August 1, 1999
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On August 11, 1999, a total solar eclipse will cut a path across Europe
and Asia. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, the rest of us can enjoy
it via live Webcast. Tune into the following sites for more details on
how to safely watch an eclipse (NEVER look directly at the sun) and what
strange and beautiful spectacles you can expect.
"Eclipses appear often in the mythology and
literature of different cultures and different ages, most often as
symbols of obliteration, fear, and the overthrow of the natural order of
things. The word eclipse comes from a Greek word meaning
‘abandonment.’ Quite literally, an eclipse was seen as the sun
abandoning the earth." This fabulous Exploratorium site is my pick of
the day. Come here for the live Webcast on August 11, for eclipse
mythology, for an illustrated scientific explanation of solar eclipses, and
for important safety information.
"Sometimes during their orbits, the moon and the Earth form a line
with the Sun. When this happens, an eclipse occurs. A lunar eclipse happens
when the Earth moves between the Sun and the moon, blocking part of the
Sun’s light from reaching the moon. During a lunar eclipse, you will see
the Earth’s shadow on the moon. In a solar eclipse, the moon moves between
the Earth and the Sun. When this happens, part of the Sun’s light is
blocked. The sky slowly gets dark as the moon moves in front of the
Sun. When the moon and Sun are in a perfect line, it is called a total
eclipse. These are very rare. Most people only see one in their
lifetime." This is another awesome site with live Webcam coverage, a
great photo gallery and lesson plans for teachers.
Meet Dan McGlaun: "I am a total, complete eclipse junkie. I go to
every total solar eclipse I can, which after the turn of the century won’t
be too many, unfortunately. But I’ve had a pretty good decade in the 1990s,
and I thought I’d write a sort of memoir-type book of my
Although he’s not a professional astronomer, Dan has a way of conveying his
enthusiasm for the subject. Read the stories from his seven eclipse treks,
and stay tuned for his dispatches from Turkey, where he will be
celebrating both the total solar eclipse and his thirty-sixth birthday!
"The last flash of light from the surface of the Sun as it
disappears from view behind
the Moon gives the appearance of a diamond ring and is called,
appropriately, the diamond ring effect. As totality begins, the solar
corona (extended outer atmosphere of the Sun) blazes into view. The corona
is a million times fainter than the surface of the Sun; thus only when the
eclipse is total can it be seen; if even a tiny fraction of the solar
surface is still visible it drowns out the light of the corona." Best
clicks are the solar eclipse animations that illustrate how the moon
blocks the light of the sun.
"The gentle beauty of a lunar eclipse pales in
comparison with the truly awesome spectacle of a total solar eclipse, which
occurs when the new Moon passes directly between the Sun and the Earth. In
the narrow path of totality swept across the Earth by the Moon’s complete
shadow (the umbra), daytime briefly turns to an eerie darkness, and during
these few precious minutes the wispy halo of the Sun – the corona
– comes into view as the dark disk of the Moon totally obscures the
bright Sun. Outside the path of totality, in the Moon’s partial shadow (the
penumbra), some portion of the Sun’s bright disk remains visible."
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© 1999 Barbara J. Feldman