ASTRONOMY CLUB OF TULSA
ACT, Inc. has been meeting continuously since 1937 and was incorporated in 1986. It consists of approximately 150 members and is a nonprofit; tax deductible organization dedicated to promoting, to the public, the art of viewing and the scientific aspect of astronomy.
The Astronomy Club of Tulsa Meeting
Friday August 27th, 1999 at 7:30 P.M.
Room M1 inside Keplinger Hall, the Science & Engineering Building at TU. Enter the parking lot on the East Side of Keplinger Hall from Harvard and 5th Street. This will take you directly toward the staircase to enter the building. Room M1 is the first room on the left.
September 24th, October 29th, and November 19th
THIS MONTH'S PROGRAM:
We will continue discussion on the purposed new telescope to be placed in our Observatory. The two telescopes that carried the most votes last month during the nominations were, the 16 inch Schmidt Cassegrain computer controlled LX 200 telescope build my Meade ($16,000.00), and the 24 inch computer controlled Newtonian telescope built by StarMaster ($12,000.00). These costs include the expense of some proposed modifications to the observatory pier and/or floor. The final vote on these two telescopes plus a third option "to do nothing at this time" will be discussed and voted on (by secret ballot) at this months meeting. It is currently possible for any ACT club member to vote absent-tee following the guidelines listed below.
First, a club member can vote absent-tee by expressing which of the three options they are casting their vote for by sending an E-mail to Richie Shroff at: firstname.lastname@example.org Please make sure your full name is included in the body of the E-mail message. The cut off time for sending an E-mail is noon on Thursday August 26th.
Second, a club member can vote absent-tee by expressing which of the three options they are casting their vote for and mailing a letter to: Astronomy Club Of Tulsa, P.O. Box 470611, Tulsa, Ok. 74147-0611. Please make sure you sign the letter including your full name. Your letter must arrive at our P.O. Box by Friday August 27th in order for your vote to get counted.
Thirdly, a club member can vote absent-tee by expressing which of the three options they are casting their vote for and sending a sealed letter, containing their vote, to the August 27th club meeting through a friend. When voting absent-tee your name must be included in the letter. A person cannot vote both absent-tee and anonymously.
This month Dean Salman will be speaking on the subject of "Wide angle Astro-photography". He has been a very avid astro-photographer for over twenty years. Dean will be showing us some of his latest and work, and sharing the techniques used to produce such fine photos. I'm sure we will all enjoy his presentation!
LAST MONTH'S PROGRAM:
The discussion on the proposed new telescope went well! The club membership voted on the nominations and reduced the number of telescopes now being considered to two. The two proposed telescopes are both fine astronomical instruments and I'm proud to have been a part of the decision making process.
After our business meeting Kevin Manning gave us an update on what's happing with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. We are very proud to have him, our former club president, working in Boston with the Chandra space telescope project. Thank you Kevin for a fine update on Chandra!
A WORD FROM THE NEW PRESIDENT:
Fellow ACT members:
I am extremely pleased and gratified to serve as your President. I have confidence in the directions previously established by Kevin and Rusty and hope to see the club continue to support them. I've always admired our organization and its many contributions to the community. As we move toward the new millennium let us persevere to pursue goals that will promote the spread of amateur astronomy and better understanding of our wondrous universe. Once again thank you for entrusting me with the club presidency.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help on nights when we are having groups at the observatory please call Gerry Andries. He would greatly appreciate your help!
09-16-99 Thursday 7:30PM Jarmin Elem (At school across from Meadowbrook)
For directions to the Observatory or in case of poor weather call Gerry Andries at: 918-369-3320.
August SKY FORUM By Don Cole
Nebula, is a localized conglomerate of the gaseous and finely divided dust particles that are spread throughout interstellar space. Before the invention of the telescope, the term nebula (Latin, "cloud") was applied to all celestial objects of a diffuse appearance. As a result, many objects now known to be star clusters or galaxies were called nebulas.
Nebulas exist within other galaxies as well as in our own Milky Way galaxy. They are classified as planetary nebulas, supernova remnants, and diffuse nebulas, including reflecting, emission, and dark nebulas. Small, very bright nebulas known as Herbig-Haro objects are found in dense interstellar clouds, and are probably the products of gas jets expelled by new stars in the process of formation.
Planetary nebulas, or planetaries, are so called because many of them superficially resemble planets through telescopes. They are actually shells of material that an old average star sheds during a late, red giant stage in its evolution, before becoming a white dwarf. The Ring nebula of the constellation Lyra, a typical planetary, has a rotational period of 132,900 years and a mass calculated to be about 14 times that of the earth's sun. Several thousand planetaries have been discovered in the Milky Way. More spectacular but fewer in number are nebulas that are the fragments of supernova explosions, perhaps the most famous of which is the Crab nebula in Taurus, now fading at the rate of about 0.4 percent per year. Nebulas of this kind are strong emitters of radio waves, as a result of the explosions that formed them and the probable pulsar remnants of the original star.
Diffuse nebulas are extremely large structures, often many light-years wide, which have no definite outline and a tenuous, cloud-like appearance. They are either luminous or dark. The former shine as a result of the light of neighboring stars. They include some of the most striking objects in the sky, such as the Great nebula in Orion (the middle "star" in the sword of Orion). The tremendous streams of matter in the diffuse nebulas are intermingled in violent, chaotic currents. Many thousands of luminous nebulas are known. Spectral studies show that light emanating from them consists of reflected light from stars and also, in so-called emission nebulas, of stimulated radiation of ionized gases and dust from the nebulas themselves.
Dark, diffuse nebulas are observed as non-luminous clouds or faintly luminous, obscuring portions of the Milky Way and too distant from the stimulation of neighboring stars to reflect or emit much light of their own. One of the most famous dark nebulas is the Horsehead nebula in Orion, so named for the silhouette of the dark mass in front of a more luminous nebular region. The longest dark rift observed on photographic plates of the star clouds of the Milky Way is a succession of dark nebulas. Both dark nebulas and luminous nebulas are considered likely sites for the processes of dust-cloud condensation and the formation of new stars.
* Astronomy Dictionary *
Milky Way galaxy : The large, disk-shaped aggregation of stars, or galaxy, that includes the sun and its solar system. Its name is derived from its appearance as a faintly luminous band that stretches across earth's sky at night. This band is the disk in which the solar system lies. Its hazy appearance results from the combined light of stars too far away to be distinguished individually by the unaided eye. The individual stars that are distinct in the sky are those in the Milky Way galaxy that lie sufficiently close to the solar system to be discerned separately.
Orion : The constellation located on the celestial equator east of Taurus. It is an oblong configuration with three stars in a line near its center. It is represented on pictorial charts as the figure of Orion, the hunter in Greek mythology, standing with uplifted club. Three bright stars represent his belt and three fainter stars aligned south of the belt represent his sword. Alpha (a) Orionis, or Betelgeuse, is located in the left corner of the oblong, corresponding to Orion's shoulder. Beta (b) Orionis, or Rigel, is diagonally opposite Betelgeuse. A nebula surrounding the three stars marking Orion's sword is one of the most conspicuous bright nebulas in the heavens.
From The Cargo Bay
At what speed does the Orbiter enter the Earth's atmosphere? How does the shuttle slow down ? and, About how hot does the exterior of the shuttle get on reentry and what causes the shuttle to get hot anyway ? The Orbiter enters the Earth's atmosphere at around 16,500 mph. This speed is then converted to heat through friction between the Orbiter and the atmosphere, this produces drag, which slows the Orbiter down and also produces extreme heat, in the neighborhood of 1510 degrees C ( 2750 degrees F). As the Orbiter descends deeper into the Earth's atmosphere the spacecraft becomes a glider, a very heavy glider.. The final question in our flight is : at what speed does the Orbiter (glider) land?
So until next month Dark Skies and Steady Seeing to You ...
Reference Material :: "Astronomy, A self-teaching guide." by Dinah L. Moche (4th ed.) "Guide to the Stars" by Leslie Peltier. " Astronomy, For the Earth to the Universe" by Jay M. Pasachoff (3rd ed.)
DAVID'S ASTRO CORNER By David Stine
The Perseids were sort of a bust compared with last years Leonids. I guess we are all spoiled now and we are going to be hard to please. There were several of us who stayed out all night at the RMCC Observatory hoping that the shower would get better. There were several long trains and negative magnitude meteors but not enough. They seemed to come in batches, then nothing for awhile. I recorded about an average of 1 every 3 minutes.
As we get closer to Leonid D-Day, more information on what to expect filters through. There was a new report that there may have already been a meteor storm and no one observed it. November 17, 1997, members of the Nippon Meteor Society in Japan carried out optical meteor observations at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Two sets of video cameras were used for observations for about five hours from 11:00 UT to 15:40 UT. Hourly meteor rate recorded by the camera ranged between 11 and 42, not very good. Then at 13:31:51UT, a spectacular burst of meteors erupted. IN ONLY TWO SECONDS 100 - 150 METEORS, were recorded by the camera. Even the members who were operating the cameras were unaware of this outburst until viewing the replay. The outburst was only observed at the above mentioned time and no other burst was observed before or after this event. The outburst corresponds to an hourly rate of 180,000 - 270,000, which is comparable to the outburst observed in North America in 1966. Note only the brightest meteors from this outburst were actually seen by human eyes. If we could only have eyes like a camera lens. This makes a good point though for the upcoming Leonids, we need to think about video for recording the faintest meteors in case of outburst like this. Video is fine for research, but if you are like me, I want to see thousands in an hour with my naked eye. Now that would be awesome. Maybe November 17, 1999. Mark your calendar.
The Sun has been acting up again. We are nearing solar maximum and can expect unusual flares and outbursts on the Sun for the next 6-9 months. We may even start seeing auroras in Tulsa skies. Just recently the Sun ejected a flare from its surface. The energy from it in 20 minutes equaled what would take all the electrical generating plants on earth 2,000 years to generate. Want to be rich, figure out how to harness the energy of those flares. Sunspots will be numerous from now through the maximum so get out your filters and observe the Sun. I am online with Solar alerts, so if you would like to be added to my list of members to be alerted when unusual astronomical activity happens, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Maura McDermott writes on Ron Wood's progress: "He is really doing much better, gaining strength and stamina. His back is almost healed and his head is also doing good, although he bumped it last week and got a nasty looking gash on it. He is going to have to be very careful as the skin on his head now isn't as thick as what was there originally says the doctor.( This brings to mind a joke or two but I'll spare you) He is completely off pain and sleeping medications so he has more energy. Probably what is the worst thing now is his back itches intensely at times. So anyone who has a good remedy for itching (besides scratching) let us know! He still has a few problems to deal with --he may have to have an operation on his left ear to remove scar tissue, has a dead nerve in his left arm and is still on medication for his subarachnoid hematoma (the swelling and bleeding into the cranial cavity). Hopefully these problems will be solved in time. But he is rapidly getting towards normal. We thank all of you who have journeyed down this road with us. It's a long and winding road and we're not home yet, but we're a lot closer.
I welcome any observing reports from anyone for my article each month, just e-mail them to me at my address above. That's it from my ASTRO CORNER this month.
If you would like to receive this newsletter via e-mail, send your name and e-mail address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be receiving the Texas Astronomical Society newsletter each month and can forward it to those that would like it. It is in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. You will need the Adobe Acrobat reader, which you can download free from www.adobe.com, to view it.
Every passing hour brings our Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules... and still there are some misfits who insist there is no such thing as progress!
Greg Mueller Port Gamble, Washington Amateur Astronomer, Machinist, Filmnut
ECLIPSE ACCOUNT Joseph A. Dellinger
Well our local contacts had warned us that they had been having a hot clear spell for too long (about 3 weeks) and it couldn't possibly last. And sure enough, August 10, the day before the eclipse, the weather turned cold and rainy. Fine, I thought: if the rain was a cold front, then we could have a nice crisp clear day for the eclipse! It was just there to wash away the heat haze!
That day a group of us (myself, my sister who was travelling with me, and some friends from Stanford days also in the area for the eclipse) planned to visit the Ries impact crater. I had seen the place described in a museum during a previous visit to Germany and had resolved to try to visit it the next time I came. Looking at a large-scale map of Bavaria the Ries crater is not an immediately striking feature. Driving across the middle of it, though, it's clear that this is an unusual place: a nearly perfectly circular ring of hills surrounding a broad, flat central plain. Somewhat off center on the plain sits the perfect medieval town of Noerdlingen. On "Gene Shoemaker Strasse", within the old city walls, sits the Ries Impact Crater museum. The entrance exhibit tells you (in German) that the Ries valley, at only 15 million years old, is "The best preserved giant impact crater on Earth".
I had been told by a German geologist friend at Amoco that if I asked nicely, the head researcher at the museum would tell me where to go find outcrops of "suevite", a very rare kind of "high pressure, low temperature" metamorphic rock that only occurs in impact craters. Basically suevite is what you get if you take a bunch of random rock, run it through a blender, half melt it, and then quench it. Disjointed fragments of shattered rock from formations wildly varying in age, all deformed and jumbled together, mixed with chunks of glass, and shot through with porosity. Cool. I wanted some!
So we went to the museum looking for this fellow. Oops. It was the day before the eclipse and the museum was absolutely stuffed with visitors. I couldn't even wiggle through the huge mob filling the front entrance. And they were just about to close for lunch! Fortunately my Stanford friend could, and did, and he found the guy... who wanted to know if we had PERMISSION to go to the quarry before telling us how to get there. My friend replied that since I had been told about the quarry by a German geologist, he assumed I must have known about the necessity of getting permission first, and presumably had already taken care of that. He got the directions.
It was the first I had heard about needing permission. The German geologist fellow indicated you just went there and helped yourself...
The directions were of the type "after a gentle turn to the left look for a big grove of trees on the right. Turn right onto a dirt road. Look for a small stream. Turn left." etc. He emphasized that the roads would be bad and the quarry would be muddy with all the rain. We were highly dubious these instructions would work, but they did. And even the worst German backcountry dirt roads are easily negotiable by standard passenger cars. The mud in the quarry pit was no worse than you would find all the time in Houston, should you give in to the urge to attempt to play pedestrian. And sure enough, in the quarry pit there were chunks of suevite all over the place. And some German geologists were already there, collecting samples. They didn't have permission either.
There were some signs in German probably telling us we couldn't go there, but fortunately we couldn't understand them.
The others left and our group was there alone helping ourselves to rocks. After a few minutes a large truck with flashing lights on top drove up and parked so as to entirely block the query entrance. Uh oh... Since I spoke the most German and was the instigator, I sheepishly went up to meet them. Maybe we could talk our way out of this one. At this point I was wondering whether I'd be spending eclipse day in a German jail...
It turned out to be workers arriving with earth-moving machinery to quarry some rock. They seemed unsurprised to find us there. Evidently this sort of thing happened all the time. They indicated we should just keep out of their way and other than that couldn't care less. Since we were now stuck there, I went back to looking at rocks. This suevite stuff was highly porous, and rapidly decomposed into crumbly yellow-green goo upon exposure to air. Most of the easily obtainable rocks had already been in the air and rain too long, and could easily be crumbled to dirt in your hand, superman style. I took pictures of the quarry worker's giant scoop as they trundled it off the trailer, narrowly past our parked cars, and got ready to start scraping on the quarry walls. As soon as they stopped blocking the exit we left (after all, at any moment their bosses might arrive to check up on how their workers were progressing, and they might have a less relaxed attitude towards our presence).
We went back to the museum in Noerdlingen (it was still busy, but it was possible to enter now) and looked at the exhibits. The scientific director was still there. I presented him with a very nice book on the geology of impact craters I'd bought from NASA in Houston (for a dollar!). He was quite pleased to receive it. (He'd just ordered the museum a copy the day before, he said!) So what were the workers quarrying the rocks for? To be ground up for making special highly porous cement! We also found out that the large medieval church in the center of town was made out of blocks of suevite! Geez, that crumbly stuff? Who'd be stupid enough to make a building out of that!
We went to see this church, which was already closed for the day. The 300-foot-tall tower of the church, however, was open. It was also made out of blocks of suevite. We all climbed up. They were repairing the staircases; in many places you had to cross planks of wood with handrails instead. My sister carefully waited for me to cross these first, before crossing herself. At the top there was a little room, with an exhibit showing how the tower miraculously remained standing despite bombs in WW II that partially destroyed the adjoining church. There was a door leading out to a balcony that ringed the top of the tower. Outside, the evening sun was shining in a deep blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. The rain had cleared the air, and the view was simply incredible. A tall tower with a 360-degree view, in the middle of a small city (with a perfectly circular medieval wall around it), in the middle of a perfectly circular impact crater! Wow!!!! What an enchanted place!
The balcony was absolutely packed with tourists like ourselves. Unfortunately one quite fat one insisted on circling the tower the "wrong" way. This required getting by the other tourists. As he shoved his way behind me on the extremely narrow balcony I was pushed rather forcefully against the outer railing. I couldn't help but notice at this point that the railing was also made of suevite and my hands were covered with a light dusting of gray-green suevite rock powder from where I had just been leaning over the railing looking straight down 300 feet... onto the part of the church that had been bombed. I remembered the grey-green goo in the quarry, and that this balcony had been exposed to air now for several hundred years (in addition to having been bombed) and that because of the eclipse there were now about as many large overweight people on the balconey as could possibly fit, maybe for the first time... and German liability laws are nothing like those in the USA.
Fortunately the railing held, or I wouldn't be here to type this!
My Stanford friend had other commitments of their own for watching the eclipse, so we parted company; they wouldn't be joining us for eclipse day.
That night I called home to get the last predictions from the internet on what the weather would be like. Bad news: our part of Germany had at best a 20% chance of visibility. If we were willing to drive for several hours in a mad dash towards France, though, we could do a lot better. Hmmm. Hotels were all full for eclipse night, though, and we were booked to spend one more night in Augsburg (towards the Eastern end of Germany), which rather tethered us unless we wanted to get up REALLY early and get back REALLY late and spend most of the day driving. And what was the traffic on the autobahns going to be like on eclipse day?
I set my alarm to go off shortly after sunrise. We'd peek outside and make a decision then.
At dawn, clear sky. Yippee! No heroic efforts needed! It was just going to magically work! Back to sleep. An hour later when we awoke again it was overcast and raining. Uh oh. Maybe we should have headed West after all? I called my friend in Karlsruhe, over on the Western edge of Germany hard next to France... and where the weather reports the night before had indicated a 75% chance of seeing the eclipse. (Latest predictions were for only a 10% chance for Augsburg, where we were!) He reported it was overcast and even raining a bit in Karlsruhe. Well if it was raining and overcast EVERYWHERE then I might as well not travel far and try to enjoy the day. So we stuck with our original plans and drove to "Hoechstaedt", a small city next to the city of "Dillingen".
One of the things we wanted to accomplish on this trip was to visit some cities of genealogical significance, on behalf of my parents. That's the main reason my sister had come along on the trip, in fact. Hoechstaedt was where my great great great great (well, a lot of greats) grandfather "Hans" got married just before moving way off to Western Germany (to a city near Karlsruhe, in fact). Since he hailed from "Dillingen", when he got there he became "Hans of Dillingen", or "Hans Dellinger" for short. (We're not sure why or how the vowel slipped!)
At the local museum, which was open, we learned about the history of the area. Smart of my ancestor to have left... by leaving he missed the famous battle of "Blenheim" ("blindheim" on the map) near Hoechstaedt which killed 50,000 people in 30 minutes. We were told that that scenic corner of Bavaria was so depopulated by wars over the centuries that most of the current residents, in fact, don't have deep roots there at all, but are "recent" post-WWII refugees from cities in what is now Western Poland.
Since "Dillingen" was only 3km from the centerline, our original plan was to go there to watch the eclipse. I thought maybe I could photograph the corona next to some high church tower landmark of the city or some such... on the map Dillingen sure looked small. I was expecting "Dillingen, Bavaria" to be something like "Barnsdall, Oklahoma" maybe...
What actually happened was the weather continued to get worse and worse. And despite looking like a "tiny" town on the map, "Dillingen an der Donau" (Dillingen on the Danube) was quite large enough to have lots of traffic. Turns out Dillingen had become much more important post-WWII by virtue of not having been bombed to smithereens by the allies in the last months of the war. (They wanted to keep its bridge across the Danube intact for their own use. "By this grace of God was our city saved from destruction" said the shrine where the road into town crossed the river.) And we weren't the only ones who noticed Dillingen was conveniently on the centerline and came there to watch the eclipse. Posters announced they were having a big party at the "Adolph-Kolping-Platz". (I assume it's somewhere in the city; we never found it!)
Sometime shortly after first contact we did an illegal U-turn and escaped the city for the open countryside. Halfway between Dillingen and Hoechstaedt at the edge of a cornfield was a group of people with viewers and binoculars. They had given up looking through the viewers and were staring up naked-eye at the cloudy sky, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun filtered through clouds. We joined them.
Shortly after we drove up, they packed up and left. Oops. Meanwhile the rain just got heavier and heavier. Pretty soon we couldn't see anything except the occasional car going past, headlights on, and the nearest rows of corn. While we waited my sister read to me from her "German customs" guidebook: "Germans aren't as social as Americans" and "don't like being joined" and "don't like loud talking". I leaned my head on the steering wheel and thought oh jeez, I'm not going to see this one. No way... No, we're not going to be seeing anything today... this is the heaviest rain of the entire trip so far and it's less than an hour to totality now... my first total eclipse washout.
After another 15 minutes the rain got somewhat lighter and I thought, maybe it looked a LITTLE clearer towards the North. That was away from the centerline, but who cared? We weren't going to see anything sitting there in the corn. I'd feel better for having made SOME effort to pull it out, at least! So we started the car and headed through Hoechstaedt and out the other side into the open country South of the Ries crater. 30 minutes to totality now. Couldn't really tell anything was happening... it was so dark anyway that a little darker made no difference. We stopped at another roadside gathering and this time kept well away from the Germans already there. They ignored us and we ignored them. We caught a fleeting glimpse of the maybe 60% partially eclipsed sun as a patch of thinner cloud went over. The rain now was merely spitting. And, like a sign of God's approval on a small city way off to the Northwest, there was a brilliant small circular patch of sunlight. The town's small church glowed brightly amidst the general gloom, with the colors of daylight made even more dramatic by the contrast.
We jumped in our car and drove like mad towards that heavenly glow. The patch of sunlight in the distance fragmented and disappeared, but we kept on going that way, and were rewarded by another patch of sunlight forming closer by. It was definitely starting to get a little eerie now as we drove around. The now reddish sunlight, combined with the lightning in the distance and the mottled dark and light storm clouds all around gave the landscape an otherworld, somehow slightly sinister, aspect.
We were definitely up on the crater rim hills now and could see a long way both North and South. 20 minutes to totality now, and raining again. We gotta be MOVING! No speed limits between towns (at least none posted). Was 80 kilometers per hour too fast? Hardly anyone else on the road now. When we came to a traffic circle we spun round and round in indecision while my sister tried to correlate the roads on the ground with the roads on the map. These rural German roads make a random network of point-to-point connections. We took a random exit, found it was veering away from the closest patch of sunlight after another couple of minutes, and turned around. Through the same circle again, out the other side, and...
WE WERE IN THE BIGGEST PATCH OF SUNLIGHT!
We saw a group of Germans on the side of the road and joined them. They were happy and cheerful, looking up at the bright unobstructed sun through their viewers. They smiled at us and pointed up and looked very pleased to have found this spot. I looked at my watch. 5 minutes to go! We were going to make it! Since they didn't have enough to go around, I handed out my spare eclipse viewers to them and spread out a sheet for seeing shadow bands.
Oops. Did I say 5 minutes? Wrong. I meant 15 minutes! Ack!
Yikes! At the speed that hole is moving we aren't going to make it!
I showed them my printouts and the time. The German fellow said in halting English... "I think not THIS hole, but see, THAT hole, OK." Hmmm. That other hole wasn't nearly so nice. 10 minutes to totality. The sun was back in the clouds again.
The light was really getting weird now. To add to the unreality several jets roared loudly overhead, heading East. First what appeared to be some sort of military jet, and then what appeared to be a Concorde. Looking around, there were planes ALL OVER the sky that I hadn't noticed before. All heading East.
I announced (too loudly, I'm sure) "Wir gehen!". (We're going!) We exchanged glances and on cue all three groups started throwing their stuff in their respective cars willy nilly and piling in. One group of Germans was fast and got out onto the road, but then slowed down to wait for their friends to catch up. I roared around their car (I had a Mercedes Benz rental car!) and never saw either of them again. (Nor my spare eclipse viewers...)
It was definitely getting darker now. The patches of sunlight creeping across the hills were fading out. The roads were absolutely deserted. We found ourselves in the clear patch again. My sister had her head almost out the window as I drove, calling out where the sun was located with respect to the largest hole and which way I should go. This task was really stressing her out; there were three layers of cloud, all apparently moving different directions. Fortunately only the lowest layer really mattered. That was the opaque one we absolutely had to keep clear of. Meanwhile I was scanning the landscape as I drove trying to see the outlines of the dimly sunlit patch of ground and where we were within it. On the hillsides I noticed small clumps of people here and there, camped beside their expensive shiny German cars, all looking up.
We slowed down a bit as we roared through Bissingen. The whole town was out sitting on lawn furniture drinking beer and having a party. Heads turned and looked at us in puzzlement as we went by. What an idiot! Doesn't he know the show's about to happen! And there's the sun, right there, in the clear!
But I wanted to get the sun AHEAD of the hole, not in it! Driving the car at (only very slightly reckless) speed we made time run backwards and pushed the sun back ahead of the hole again. Satisfied, I stopped in Kesselostheim, a REALLY tiny town 6km North of Bissingen, parked by a green grass field by the side of the road, and we both jumped out. Less than two minutes to totality, and the sun is just about to start again its trek back across the long axis of the hole! We're actually going to make it! What a great spot too... We're right up on the Ries crater rim, and can see the rolling green hills dotted with towns and towers for a long ways off in all directions.
Venus is briefly visible now, in another crack in the clouds. It looks like a lot of people in the area are going to get some luck... there are rifts in the clouds all over the place now, but mostly only small ones.
I hurriedly throw out my white sheet again. (I'd never seen shadow bands before; I forgot to look down the two previous eclipses I've seen.) Yikes! The eclipse is almost upon us! Not enough time to set up! My tripod has jammed from being thrown back into the car roughly and I can't get the base plate off to mount my camera. Oh well. Screw it. I don't need to take photos. I just grabbed my sun viewer and my binoculars and stood there ready to enjoy the show.
In the viewer the crescent was only 30 degrees of arc now and rapidly dwindling. 20... 10... I glanced around. So many dark clouds I can't really see the umbra coming. I think that's it in the South, but no, that's the wrong direction... it's just a darker patch of storm cloud over there.
There is a flash. I think it's lightning but no, it's my sister taking a photo.
The crescent has almost contracted to a point and I risk a quick peek at the sun naked eye. Yup, the corona is visible all the way around now as the bright sun becomes a diamond ring. The last bright spot is on the left side of the sun. Huh! That's not what I was expecting! I was so busy just trying to avoid the clouds I have little idea where we are within the path of totality now. Way off towards the Northern edge, I think. But obviously still inside!
I put up my binoculars... wow. This is the most active sun I've ever seen. At the previous eclipses I've seen there were 3 or 4 prominences glowing red around the rim of the moon. This time there are too many to count... maybe 19 or 20, fairly evenly spaced most of the way around. The corona is compact and tangled, like a bad hair day for the sun. I just sit and watch through binoculars for a bit, leaning them against the roof of the car for support. Maybe eclipses are starting to get old hat for me. I'm not shaking too much.
My sister has her binoculars up too and remarks "now I see why you told me to bring binoculars". (In Aruba she brought them but forgot to use them!)
More planes going over, slower ones this time, headed East, chasing the umbra.
Some high thin clouds drift across the sun so I snap some random photos of the landscape, then try balancing the camera on the roof of the car. Well, I'll at least have some really crummy photos to prove I didn't make it all up.
The sun's most of the way across the hole now, although there are mostly thinner clouds on the way for a while... I look with binoculars again. The top of the sun is getting brighter... bright yellow-red chromosphere is showing... brighter, bright rim... time to take the binos DOWN!
I think my eyes have just had enough sun for a while and I decide I'd better look down for a bit.
Oh yeah... my sheet. I'm supposed to look for shadow bands now. Forgot again. But what do you know, as it starts to get brighter there they are. Rather subtle, but they certainly do exist. And boy are they moving fast, North to South towards the sun. I point them out to my sister but she can't see them. (Maybe shadow bands are merely a symptom of bedazzled eyes?)
A very quick glance up at the last fading glimpse of inner corona. The thin clouds in front of and all around the sun are lit again now. There's a rainbow aureole. I look through the viewer. The photosphere is back on the top of the sun now, a little to the right. Yeah, the first and last spots of sun were only a little more than 90 degrees apart. We were waaaay off from the centerline. No idea how long totality lasted. It seemed like forever this time, coming as it did on the heels of that wild chase, but probably was less than two minutes.
And shortly after totality the sun's back peeping in and out of the thick lower clouds. Show's over. We relax for a bit watching the light return to the landscape. The sun's still a very thin crescent when thick clouds return and blot it out entirely. We drive into the town (such as it is), make a quick celebratory phone call back home to Texas, and head back to Hoechstaedt for lunch. We get one more brief glimpse of the cloud-filtered sun just before last contact. We ask others around our table "Sehen sie die voll sonnenfinsturnuese?". The answer from people who watched from within the town: "Finsturnuese Kaput!" One fellow says he saw it and it was "Sehr Wunderbar!". "Wo?" From a little town right next to where we were watching it from... he watched through the same portal we did.
Whew. Did we get lucky on THAT one.
(Well, we later discovered we would have seen even more totality if we had despaired of trying to go anywhere at all and simply slept late and then joined the beer party on the roof of our hotel in Augsburg. They got a hole at just the right time, and were nearer the center line too...)
On to Dillingen for more of my sister's genealogical pilgrimage. A few scattered people in Dillingen tell us they caught parts of totality. Most say they missed all of it. My friend in Karlsruhe says they got 15 seconds' worth at their place. The next day in Weiler, another ancestral town near Karlsruhe, they say they got the whole show; they laugh that their neighbors who drove to Munich for the big party there (and the longer totality) got entirely clouded out. Other people we know who tried to drive down from Frankfurt early on eclipse morning hit massive traffic jams; they couldn't get across the Rhine and saw much of the eclipse, but were outside the zone of totality. My Stanford friend heroically drove from Munich to Karlsruhe to get the 75% chance of seeing it... and then was clouded out for all but a fraction of a second of totality.
I later found out a fellow geophysicist in Metz, northeastern France, also had rain and clouds but managed to catch some of totality through a hole.
In the end it looks like it was a complete crap shoot no matter where in Germany you were. The Western end was a little better, but not much. You could tilt the odds in your favor, a bit, by last-minute drives of tens of miles, if you were lucky and found a hole to scurry into nearby.
After a cloudy morning it turns clear again on the 12th. As for all three total eclipses I've been to now, eclipse day was by far the cloudiest day of the entire trip, and I got rained on during the opening partial phases but miraculously saw totality.
Is someone up there having fun with me, or what?
I still can't believe we actually saw it... I thought for SURE we were going to get clouded out this time...
Astronomy Club meeting dates for 1999.
The club will meet the last Friday of each month except for November and December when a holiday will interfere with the last Friday. The November meeting will be on the 19th, and the December meeting will be on the 17th.
The dates are:
Thats all folks