Friday, 19 August 2016

One year out

Okay, we are just about one year out and it is a good time to check the weather in the area where you are planning to view the eclipse. I have added a few new links to the web page for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. These links take you to weather and atmosphere pages that will be useful in the days just before the eclipse.

One tool amateur astronomers use frequently is called the Clear Sky Chart. These charts predict the weather for a given observer location (normally an observatory or club dark site).  To use, select a location from the map at http://www.cleardarksky.com/cgi-bin/find_chart.py?keys=2017+Solar+Eclipse&title=Clear+Sky+Charts+along+the+2017+Eclipse+Path&disp=gmap that is closest to your planned observing site. When you first click a known point, the duration and name of the location is shown. Next click the name of the location to reveal the details.

In the chart, locate the time near the eclipse time. The squares indicate the conditions and blue is good while white is bad. You can hover over the squares to get more details.

The the predictive tool of the clear sky charts is legendary. Some will tell you it is right almost 100% of the time. Others will say it is a wild guess and has as much accuracy as flipping a coin. As far as I am concerned, it is another way to get more data as the eclipse day approaches!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Should know this week

We should know for certain if the wait paid off on the hotel. Many of the hotels contacted cannot take reservations until a year before you intend to stay. No matter how many rooms you try to book. I know this is the case at many good hotels along the central path.

So what do you do if you want a room?

Wait until one year before the eclipse to try and schedule!

And you might find more success calling just one day later since the computer system is what controls the ability of the operator to make your reservation. OR you book for a day or two earlier to get the room reserved.

In more saturated markets, the price hikes will not take place until all space is sold out and that could take a while.

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Several people have contacted me about camping along the central path. Go out there for a visit this year and you will find plenty of open space. But next year the situation could be quite different. There are reports of RV rentals already booked solid in some of the western states. This could crowd the highways and campgrounds a bit.

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There are some festivals going on in conjunction with the eclipse event. Temporary housing for eclipse chasers are being made available, at a cost, near these festivals. Some sound like they could be a really good time unless you want a quiet area to set up cameras and telescopes.

I will start listing festivals and such at the main eclipse-chasers web site for the 2017 eclipse. Event organizers are encouraged to get in touch.

Monday, 8 August 2016

It is decided, for TSE2017 we will be ...

After shopping several options, we found a nice hotel located on I-65 in southern Kentucky. This location is inside the central path and allows excellent access to various highways should the need arise.

We selected this location because of duration, ease of access from Ohio and points south for family and friends. So we reserved a number of rooms at this location and locked in the price before they start hiking them as seen at other locations with less availability. While the weather prospects are certainly not as great as those in Wyoming, the increased duration and more options to move into other climate zones quickly is attractive.

So you might see us in Nashville or Hopkinsville or up in the hills or anywhere along the interstate highway system. If you want to join in the fun, drop me an email and I can send you the details.

One thing to keep in mind is that I am 16 for 16 when chasing total solar eclipses. I have not been clouded out and I intend to keep it that way! So if the weather dictates we will be hitting the road early in the morning or late the night before to get to a better position. This is a major advantage of eclipse chasing in a country as large and well connected as the USA.

Clear sky!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Fixed a long time bug

As a programmer, I was told to never admit mistakes. It makes the entire world of computing seem vulnerable. Especially to those that don't understand the complex nuances of the task. The eclipse-chasers web site has been an on going, learn as I go, project since 1999 and contains millions of lines of code in the form of HTML, PHP, Javascript, and CSS files. When I go back and try to change something, it can be a real education as to what I did wrong and so on. Much of the code was created using reference books containing equations and so the comments all link back to those references. It can be laborious at times.

Fortunately, I am a rather good programmer and know a few tricks of the trade. For one, I use modular structures. Another is that without thinking much about it, I use Object Oriented Programming as a natural language. This makes working the code much easier and I can often correct or modify things quickly as a result.

But there has been one that has been bugging me. Several users have reported that when entering information for an annular eclipse it was logged as a total. All the input matched up with a total, but it was just not being saved correctly.

I have poured through that code carefully and could not find anything that would cause these problems. For years I searched and then, yesterday, the bug manifested itself clearly and I was able to correct it! I am pleased to report that annular eclipses should be recorded properly and not require webmaster intervention. I thought I had licked this problem last March, but I had missed a small module and now it is back in a proper way, no longer an orphaned child of a quick hack.

This has been a good week for fixing simple bugs. Just sent an update to Fred's eclipse-wise correcting a stupid omission on my behalf.

Keep adding your observations to the log and encourage others to do the same! And let me know if you find anything amiss.

Monday, 11 July 2016

TSE2017 Where you going?

At the recent CAS meeting I did a talk about the upcoming TSE next summer. The most frequent question, asked in many different ways, was: Where are you going to be?

While nothing is final at this time, I have been looking at several possible locations. All of these can be reached from central Ohio by car in a day or two. Here they are in the order I researched them.

First was Casper Wyoming. The chances of clear sky there is pretty good, in fact, it is about the best along the eclipse path you will find. Madras Oregon area is better, but Casper offers some other features such as a good road system heading along the central path towards the East. If the weather is bad in Madras, chances are it will be bad anywhere one can drive that morning. That is not the case in Casper. Bad weather in Casper does not mean bad weather towards the East, in fact it can be quite different as one leaves the mountains and heads in to the Great Plains.

The problem with Casper is one of extreme price gouging by the hotels. This is a grand opportunity for them and rates are running very high, if you can find a hotel. A friend who has relatives in the Cheyenne area said this happens around big rodeos too. So I guess you could say the eclipse is just another rodeo for them.

My second choice was Grand Island Nebraska. There really isn't much in terms of tourist things in Grand Island, mostly flat farmland, but the climate studies are very good (they get worse to the East) and a major highway runs just past Grand Island and remains in the central path for quite a distance to the East and West. I have not heard of any price gouging going on there, let me know if you have other information.

The third choice is the Nashville area. While climate studies are not as favorable as the locations further West, they are not bad and the eclipse cooling effect may play into favor. Lines of hills and the rivers tend to draw weather up and over Nashville or to the South. This location is looking pretty good and we are waiting to get some price quotes. From Columbus, Nashville is a six hour drive.

Nashville area totality map - courtesy of Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.Com

Assuming we can get good hotel rates in the Nashville area, we are leaning that direction. Want to come along? Maybe we can get group space?

Let me know your thoughts and plans!



Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Columbus Astronomical Society - Eclipse presentation

On Saturday 9 July I will be speaking at Perkins Observatory which hosts the Columbus Astronomical Society (Ohio). The topic - eclipses of course!

Meetings are open to visitors so if you are in the area on the 9th of July, come on up. Meeting starts at 8pm. For directions to Perkins Observatory, see the web site. Your GPS may not get you there since it sits in a forested area in the middle of a golf course.

Perkins Observatory is a cool place to visit any time. Public programs and special presentations are listed on the website. Perkins Observatory has a great history. Big Ear radio telescope, the 69" telescope, and much more used to be deeply involved in astronomical research. When the 69" was moved to darker and better sky out west it was replaced with a 30" that is still used for teaching and basic research. Visitors can also enjoy a museum of astronomy that has an impressive collection of model rockets on display. The director, Tom Burns, is a rocket enthusiast. He is also a great guy to meet if you get the chance.

Some years ago I was president of the society and it is an excellent group of astronomy enthusiasts. I am really looking forward to the presentation and renewing some long time friendships. Since moving to the West Indies I have not been an active member so it will fun to check things out.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Where can you get Eclipse Nuts?

There are only a few places you can purchase your own copy of Eclipse Nuts.

First is online, at an eStore set up by the print-on-demand company CreateSpace. Click here for the Eclipse Nuts ordering page. They are US$20 each plus shipping. You will have to set up an account at Create Space and many of you already have one if you ordered Fred Espenak's book(s) about the eclipses. (Fred is the one that turned me on to the web site print-on-demand.)

Second, the store at GreatAmericanEclipse.Com will have copies for sale. You can order a copy in conjunction with the great eclipse stuff they have for sale (maps, shirts, hats, pins, books, posters, and a lot more).

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I'd like to mention that the cartooning has not stopped. I am still creating more and there will be another Eclipse Nuts coming soon. Drawing is a lot of fun if you don't worry about the technical details....

Up the entire night before, all set up, completely wired, red filters on glasses, everything charged - ahh, eclipse chasing!