from now when the US finally gets its fair share.
posted by crapmatic at 8:22 PM on July 21, 2009


Thanks for the the Dish Earth info. The music is nice as well.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2009


This sounds cool: "AARNet, Australia’s Academic and Research Network, will stream live, high-definition video footage of the longest total solar eclipse this century into the GeoDome – an inflatable, immersive 3D theatre".
posted by tellurian at 8:45 PM on July 21, 2009


Any high def videos of this around?
posted by lazaruslong at 8:56 PM on July 21, 2009


"Yeah, I saw one in southern Canada in the 90's, but it may not have been complete."

Can we ever see total eclipses in Canada? IE: there must be a max theoretical latitude that total solar eclipses can happen given the maximum variations in the orbit of the moon and the tilt of the earth's axis. Anyone know what that latitude is?
posted by Mitheral at 9:11 PM on July 21, 2009


The sun will rise eclipsed.

No fucking wonder the ancients made up scary stories to explain things. That is intense.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 PM on July 21, 2009


A lot of my colleagues here in South East Asia came early or late to work, in order to avoid travelling during the time of the actual eclipse. You know, for auspicious reasons.

Me, I used a highly effective instrument to watch the eclipse: BBC's live feed. :-|
posted by the cydonian at 11:14 PM on July 21, 2009


adipocere: time for some absolutely wild conjecture about why looking at eclipses is dangerous...

I'm a solar physicist and, once upon a time, wrote my undergraduate thesis on results obtained during a series of solar eclipses. (Jay Pasachoff, mentioned upthread, was, in fact, my undergraduate thesis advisor.) So let's clear up some very common misconceptions from above.

Looking at the total part of a total solar eclipse is not in any way harmful to your eyes, and is, in fact, awesome. You should definitely look if you ever have the chance. However, many people damage their eyes in the moments before and after totality.

The reason it's dangerous to look at other parts of an eclipse has nothing to do with the eclipse and everything to do with physiology and perception. Normally when you look at the sun it's clear why it would be dangerous and could damage your vision. But when 90% of the sun is covered by the moon, and only a small crescent is left, you perceive the sun as not as bright, and it feels like you can look safely at it. In fact, reflex, which normally will act to prevent you from staring at the bright sun, won't protect you here, even though that 10% of sun that's still showing is just as dangerous as always. So you need eclipse glasses or a pinhole camera to protect your eyes when the eclipse isn't total. You don't need any eye protection to look at the corona.

The corona is always there, by the way, it's just completely swamped by scattered light from the sun. It's something like 1/1,000,000th as bright as the full sun, so you just can't see it without either specialized equipment at high altitude or an eclipse. So it's UV contribution is trivially small.
posted by dseaton at 11:35 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wolfram Alpha can calculate the next visible eclipse from your town e.g . I am pretty jealous of one where the sun rises eclipsed though.
posted by scodger at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2009


Here's a neat photo by Brian Cox.
posted by bettafish at 3:58 AM on July 22, 2009


Damn, and here I thought it was the UV. I never have been able to find squat about the various spectra during an eclipse, aside from a really, really ancient article from someone named Harting who was convinced there was no solar corona and was obviously wrong.

So why doesn't pupillary reflex kick in? I can see why people would say "Oh, that's not that bright," but it isn't as if basic human idiocy has too much control over a pupil reflex. Is it the pinpoint nature of the light? As if the reflex is rigged to respond to an amount of light, rather than what is nearly a point source during an eclipse?

Not that this matters a whole lot to me on a practical level — I used to have a piece of welding glass I used for eclipses because I like having working eyes — but I could never figure out why the base level operations of the pupil wouldn't kick in and why people wouldn't, you know, experience pain, Nature's reminder Not To Do That. UV is about the only thing I know that would fit all of that, and I'd always seen those gorgeous UV-photos of the sun, with the bright coronal ring.

Well, it was worth some idle speculation. And here I was ready to buy some of that UV-reactive stuff I've had my eye on for next year and do a little experiment.
posted by adipocere at 9:18 AM on July 22, 2009


Big Picture's coverage of yesterday's events are fantastic as usual, especially the fancy fade on #19 (indirectly via).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2009


so it had to be some time between '92 and '96

I think most of us are remembering this eclipse in 1991, which was visible as a partial eclipse to quite a bit of North America. I remember this quite distinctly - I was in 1st grade in the Silicon Valley and my nerdy parents made me sit out in a field and trace the sun profiles on a piece of cardboard.

On that link above, you can click on where you were to view lots of data about what you saw.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2009


That reminds me - did anyone attempt to watch the moon's shadow on the Dish Network satellite feed? My mum would be awful glad to hear whether or not it worked (apparently she was out of town on Tuesday).
posted by muddgirl at 11:41 AM on July 23, 2009


I, too, remember an annular eclipse in 1993 or 1994 - it was a partial from Toronto, but we weren't far from the total (it was almost total). I think it was 1993 or 94, because that was the year I took physics and our class got all into the pin-hole thing.
posted by jb at 12:58 PM on July 23, 2009


Well, here's a complete list of solar eclipses, total and annular, during the 20th century. You can compare them to this NASA catalog to see eclipse paths. If you're sure about the time period then I'm betting it's an annular eclipse visible from Southeast Canada, 10 May 1994.
posted by muddgirl at 1:16 PM on July 23, 2009


muddgirl - May 10, 1994 seems the right date for my memory, because it matches my memory of the weather (fine and summery, but not hot), and it would put it towards the end of the said physics class. We were a grade 12 class, and either were allowed to go outside or just ignored the rules. My husband (only in grade 9 and a huge nerd who always follows orders unless they're mine) stayed inside. I don't think the 1991 one was visible so far north.
posted by jb at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2009


Also note: this wold be a good time to be kidnapped by a primitive tribe in the region as eclipses always prove that you have supernatural powers.

Story is, Columbus really pulled this in Jamaica, long before Twain or Haggard fictionalized it.
posted by Zed at 11:29 PM on July 24, 2009


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