Wednesday 14 November 2012

Triple eclipse

Yay, for once when there's something interesting happening in the sky, Auckland laid on a clear blue one - well, mostly, and even when a bit of cloud covered the sun during today's eclipse, it only made it possible to snatch a quick look up there. (Well, so I thought... thank goodness I can touch-type.) But the pinhole camera effect worked well, though there was drooping of the hand holding the card - and then, we discovered, you could see it happen just as well with a fist-bump. I was surprised that with 87% coverage here and only a thumbnail smile at the peak, it was still so bright outside. Really, you wouldn't have known.

Queensland (pft, trust the Aussies) went for the full 100%, which would have had them excited in Charleville, at the Cosmos Centre. There they've got a row of fancy 12-inch barrel telescopes through which we looked at the stars on an inky black Outback night: the Jewel Box cluster sparkling away, Southern Cross pointer Alpha Centauri, our closest neighbour at a distance of just the 4.3 light years, and Saturn, its rings edge-on to us and wonderfully sharp in the viewfinder. Then the spoilsport full moon rose and blotted them all out - though it was great to see all its craters crisp and clear.

The most amazing thing about the Cosmos Centre, though, is that we were able to go back the next day, since it was a cool one and less than 25 degrees, and actually look at the surface of the sun - obviously using an industrial-strength filter. It was really special: it looked curiously like the Outback itself, rough and reddy-orange, and glowing. Also, it moved like the clappers - it kept disappearing out of the telescope's focus. It didn't seem to go so fast today; in fact, we wandered off well before it was finished. Mental grasshoppers, tch - which reminds me, Queensland that year was hopping with them...

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