Thousands gathered at Grand Canyon National Park yesterday to observe a rare annular solar eclipse. “We are planning to have two thousand more visitors today,” said Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent David V. Uberuga in a crowd that gathered around telescopes outside the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Explaining just what makes the solar eclipse ‘annular,’ Brian Day of NASA Lunar Science Institute explained, “The moon goes around the earth in an elliptical pattern. Sometimes, like today, it can be further away from the earth. The moon is far away so it appears small and will not cover the whole sun [as in a total eclipse.] But we will see a spectacular ring of fire.” The NASA scientist spoke at the new auditorium in Grand Canyon Visitor Center located on the south rim.
“There are lots of beautiful sunspots out there today, so the show is really working out,” said Day enthusiastically. He explained that the sunspots, the result of solar flares, have an eleven-year cycle of activity. “We are approaching the maximum of the cycle,” continued Day.
Day invited the enliven audience to count meteors during the upcoming LADEE mission. “You can be a part of this next exploration of the moon,” encouraged Day.
At Hopi Point just off the Hermit Road west of Grand Canyon Village, Paul Knappenberger of the Adler Planetarium adjusted his telescopes. “This is the place to be,” said Knappenberger who travelled to the Grand Canyon from Chicago, IL for the anncular eclipse. “How often does a solar eclipse ever come across the Grand Canyon?” he asked rhetorically. “Not often,” he answered. “This event is a marvelous geologic wonder combined with a galactic wonder,” said the President of Adler Planetarium and then pointed to an array of telescopes, cameras and contraptions. “We are going to capture the beauty of the Grand Canyon along with the beauty of the anncular eclipse.”
From the trail at Hopi Point, Jose-Francisco Salgodo was eyeing the canyon below for the perfect shot. Alder’s official photographer was jockeying between telescope and cameras that were set up on tripods aligned with the sun above and canyon below. “It is very hard to capture both the solar eclipse and the canyon,” noted Salgodo. “We’ll take pictures with a neutral density filter that transmits only 1/1000 of the light. We’ll keep the cameras stationary and take time lapse pictures of the eclipse.” Then Salgado will work his magic to combine the time lapse of the eclipse with images of the Grand Canyon.
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