Solar Eclipse Conference – Part 2

The official opening reception was held at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. This museum looks at the history of space from the International Space Station back to Dr Robert Goddard’s rocket tests in the 1930s.

Outside the museum is the John P. Stapp Air and Space Park where there are space-related artefacts including the Sonic I wind rocket sled which Goddard rode, the V-2 (Vengeance Weapon-2) the world’s first long-range ballistic missile and the Little Joe 2, a solid-fuelled rocket used to test the Apollo launch escape system.

Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.
Little Joe 2, New Mexico Museum of Space History.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

The more formal part of the Solar Eclipse Conference covered science from solar eclipses, the benefits of taking videos of eclipses and looking forward to the next three total solar eclipses over the next three years.

Ralph Chou discussed standards for solar viewers/glasses and what happens to those who fail to safely look at the partial phases of an eclipse. Interestingly as there are no pain receptors in the eye, so you would feel no pain while damage is occurring to your eye/s; symptoms usually take about 12-48 hours to appear; that damage is wavelength dependant and visual recovery from this type of damage (called phototoxicity) is variable. The overwhelming message is make sure you safely observe the Sun and eclipses with proper solar filters/glasses – if you’re not sure about it, don’t use it – is your sight really worth the risk?

Fred Espenak is best known for his ‘Mr Eclipse’ web pages, part of NASA’s website. Fred’s new website EclipseWise.com (Fred has retired from NASA) has over 80,000 pages and gif images and one million links relating to eclipses. He has just released his Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses 1501 to 2500 and Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses 1501 to 2500. Both these publications look at the details for eclipses 500 years into the past and future and are a valuable resource for any eclipse enthusiast.

Focus on the upcoming 2017 eclipse in the USA was a high priority and discussed in detail both in individual talks and panel discussions, focusing on how to let as many people in the US not only be aware of the eclipse, but where to observe and how to observe safely; and the potential logistics for towns and cities in the path as far as being prepared for large numbers of people descending upon them on eclipse day and organising traffic conditions on the day.

Panel discussion for the upcoming 2017 North American Total Solar Eclipse; Fred Espenak, Shadia Habbal, Jay Anderson and Michael Zeiler. Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.
Panel discussion for the upcoming 2017 North American Total Solar Eclipse; Fred Espenak, Shadia Habbal, Jay Anderson and Michael Zeiler.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

As expected, weather conditions are a major concern for any eclipse and with decisions on location usually made years in advance by observers, the areas likely for the best weather were of major interest. Jay Anderson, a retired meteorologist, discussed the places most likely to give a better chance of clear skies for the next three eclipses over the next three years. However, these are based on studying past weather patterns and of course anything can happen on the day, however being in an area which generally has good conditions on and around the day of the eclipse can increase the likely-hood of clear skies on eclipse day. Needless to say, Jay’s talk was received with great interest.

The Solar Eclipse Conference was a great chance to hear the latest in eclipse observations, science and to prepare for the next three years. Even those with a passing interest in eclipses enjoyed the four days and are eagerly looking forward not only to the next three solar eclipses, but to the next conference in 2018 in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

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