‘Totality’ the Day the Sun Disappeared explains solar eclipses

Director Tony Hardy presents some filtered photos of the cosmos. (Colin Reef/Lariat)

Director Tony Hardy presents some filtered photos of the cosmos. (Colin Reef/Lariat)

The Saddleback College Astronomy and Physics Club, led by director Tony Hardy, presented images, data and video from this years total solar eclipse titled “Totality”- the Day the Sun Disappeared.

“Our goal with events like this one is to bring people with a common interest of astronomy together, promote education, observe the beautiful night sky and share knowledge about the cosmos,” Hardy said. “We are always looking and actively recruiting anyone with any levels of experience from beginner to professionals.”

A total solar eclipse occurs when the New Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow, the umbra, on Earth. A full solar eclipse, known as totality, is almost as dark as night. There are many unique sights and amazing phenomena when viewing a total solar eclipse:

Shadow bands: About one minute before totality, moving wavy lines of alternating light and dark can be seen on the ground and along walls. These shadow bands are the result of Earth’s turbulent atmosphere refracting the last rays of sunlight.

Diamond ring: Seen about ten to fifteen seconds before and after totality, the solar corona (the outer atmosphere of the sun) becomes visible. It is seen together with a single jewel of light from the sun, this creates a stunning diamond ring effect.

The Sun’s corona: As the diamond ring fades, the Sun’s corona becomes more prominent and is visible as a faint ring of rays surrounding the silhouetted Moon. The corona is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, and it is around 200–300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface. The corona’s temperature can reach over one million degrees celsius.

Baily’s beads: About five seconds before totality, Baily’s beads appear. They are little bead-like blobs of light at the edge of the Moon. They are created because gaps in the mountains and valleys on the Moon’s surface allow sunlight to pass through in some places but not others.

The Sun’s chromosphere: A lower layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, the chromosphere, gives out a reddish glow which can only be seen for a few seconds after totality sets in.

Dave Kodama presents some filtered photos of the Moon and Jupiter. (Colin Reef/Lariat)

Dave Kodama presents some filtered photos of the Moon and Jupiter. (Colin Reef/Lariat)

“The reason total solar eclipses are so infrequent is because the sun and moon are about the same angular size as seen from the Earth,” member of the Orange County Astronomers (OCA) Dave Kodama said. “If we had a Sun-Moon-Earth circular orbits in a singular plane we would have monthly solar eclipses.”

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, all of North America was treated to a total solar eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality saw one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights. This path was where the moon will covered the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere. The eclipse stretched from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path saw a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.

“The bottom line is that eclipses occur in predictable cycles but additional complications make make eclipse predictions tough and tedious,” Kodama said. “But the reason this is so significant is that this is the first total solar eclipse to occur solely in the United States since the country was founded. For most Americans, this is the best chance to see a solar eclipse we will have in our lifetimes.”

The club meets for its General Meeting the first Saturday of every month, with workshops, field trips, and star parties scheduled on other days throughout the month. The Saddleback College Astronomy and Physics Club will be presenting Navigating the Night Sky workshop in three consecutive weeks starting Thursdays, Oct. 12 (19 and 26) at 7 p.m.

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