Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Eclipse Non-Experts Rant

Recently, NASA put out a web page series about the upcoming August 2017 eclipse of the Sun. (see For the most part, it is a well done target for social media and news agencies however it has been noted by several eclipse experts that they made some errors. These errors are not critical to enjoying the eclipse, they just look bad and make the entire work questionable. Many thanks to Xavier Jubier for pointing these out and helping to get the right information out to everyone.

I would argue that NASA's mission is not to educate the public on solar eclipses and all things astronomical. Those tasks fall to other organizations such as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) or the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and US Naval Observatory (USNO) in the case of the 2017 eclipse. NASA would do a greater service pointing readers to the web sites of these other organizations for real information instead of trying to copy-clip-paste together something flashy from multiple sources just for the sake of the news media.

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So here are some places to visit for REAL expert information about Solar Eclipses and the specifically, the upcoming eclipse in August. These web pages are maintained by real experts and eclipse enthusiasts who want to get you the right information. The following list is by no means complete, it is just a good start.

AAS Eclipse 2017 site.

IAU Eclipse site.

EclipseWise - run by eclipse chasing expert Fred Espenak. Fred built the original eclipse web site for NASA and was not as concerned about making it flashy as in making it correct. Fred is now retired from NASA and is an extreme amateur astronomer living the dream with a nice observatory in the back yard situated out in the extremely dark sky of Arizona.

Eclipse-Maps - run by eclipse chasing expert Michael Zeiler. Michael is a cartographer who works with ESRI, a high end map making software company. Several years ago Michael decided to try his hand at eclipse tracks and ended up creating some wonderfully detailed maps. He has since started another web site dedicated to the 2017 eclipse - Great American Eclipse. - run by EXTREME eclipse chasing expert Xavier Jubier. Not enough can be said about Xavier and his passion for eclipses. He has climbed mountains, smooth talked his way onto mega yachts, computed and chartered jets to chase the umbra. His maps are based on Google and have loads of details. He also has a very useful eclipse photography tool for Macintosh users.

Another expert in eclipses is Glenn Schneider at the University of Arizonia. He has been instrumental in eclipse prediction calculations and automation of cameras (so one can enjoy the eclipse and not fiddle with the camera). My own website, eclipse-chasers, contains maps, images, and lots of useful photography information. I have been chasing eclipses since 1972 and enjoy sharing the experiences.

Just as a note, the web sites I've listed above, are almost all by members of the IAU Working Group on Solar Eclipses. These pages are works of passion, we really enjoy solar eclipses and want you to have the right information. Beware of the hyper-news-copy-clip-paste style of web sites out there who live on your clicks. Just because a major news agency uses a particular resource does not mean it is a good one, dig a little deeper for the right stuff.

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