Monday, 31 July 2017

More about Eclipse Chasing

Here are some more of the questions I have been asked recently. The majority of reporters have reached out to me due to the Eclipse-Chasers.Com web site where there is a log of eclipse chasers. For privacy purposes I do not store the email or contact information for any of the chasers in the log list. Of course, one of the primary things these reporters want is contact with others which can be problematic. For example, a common question is "who is a chaser in the XXX region?" for some local coverage. I have to answer that I honestly don't know.

Where will you be for the eclipse this summer?

On the border of Tennessee and Kentucky near the area of greatest duration. While it is a bit of a gamble on the weather, it is a great location for friends and family from that part of the USA. And for those of my friends joining us from over seas, we are observing the eclipse from a drive in theater. Should be a lot of fun.

So you pick locations based on duration?

Not always, the weather is normally the key factor. This summer is unique. We could end up driving to clearer weather if the need is obvious. The thing is, this is the USA midwest in August. One cannot always predict the weather from one day to the next. It can start out clear and sunny and turn rainy or go the other way. If a storm front is in the area we may have to move to a better location, that is not desirable though. The location we selected has about a 50-50 chance of clear sky for the eclipse. We are taking a chance here.

What equipment do you recommend?

Solar glasses are nice to have, just make sure they are the safe type and not some cheap knock off. Barring those, for totality, you might want some binoculars. They really enhance the view. A camera can be fun, if you are a camera fan. And for those of use who number in the Astronomer category (professional or amateur), a small field telescope is recommended. Just be sure to establish viewing rules ahead of time! 2 minutes is not a lot of eyepiece time.

What equipment are you bringing?

Binoculars, a camera, a small field telescope, and assorted viewers. We are bringing certified glasses for everyone in our group.

What else is recommended for novice eclipse chasers?

Sunscreen and maybe even an umbrella to provide some shade. It can get hot sitting out there from first contact to totality. Younger eclipse chasers might need something to play with or to keep them entertained. A coloring book worked well for us in the past, also setting not too far from a swim pool.

A recommendation is to find a lounger chair if one is available. Think sun bathing but without the tanning. It is very comfortable to watch an eclipse laying back in a deck chair or lounger. If that is not available, a large towel or blanket to set on the ground works good too.

This August I will be observing the eclipse where the Sun is reasonably high up in the sky, over 60 degree above the horizon. Being seated on the ground or a chair is essential.

What is the most extreme equipment people bring?

Depends on where the eclipse is going to take place. This summer American eclipse chasers can bring a car or truck load of equipment. Most of what I've seen are really good mounts and long focal length refractors. Unless one is planning to climb a mountain in the path, the "extreme" stuff people plan to bring is more like a well organized star party.

In previous centuries eclipse chasing involved a lot more scientific equipment and cameras were a hassle. Plates and chemicals required special handling thus you might have seen old time pictures of large eclipse tent camps with temporary observatory structures. Eclipse expeditions would arrive months in advance to prepare. These days people set up the day of the eclipse and can normally carry all the equipment they plan to use.

What is traffic expected to be like during the eclipse?

Hopefully it will not be an issue. It is not a good idea to be driving to a new location during the eclipse itself. Too easy to get distracted. And don't panic over every little cloud. I've seen several eclipses where small clouds got in the way for a few seconds. Gives you time to look around at the horizon and sky. But as to traffic predictions and so on, I tend to think of the eclipse being kind of like a big sporting event. People will arrive over a larger space of time than they will depart. Any traffic jams will most likely be after the eclipse as everyone tries to head home at once.


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