Sunday, June 3, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

Cyndi and I traveled to Zion National Park in Utah to enjoy the solar eclipse of 20 May 2012.  We checked out the area the day before the eclipse and settled on the Hop Canyon Trailhead on Kolob Plateau.

The sandstone features were amazing all by themselves, so we figured we'd enjoy the scenery as well as the astronomical event.
Here's a detail view, looking over toward Kolob Canyon (which we had visited the previous day ... but that's another story altogether).

The moon slowly passed in front of the sun and over the course of an hour covered more and more of the bright star.  Cyndi's brother Derek had presented us with eclipse viewing filters when we visited him on the way down.  Good thing, too, because my imagination told me the sun would be way down on the horizon at sunset so would be seen by the camera lens.  To be sure, the camera would not have seen the eclipse at all without this filter in front of the lens.  Thank you Derek!

As the light took on sunset hues, even though the sun was still rather high in the sky, I noticed I was being observed.  This Long-tailed Weasel had passed nearby with something in her mouth, and was now hiding in some oak leaves intently watching me.

As the moon obscured more of the sun the camera began to give sharper images of the crescent sun.

The mystery was solved as this mother weasel and her baby ran across the open rocks and disappeared into the sagebrush uphill of my vantage point.  During the eclipse she passed by me repeatedly, once shuttling two young, but otherwise just escorting one to the relative safety of the scrub and brush on the hillside behind me.  I counted 5 young ones during these trips.  What a great sideshow!

This is what it looked like at the moment the moon appeared to me to be most centered on the sun.  The moon was only completely in front of the sun for just a bit more than 6 minutes.

Then the moon began to pass away from the sun and the magical light faded away as it became progressively brighter for the next hour until we were back to our usual experience.

I had been unable to see the new moon the day before the eclipse, or on the day, or even the day after ... but two days later, at sunset, there she was once again ... the smallest sliver near Venus.

Though this kind of photography highlights well any "dead pixels" on my digital camera CCD sensor, in this instance the tiny speck to the right of the limb of the moon really is a faint star.

Show's over folks, nothing more to see here.  Get back to work, and there's studying to be done.  Don't even think about bird photos!