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June 14, 2018 - Out of this World

An eclipse is defined as the obscuring of one celestial body from another. As observed from earth, this occurs in two instances, both involving the earth, our sun and our moon. A solar eclipse occurs when our moon moves in front of the sun and partially or fully obscures the sun. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and our moon, casting a shadow on the moon. For a more scientific explanation, please refer to this link.

The transit of a planet occurs when that planet passes between the sun and another planet and only partially blocks the sun. Here on Earth, this can only occur with Mercury and Venus crossing the sun's surface. These are the only two planets whose orbital path is closer to the sun than our own.

1. Lunar Eclipse

Photographer, Diana LaBelle captured the following image of a lunar eclipse approaching totality in September 2015. During this eclipse, the moon was in its supermoon phase, nearing the closest approach to earth on its orbital plane. As the earth moves between the sun and the moon, earth-light is reflected back onto the surface of the moon, casting a reddish shadow and creating the "blood moon" effect. The reddish color is caused by a phenomenon known as Rayleigh Scattering which is " dispersion of electromagnetic radiation by particles that have a radius less than approximately 1/10 the wavelength of the radiation".

Lunar Eclipse photographed by Diana Labelle

2. Venus Transit

We had the great fortune for a Venus transit to occur within our lifetime and twice in one decade, June of 2004 and 2012. Occurring in pairs less frequently than once a century, the next Venus transit will not be witnessed again on earth until 2117 and 2125.

On June 5th 2012 it was supposed to rain all day, and it nearly did. Finally, about 20 minutes into the Venus transit the clouds broke and the sun shone through. During that brief, 30 minute window, John Connors and his daughter recreated a very rare and special moment from eight years previous. John set up his telescope to project the sun with Venus visible as a tiny spot on its surface in exactly the same way he had done it in 2004. In the two images below he has included his daughter Heather's profile at age 12 and again, in 2012, at age 20.

June 9, 2004 - John Connors Venus transit along with Heather's silhouette, age 12

June 5, 2012 - John Connors Venus transit along with Heather's silhouette, age 12

3. Lunar Surprise

Kelly Frederick Sweet captured a transit of a different kind on this day in September 2015. Kelly wrote, "...a couple of days before the Eclipse, I sat on my porch with the camera deciding where would be the best place to sit. And of course, because it was the moon, I decided to take a shot. I zoomed in and saw what I thought was a bug on my lens, I quickly realized it was a jet flying in front of the moon and snapped the picture." Standing near an airport runway, It is possible to capture images of airplanes silhouetted on the moon during takeoff and landing. It is much more challenging to predict the trajectory of an airplane at this distance that will allow it to transit the moon. Kelly's experience was certainly unique.

4. Solar Eclipse

In 2017 my sisters, Dad and I all drove down to Nebraska from Rochester, MN to witness a total solar eclipse. We set a distance limit and, using weather forecasts and Google Satellite, settled on an old railroad town named McCool Junction which is known as the "Magic City on the Blue". On that day, as the moon crossed in front of the sun the clouds began rolling in, blocking our view almost entirely in the moments before totality. Therefore we were not able to photograph the beautiful diamond ring, the corona or bailey’s beads. But before all became murky we did see an amazing scene. We stared in awe as we watched our small moon slide forward to completely block our massive, life-giving sun. Through all of that cloud cover, in those brief moments of totality, we witnessed magic in the "City on the Blue".

The three images below show the sun through different lenses and filters. The leftmost image photographed by my sister, Deb Franzen. Deb was using a zoom lens with a home-made mylar filter. The middle and rightmost images were photographed by myself, Teri Franzen. The middle image was captured using a glass solar filter. The rightmost image was using no filter. Note that it is only safe to view the sun unaided when it is nearly fully blocked by the moon. The coloring in the filtered images is introduced by the filters.

5. Crepuscular Rays

On a cloudy day, if you see the sun duck behind clouds as it approaches the horizon, you might be treated to beautiful crepuscular rays. These parallel shafts of sunlight are most visible when the sun is lower in the sky and the contrast between light and dark are more obvious. This stunning image was captured by nature photographer William Thomas.

Special offer: William generously donates 10% of the proceeds to Waterman Center along for prints sold to anyone using the code Waterman10 at checkout. See his website for details.

6. Atmospheric Refraction

Driving home from work at night when I lived in Los Angeles I once saw the sun so large that I could detect sunspots across its surface. As the sun approaches the horizon we are seeing it through our own atmosphere which acts a lot like a lens or filter. According to Wikipedia, "Atmospheric refraction is the deviation of light or other electromagnetic wave from a straight line as it passes through the atmosphere due to the variation in air density as a function of height." Gina Vaughan captured this beautiful image of sunset in Key West, Florida.

Key West sunset photographed by Gina Vaughan

6. Resource Links

The following links were referenced within this blog:


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