Tales of the Lazy Stargazer
Volume One, Number Eight
Black Sun Expedition of 12/25/2000
The Fourth Day of Hanukkah
and Christmas day
The last Eclipse of the second Millennium
The next Eclipse to fall on Christmas is over 300 years away.
This expedition I had to go alone, even my stalwart companion Violet wouldn't go with me. She muttered something like "what do you think I am a polar bear?" before she headed to her comfortable chair by the fire. Who could blame her, it is 15 degrees out side, the wind is howling at 17 miles an hour with higher gusts and the wind chill factor is 10 below zero, but the sun is shining and there are very few clouds. Maybe this will break the curse of every astronomical event I attended this year getting rained out. After all it couldn't possibly rain when it is this cold.
In the kitchen, I had all the equipment stacked up and ready to go. After a hearty breakfast, I bundled up and carried all the stuff to the flying R observatory, fifty feet away. This is the shortest expedition I have ever been on.
This trip was a test of one of my newest contraptions, an El El Siderastat. I was worried about the vibration, but it was not a big problem. Setting it up was easy, all I had to do was shovel the snow off a place on the ground and sit it down in front of the scope. It worked like a charm. It allows you to sit comfortably, use the telescope at any fixed angle you want and never have to move again. It is a mirror that steers the beam of light to the telescope, so that the telescope doesn't have to move. Time for a celebration, First light during an eclipse!
At 11:11 AM EST right on queue the moon crossed the sun. It was fun to watch the moon gobble up sunspots. The new camera was able to record stills of it happening. I have to get the video driver, so next time I can record video. At Maximum (only 58%) the light started to get a little of that eerie quality. Then the sun started to move behind the trees, I could still see it fine, but the video quality was poor. At 2:22 the moon finally left the sun alone, and everything returned to normal.
I made the long trip with the equipment back to the kitchen, dried all the equipment off. The Siderastat had frozen to the ground, and it came home with a lot of snow and grass frozen to it, an easy problem to fix in the future with a small ground cloth. Packed all the gear away, made myself a cup of hot cocoa and joined Violet by the fire to warm up my cold toes and to celebrate another successful expedition.
Note to self, time to get the microwave link to the observatory working, so I don't even have to leave the house.
Note 2, Disregard Note 1, Microwave link is operational as of March 10, 2001