Lots of amateur astronomers were hoping the sun wouldn’t be blank during the eclipse. We got our wish. Earlier this week, a lively sunspot group appeared around the eastern limb of the sun. It’s now peppered with about 25 spots and should be near the center of the solar disk on eclipse day. It’s fun and informative to watch the moon cover a sunspot group. The difference in color between the black moon and browner-toned spots is interesting to see. But the coolest part is watching the uneven edge of the moon — it resembles a serrated knife — cover up each spot in multiple “mini-eclipses” or occultations.
Not only that but having sunspots on the big day makes it a whole lot easier to focus the sun sharply if you’re taking pictures of it through a filtered telescope. Let’s hope they stick around. Even now, this is no simple group. It has an unstable magnetic configuration, will probably continue to grow and could produce some strong solar flares.
If you’re not on the centerline of the eclipse or have to work that day but are near a computer, NASA will be live-streaming video of the event at this site. Click and bookmark, so you’ll have it at your fingertips. Coverage starts at noon Monday Eastern (11 a.m. Central, 10 a.m. Mountain, 9 a.m. Pacific and 16:00 UT). Italian astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, who loves to stream and share all manner of great things happening in the sky, will also be streaming the eclipse on his Virtual Telescope website starting at 1 p.m. Eastern (noon Central, 11 a.m. Mountain, 10 a.m. Pacific and 17:00 UT).
More blogs about Monday’s total solar eclipse: