WHAT AN ECLIPSE!! --------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 1994 January 1
It sure looked like a total washout that Sunday [28 November 1993]. All day a winter storm blanketed the City causing coastal flooding, wind damage, and power outages. The clouds hung low pouring out winddriven rain. Boats moved into havens, but a barge ran aground and a tugboat overturned. Surely there'll be no point in trying to watch this eclipse! Indeed at 5:30PM on that Sunday, the 28th of November, the skies over Brooklyn were still spewing out rain and gusts. But I had to open the Brooklyn [College] Observatory just in case some hardy Association member shows up for the scheduled eclipse watch. My father drove me to the College and I signed in at the security gate. The guard knew of the overnight stay at the Observatory and assured me that any other astronomers will be directed to the Observatory. As I walked across the campus I stepped over fresh puddles, rain- slicked pavements, and broken tree branches. But then I saw a shadow of me on the ground. I looked up and -- oh, no! -- the sky was clearing and the Full Moon beamed brightly down!! Litterally in twenty minutes the weather turned from a disgusting storm into a clear and calm winter night!! By 6:15PM I opened the Observatory. The Full Moon filled the dome with brilliant beams. All around there was blue sky peppered with the brighter stars. If I had somehow been dropped into the Observatory and saw this scene I would never know that barely half an hour earlier I was riding thru a snotty rain with the wipers flinging drops off of the windshield. I waited for the other astronomers. Their arrival was planned for 6PM to 7PM for two reasons. First it made control easier for the security office being that the campus is officially closed on Sunday night. Second, transit schedules fall off sharply late at night on Sunday with a ha'hour or so between trains. I heavily felt that people would have by mid afternoon turned off any hope of seeing this eclipse and opted not to come. But there was the brilliant Moon up there in the east. I swept out the rooms. Dirt sifted in since the preceding Wednesday. I stopped up then for a thoro cleaning in preparation for tonight's bunkin for the eclipse. I also moved excess furniture to a storage room. During all this there was that great big Moon up there bathing the room with fulsome light. So I unpacked my camera and fitted it to the main scope. I trued up the finder scope with an additional bracket. The pictures went off smoothly. I shot the east and west halves of the Moon separately being that at prime focus the Moon slightly overfills the 35mm frame. I then set up for eyepiece projection to capture views of the craters and bright spots. Under magnification, however, the Moon's image boiled fiercely, likely from upper air wind. Any photos would be smeared into uselessness. So I pulled down the camera and inspected the Moon with various eyepieces. It was a farout sight! Usually I don't get to view the Full Moon under high power. The magnification, up to 292X, diluted the dazzle and the minutest of rays, rills, spots were tacksharp. The boiling, tho vigorous, did not impede eyeball appreciation of the Moon. It was now about 7:30PM and no one else arrived. Really, would anyone come? At 7:45PM there was loud rapping at the door. Nope, not one of us astronomers. A guard stopping up to check on things. He was surprised that I was the only one there. His jobsheet showed a group here. I explained that due to the hideous weather all the preceding day pretty much anyone fixing to come tonight was scared off. I let him in anyway to look around. His rounds never included the Observatory before and this is his first visit to it. He was a short mid aged fellow who knew about the eclipse from the newspaper. He said he saw one from his native Cuba and understood what this coming one should look like. The eclipse was then still hours away so I gave him a walkaround of the place and let him examine the Moon thru the main scope. He studied the disc for several minutes in amazement and we chatted a bit about the Moon in general. It was now 8PM. I live near the College and altho the Observatory is a most fitting place for eclipse viewing, it seemed daft to stay there all night by myself. With no other attendees, now a full hour after the scheduled arrival time, I decided to close the Observatory. I could go home, rest up, and see the eclipse from my own yard. The facility duly buttoned down I called my father, who soon arrived at the Glenwood gate of the campus to pick me up. I explained to the gatekeeper that the Observatory is now closed for the night and there is no more activity there. He said he'll advise any latecomers and in any event the gate closes for the night at 11PM. At home I set up in my yard. I planned a series of photos thru my 600mm f8 solid cat and several with a 50mm f1.4 lens. The latter were for capturing the Moon flanked by the Hyades and Pleiades in totality. The air stayed very calm except for an occasional tree-rustling breeze. I napped until 11PM to catch the late paenumbral phase and first contact. The paenumbra was quite obvious at 11:20PM, when I first stepped outside, as a brown ragged mistiness over the entire eastern side of the Moon. The umbra came onto the Moon as a dark gray shadow without noticeable tint or detail. I then napped until 12:40AM to view the totality. When I went outside the Moon was visible thruout the umbra, now steeped in a dark orange-brown hue. During totality the Moon was bright in the sky by eye, but I felt it was a shade darker than a pure textbook totality. The southern side of the Moon was much lighter than elsewhere, giving a 'crescent' aspect to the disc. By eye in this southern zone the maria were plainly discernible while the rest of the disc was a uniform brown-orange cast. The 600mm lens and camera made an excellent low power scope offering a spectacular two-degree field around the Moon. With a thin screen there is minimal impedence of light between the lens and the eye. Thru this the maria were identifiable over the whole disc with no trouble at all. I deliberately chose this setup to avoid having one photo-only rig and a separate eyeball instrument. My father came out at about 1:15AM and inspected the Moon thru the camera and by eye for about 20 minutes. He was impressed at how beautifully the Pleiades and Hyades framed the Moon. We bantered about the eclipse of last December , which he saw from home while I was at the Observatory, and how the Moon then almost disappeared in totality. He and I looked around and noted how really transparent the air was. stars to 4-1/2 magnitude could be seen, including many I could not offhand name. We picked out stars in southern Canis Major, Puppis, Lepus, Hydra, and Monoceros. The whole sickle of Leo was rising thru trees in the east and some stars in Lynx were overhead. The Orion Nebula, Rosette Cluster, and Beehive were clearly in sight. I in the following afternoon, with a planetarium program, assessed that the sky admitted stars of 4.7 to our eyes. From Brooklyn, a nabe the size of Toronto. From my yard there is no open sky. All my views were thru the leafless branches of overhanging trees. The north and northeast were blocked by shredded clouds and the surrounding houses blocked the southwest and northwest. The Moon cleared the roof of my house. I switched to the 50mm lens for a skyscape of the Moon. Thru the camera the Moon shrank almost to a point and I studied its brightness against the stars in the sky. It handily outshone Sirius. To assign a magnitude rating to the eclipsed disc, I hazard -2. When totality ended I napped until 3AM for the late partial phases. By now the Moon moved into the west and shone down my driveway and the stars were blotted out by its growing brilliance. A few small isolated shreds of cloud drifted in the south but never threatened the eclipse. When the umbra cleared from the Moon I shot my last pictures and turned in for the rest of the night. I had leave from work on Monday, having signed for it a week or so earlier. Good thing I did -- I slept solidly until lO:3OAM! The photos, Fujichrome slides, were processed on Tuesday. They are excellent, save for a few underexposures. The skyscapes are specially lovely. They show the Moon, Hyades, Pleiades entangled in the tree branches just as they stood over our house. When I looked out the window upon waking up I saw a murky hazy day with a weak Sun. Rain was forecast for the late afternoon. My father said that when he woke up at around 6AM the dawn sky was cloud- covered. But for us: What an eclipse!