The Solar Eclipse Conference 2007
EurAstro report - Around SEC2007
Thanks to the organisational skills and human qualities of
Patrick & Joanne Poitevin, Mike Simmons, Ed Krupp and many others, the
Solar Eclipse Conference 2007 was a great success. Since the proceedings
of the conference itself will be made available by the organisers, we
concentrate on remarkable side aspects.
Part one - Californian observatories
On August 24th, before the official opening of the conference, the
attendees were given the rare opportunity of a guided tour of Mount Wilson
comprising the 100-inch 'Hooker' telescope with its dome open, and several
solar telescopes, from the veteran 'Snow' telescope to the 150-ft Solar
Fisheye view of the Hooker and its dome
The Snow coelostat
Inside the Solar Tower: from the lens to the focal plane
Sunset on the Solar Tower
The conference took place in the magnificent and fully renovated Griffith
Observatory, with its telescopes, sundials, planetary models, animations,
planetarium and much more.
Sundial at Griffith
Planets at Griffith
On August 27th, as a special add-on for EurAstro subscribers, a detailed
visit of the Palomar Observatory was organised, including the 200-inch
Hale Telescope - the world's most famous historical telescope, yet still a
workhorse of modern research. The guests were delighted by the highly
professional and friendly team of docents led by Scott Kardel.
The dome of the Hale Telescope
The tube of the Hale
The mount and the Hartmann test screen
It's not Oppenheimer - it's Prof. Dimitrie Olenici!
The interferometer among the trees
Part two - A magic eclipse
The lunar eclipse of August 28th 2007 was total from 09:52 to 11:23 UTC,
and lasted from 07:52 to 13:22 UTC including the penumbral phases.
Greatest eclipse occurred at 10:37 UTC i.e. 03:37 PDT.
SEC2007 attendees observed the TLE from all over California and beyond.
Yet I opted, with Susan and Lloyd Franklin, to simply stay at the
Glendale Hilton, the main hotel of the conference, in spite of nearly
certain air and light pollution at a location that close to downtown Los
Angeles. And it was a surprisingly good choice!
Half an hour into the penumbral eclipse, limb darkening was already
noticeable. The partial eclipse began, and the Moon got close to
In effect, the mock Mars was a red lamp at the top of a crane. Just for
fun, I had chosen a viewing spot such that the Moon would pass behind
the lamp. There was already a 'magic eclipse' with a red globe close to
the Moon back in 2004.
A multicultural group gathered around us. Word spread that we were
looking at an eclipse, although it was not clear, in some minds, whether
the eclipsed object was the Moon, the Sun (at 2 am...), or Mars. Indeed,
the urban legend according to which, in the night from August 27th to
August 28th, Mars would be as big as the Moon, had resurfaced. It wasn't
easy to debunk the legend, since the real Mars, that night, was not much
fainter than the eclipsed Moon! (In the image below, Mars is near the
middle, with Aldebaran to its right, close to the Hilton building, and
the Pleiades above them).
The totality was rather dark, Danjon 2 according to some observers.
Since the sky was remarkably transparent, it was worth going to the roof
of the hotel for the side show, which turned to be dramatic: the Moon
getting bright again, crescent Venus rising, and the Earth's shadow at
dawn, literally reaching to the Moon.
The eclipse ended shortly before moonset. A breathtaking
quasi-selenelion occurred then: an orange, oblate Moon setting while the
skyscrapers of downtown LA were already brilliantly lit, in orange hues
too, by the rising Sun.