Putting the awe back in awesome


231 images were combined to produce one of the most stunning pictures ever of a total solar eclipse. The new moon, illuminated by light reflecting from the Earth (ie. Earthshine), covers the face of the sun. Stretching away from the moon are the long tendrils of the sun’s outer atmosphere called the corona. Photo: Miloslav Druckmuller, Peter Aniol and used by permission

Awesome is the overworked word of the current day. Not only are truly awesome things described as such but also things like Paris Hilton’s cellphone or a nice haircut. At the risk of using that word one more time, let me share with you one of the most awesome photographs I’ve ever seen. Druckmueller and Aniol made the image of the March 29, 2006 total solar eclipse in the Libyan Desert with five separate cameras equipped with five different lenses. Later they combined the best images into the stunning photograph you see above.


Closeup of the 2006 total solar eclipse. The brush-like strokes in the corona are aligned with the sun’s magnetic field, similar to iron filings around a magnet. The pink flames of incandescent hydrogen gas at upper left are called prominences. Unless you have a special filter, they’re also only visible during an eclipse. Photo: Miloslav Druckmuller, Peter Aniol and used by permission

I’ve seen three total solar eclipses and Druckmuller’s pictures of the sun’s corona look closest to the real thing. The corona, the sun’s thin, hot outer atmosphere, is only visible during a total eclipse because it’s much too faint to see in full sunlight. To see more photographs by this amazing German team, and read about their adventures, I encourage you to visit their website.


When the moon lines up exactly between the Earth and the sun, it covers the sun, causing a total solar eclipse. As the moon orbits the Earth, its dark, inner shadow, called the umbra, sweeps across a narrow swath of Earth about 140 miles wide. Anyone within that path sees a total eclipse. Outside of it is a larger zone of partial eclipse. Credit: Sagredo

A total solar eclipse will occur tomorrow, August 1, but unfortunately will not be visible from the United States. The path of totality starts in the Canadian Arctic, travels across Greenland, Russia and China and wraps up in Mongolia. A partial eclipse will be visible from eastern Canada and across Europe. Total solar eclipses happen once or twice a year on average but only a narrow swath of Earth is treated to a view of totality under the moon’s shadow. The animation shows how small that shadow is, and how it moves across the Earth during tomorrow’s eclipse. If you’re hungry for more information about this eclipse, you’ll get all the details from this NASA website

Even better, you can view a live webcast of the eclipse here brought to you by the San Francisco Exploratorium. Be prepared to get up early though. The best place to see the eclipse is in China and the event happens between 5:30 and 7:30 tomorrow morning (Aug.1) Central time.

Enjoy the show!

 

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

5 thoughts on “Putting the awe back in awesome

  1. It’s a date Far! I’ve been anticipating that one for ten years now. I saw my first total eclipse north of Winnipeg in ’79. My last was in ’98 in Aruba with a good friend. Definitely needing some more shadow time. Glad you found the Exploratorium link useful. I’ll check out the link you sent for the photos.

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