In the 67 years I've been on the planet, I have never seen a solor eclipse, The year 2012, brings the opportunity for me and millions of people in the western part of the United States, to see this incredible event up close and personal
For those of you around the world, who are not familiar
with Albuquerque, New Mexico, I will try to put it on the map for you. The state of New Mexico, is located in the southwestern part of the United States...with our good neighbors to the east...the state of Texas; our good neighbors to the north...the state of Colorado; our good neighbors to the west...the state of Arizona; and our good neighbors to the south...the country of Mexico.
Albuquerque is a sleepy one-horse town, of about 500,000 in population, including the horse. The Rio Grande River splits the city in about half, and about 2/3 of the population live on the east side of the river...and about 1/3 live on the west side of the river. The west side had been tied up in Land Grants for many years, and that's why there is slow growth on the west side.
I'll try to paint a picture for the reader, of the geography of the area, so the reader can try to see what we will be seeing here in town. The Sandia Mountains (spanish for watermellon) are located on the eastern city limits, and rise to a height of !0,600 feet above sea level, and support the longest tramway system in North America. The Rio Grande river valley down below, and on the west side of the river, and three volcanos, that will certainly add to the painting of this picture, because the sun will set in the west.
At this time of the year, the sun usually sets over the middle volcano...and later this year, the sun will set over the volcano farthest to the north.
I live on the east side of the river, on the 5th floor of an apartment building facing to the west of the city, so I have a birds-eye view of the entire west side of the city, and the volcanoes on the horizon to the west. The view is spectacular from where I live, and I'm anxious to see this incredible spectacle! The solar eclipse is supposed to happen around 6:30 PM Sunday evening (5-20-12), and I will give the reader an account of what I saw. I plan to use an entire roll of film, to capture what I can of the eclipse. Thousands of dark glasses were given out by several organizations around the city, so there has been much interest in the event.
The following newspaper article appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on Saturday May 19, 2012 and was written by John Fleck, a staff writer. The headlines read;
SAFETY FIRST; ECLIPSE VIEWERS;
Please don't look at the phenomenon without adequate protection
"The best advice for Sunday's solar eclipse may well have come from Bruce Springsteen's mom; 'Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun.' Springstein said back in 1973 in 'Blinded By the Light.' 'But, mama,' Springstein responded in the song, 'that's where the fun is.'
And, therein lies the dilema early Sunday evening as an annular solar eclipse descends on Albuquerque, which lies at the heart of one of nature's great shows. 'It's the most amazing things you can see,' said Michael Zeiler, and eclipse watching veteran from Santa Fe. You will want to look. But, don't. Looking directly at the sun can damage your eyes any time. You'll be tempted as the moon blots out the sun to think that the risk is diminished. But, it is not, experts say.
'People have to be really careful,' said Roger Kennedy, a member of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society who is one of the many volunteers fanning out to eclipse-watching sites across the Albuquerque metro area to help visitors watch Sunday's show safely.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon's orbit takes it directly between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow. But, the shadow is small, so only a lucky few get to see it. In this case, Albuquerque is one of the prime spots on Earth for a perfect view.
At 6:28 PM Sunday evening, the moon will begin drifting across the sun, low in the western sky. At 7:33 PM, the eclipse will become complete, with the moon slightly smaller than the sun blotting out all but a ring of fire. It will take a bit more than 4 minutes for the moon to cross the sun and before emerging from the other side, with the eclipse continuing until sunset at 8:07PM. The National Weather Service is forcasting mostly sunny and clear weather around the time of the event.
If you are not going to one of the organized visiting sites, the best views will be from places that have a clear view of the western horizon, ideally enough that, from the Albuquerque area, you can see Mount Taylor, said Dee Friesen, the Astronomical Society's president.
The U.S. Forest Service is discouraging visitors from going to Sandia Crest (10,600 feet elevation) to watch the eclipse. The crest area has parking for only 175 vehicles, said District Ranger Cid Morgan, and while the Forest Service lacks the legal authority to close the raod, she said the agency is worried that an influx of ecliplse-watchers could cause problems.
One site you won't be able to watch from, is the volcanoes(3) in Petroglyph National Monument. Their trails will be closed to the public to avoid problems with hikers trying to get back to their cars after dark, said monument park guide Luke Fields.
Kennedy and a number of his Astronomical Society freinds gathered one afternoon this week on the lawn behind the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, one of the sites they'll be deployed to Sunday evening to help the public enjoy the show.
Solar-watching is nothing new to these guys. They regularly put on solar observing demonstrations for schools and others. The sun is the only star visible during the day, conveniently close so that you can see things you'll never see in the night sky, so safe solar observing is a regular part of their repertoire.
But with a huge crop of new solar viewers gathering in their backyards or at the handful of organizaed viewing sites around the city, Kennedy and his colleagues are trying to get the word out about safe and fun ways to view the eclipse. Their safety tips;
- Don't look directly at the sun without eye protection;
- Ordinary sunglasses are not sufficient. Specially designed eclipse-wathcing classes or number 14 welding glasses are needed . Stores around town selling the glasses have sold out, but Albuquerque's organized eclipse-watching sites will have limited supplies on hand Sunday.
- A 'pinhole camera' is easy to make, allowing you to project an image of the eclipsing sun so you don;t have to look at it directly. The Astronomical Society has instructions on its website; www.taas.org
- At Albuquerque area viewing sites, members of the Astronomical Society and other volunteers will have telescopes fitted with special filters to allow safe viewing of the sun. Never look through a telescope camera or binoculars that do not have a proper solar filter. Directly focusing on the sun without a solar filter aslo can damage your camera.
END OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLE;
Can you imagine watching this incredible event from Sandia Crest...10,600 feet above sea level? OR from one of the volcanoes on the west side of the river?
Westside (sunset) viewing: I lived on the westside of the river for over 20 years, and the sunsets were spectacular! Bu, how can that be? Looking at a sunset that takes place on the east side of the river, when the sun sets on the west side. That's because of the towering Sandia mountains, which rise to a height of over 10,600 feet above sea level. During a sunset, the light reflects off the towering mountains, and produces a light show that you will never forget.
We've all heard the phrase 'purple mountain's majesty,' and this is IT. The incredible shades of purple, pink, blue, and streaks of yellow; orange; and gold reflect off the mountain to produce the incredible light show.
Eastside (sunset) viewing; I have lived on the east side of the river (Rio Grande) most of my life. Here, the sunsets are different. The ingredient that makes the viewing of the sunsets from the east side of the river, and the three volcanoes on the west side of the river. During the winter time, the Earth has tilted and the sun goes down further to the south. But, during the spring and summer time, the Earth tilts back to the north, and the sun sets near the volcanos. Most of the colors in this sunset are various shade of orange; yellow; and gold, with streaks of white and silver. In May, the sun sets over the middle volcano, so the volcanoes, will be in sillhouette in the foreground ot the sunset and the eclipse during that day. All of this is spectacular, as you might imagine.
At this time of the year, the sun sets above the middle volcano, so this is where the eclipse should happen, if scientists are right.
Scientific data; What's even just as incredible, is the way scientists can pin-point and predict when and where the eclipse is going to happen...and the time down to the minute. I have trouble keeping a checkbook, and so I could never do the math it takes, to get the time and place when an eclipse is going to happen. Amazing!
Sunday May 20, 2012; The following newspaper article was published in the Albuquerque Journal, and the piece was written by John Fleck, a staff writer. The headlines read;
"Time Your Eclipse Viewing
Totality To Last About 4 Minutes"
The moon will slip in front of the sun shortly before sunset this evening, a specatular solar eclipse. It is called an 'annular' eclipse because the moon will look slightly smaller than the sun, leaving a ring of fire visible low in the western sky. And, folks in New Mexico, especially in Albuquerque, are in one of the best places on Earth to see it.
But, be careful. Looking at the sun directly, even during the eclipse, can burn your retinas. Use special solar sunglasses (not regular sunglasses) or a pinhole camera. The timing;
- From Albuquerque, according to the Albuquerque Astronomical Society;
- 6:28 PM; Moon first begins to cover the sun.
- 7:33 PM; Moon is completely over the sun, with totality lasting a bit more than 4 minutes.
- 8:07 PM; Sunset (before the eclipse is over)
Bernalillo County, with the help of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, is throwing a large free viewing party at the Mesa del Sol, with a supply of solar sunglasses on hand to be given out beginning a 4:00 PM, on a first come, first served basis. The University of New Mexico campus observatory, is also holding a viewing event.
AFTER THE ECLIPSE...
MONDAY MAY 21, 2012
As you might imagine, this story made headline (Front Page) news in the Albuquerque Journal on Monday morning. Just below the header, and in bold letters, the headline reads;
RING OF FIRE!
Thousands gather around Albuquerque to view rare eclipse
Just below the headline, are seven black and orange photos, showing the sequence of how the moon entered the space of the sun. The three photos on the left of center, are pictures of the moon entering the space of the sun. The center photo is ring of fire picture. And, the three photos to the right of the page, are the moon leaving the space of the sun. (spectacular photos)
The following article was written by John Fleck, a staff writer of the Albuquerque Journal.
"A hush fell over Mesa del Sol on Sunday evening at 7:33, then what sounded like a collective gasp amoung thousands watching as the moon swallowed the sun.
Then a cheer!
"Awsome...Oh, that is so awsome," said Nancy Henson of Albuquerque as she peered through a telescope at the ring of fire left by the annular eclipse. "It looks like an eyeball...it looks like a ring," said 9 year old Joseph Salazar.
Albuquerque fell on the center line of the path of a rare event, and crowds gathered all over town to witness it. Several thousands filled the grass fields at Mesa del Sol south of town, while thousands also cheered from Balloon Fiesta Park as the eclipse began, in what's called 'first contact.'
'We hadn't anticipated so many,' said Jeanette Miller, the museum's director of marketing.
The event was so popular, that Bernalillo County ran out of safe solar viewing glasses before 5:00PM...but the crowd seemed undaunted by the shortage, with what seemed to be plenty of glasses, solar-shielded telescopes and pinhole cameras to go around, and eclipse-watchers freely sharing them all.
The event brought together science and public spectacle, and astronomy buffs seized on it as a reachable moment. The sun, taken for granted during its normal daily arc across the sky, became the star of its own celestial show.
'They're thinking about the universe they live in,' said Dee Friesen, president of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, as she watched the crowd. Starting just before 6:30PM, with a tiny nibble as the moon drifted across the sun, the eclipse offered a leisurely chance to absorb the spectacle before the 4 minutes of maximum 'ring of fire' coverage.
'It looks like a bite,' said said 9 year old Salazar, who offered a running commentary as the moon ate away, 'but with perfect teeth.' People tend to think of stars as creatures of the night, but Sunday's eclipse offered amateur astronomer Amy Estelle and those who share her passion a chance to teach about the star we take for granted.
'This is a star,' Estelle explained to people who leaned over the eyepiece of her telescope. 'This is vary powerful. This is the day star.'
Before the moon's darkness kicked in, Estelle, a board member of astronomical society, pointed out sunspots dotting the still-visible surface of the sun. 'Each of those is probably bigger than the planet Earth,' she explained.
'Oh, my God, that is so cool,' said 22 year old Brittney De Santiago of Albuquerque, who acknowledged it was the first time she's really seen the sun. At the balloon museum, cheers, hoots, hollers and whistles erupted as the moon slid into place. On cue, the DJ blasted out the Johnny Cash hit song, 'Ring of Fire.' It was not just locals who came for the show. Doug Trigg and William Scott drove down from Denver to watch it through their telescopes. Nearby, Dan Pettisani held up a rectangle of welder's mask glass. He drove two days from Cleveland, OH for the sight. 'I just do crazy things,' Pettisani said.
Girl Scout Eleanor Ilg, 8, went low-tech with a viewing tube made from a cardboard Fedex box. Back at the aptly named Mesa del Sol were Peter Rogina, who had proposed to his now-wife, Dirsten Conant, during an eclipse-watching cruise in 2009. They came to Albuquerque for this one with their 10 month-old son, Teo in tow. And, as everyone watched the eclipse, Conant announced that Teo had just taken his frist three steps. For a few moments, Peter turned away and focused his cellphone camera as Teo made another attempt.
Seeing an ecliple was 'on my bucket list,' said Steve Cosgrove, who flew in from Chicago. 'This is every amateur astronomer's dream,' said Estelle, 'to be standing in the shadow of the moon as it walks across the Earth.'"
END OF ARTICLE;
My Two-Cents; I think the crowd was evenly divided...with half the crowd was cheering for the sun (ra-ra-ra)...and the other half cheering for the moon! (ra-ra-ra) "What a crowd...what a crowd," as Rodney Dangerfield would say.
During my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to witness three of the most powerful events that nature has to offer;
1) A tornado came down on us, while in class at a military school in Amarillo, Texas...as night fell upon us at 2 in the afternoon!
2) Witnessed lightning strike an oak tree, and split it in half, just outside just outside a meeting room at the VA Medical Center.
3) And, now the eclipse of the sun that came over Albuquerque.
All of these powerful forces of nature, make us realize just how small we are, in the over-all picture of nature.
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Copyright; 2012; Jerry Aragon; The Humor Doctor