Monday, 14 May 2012

Location-Location-Location

Picking a location for viewing a solar eclipse is not always easy. There are several things to consider. First and foremost is a clear sky. Viewing a solar eclipse under clouds is not desired. So when selecting a location, include a back up location or two in case the weather is not cooperating. Of course, that information may not be easy to get until the day of the eclipse and then it can be too late to re-locate. So let's concentrate on the surrounding environment (working under the assumption of a clear sky).

1) Comfort - the entire solar eclipse event lasts several hours. Being outside for the entire duration requires break areas such as restrooms, shade, and maybe even refreshments. For this reason my preference is a lawn in a public park with a nice vista view in the direction of the eclipse.

2) Access - most people will not want to climb a mountain or "go bush" style for an eclipse. That said, I do know several people that enjoy that sort of eclipse chase. So this is for the majority that want to park someplace, enjoy the eclipse, and have easy access to their vehicles. Locate the viewing area with easy access to parking.

3) Shadows - the most interesting shadows occur during the partial phases. Having trees nearby that allow pinholes of light to strike the ground make for great shadows. If the shadows hit a lightly colored surface then that is all you need. Otherwise, a blanket or towel spread out under the shadow works great. Depending on the climate, having a shady spot to check out every so often is a good thing.

4) Audience - setting up a telescope in public is always interesting. Sometimes you will attract others who want to see what is up. If that is not desired, then find a place that is somewhat shielded from others passing by. Otherwise plan a queuing system if you think you will have more than one or two onlookers show up. As the eclipse reaches climax you will want to take over the optics - be sure your audience knows that in advance. There is nothing more frustrating than having someone nudge you aside for a look through the telescope at the wrong time.

5) Power - do you need electricity for your rig? If so, then selecting a location with power is paramount unless you plan to transport batteries.

6) Web access - do you need web access for your phone or PC? Finding an outside location that is not a parking lot (hot pavement) with web access could be challenging. Or plan on using a phone based service.

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