Deadline approaching for essay contest

The deadline is approaching for our Science + Stories creative-writing competition, being run in partnership with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books.

We’re challenging people of all ages in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth. The winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia, and the deadline for entries is Monday July 31st.

(As always, thank you to Neil Pitts for the brilliant dog cartoon!)

Mystery of the moon’s tilted orbit

I’m extremely grateful to the brilliant planetary scientist Kaveh Pahlevan, who shared some wonderful thoughts in this interview for EarthSky. “When a crime happens, investigative police quickly arrive on the scene and try to preserve the evidence. In the case of the moon’s origin, there was a violent event, but there were no witnesses, and we are arriving on the scene five billion years late!”

Join us for live coverage of the August 21st total solar eclipse

timeanddate.com, the world’s most popular time zone-related website, will be broadcasting a live stream of the total solar eclipse across the United States on August 21st.

I’ll be joining the timeanddate.com team at their HQ in Stavanger, Norway, to present live coverage of events in the sky and on the ground. Our coverage will include:

  • Live telescope feeds from our friends at Slooh
  • Live maps and animations showing the progress of the eclipse
  • Live reports and updates from our correspondents across North America
  • The best photos and videos from social media and the timeanddate.com community

Theo Wellington, a NASA ambassador and eclipse evangelist, will be bringing us updates and interviews from an exciting schools’ event being held in a football stadium at Western Kentucky University. “It’s not a science thing; it is a human thing,” says Richard Gelderman, a professor of physics and astronomy at the university.


Image: Western Kentucky University

The August 21st eclipse begins in the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC, and ends in the Atlantic Ocean at 21:04 UTC. We will cover the entire event on timeanddate.com’s live page: https://www.timeanddate.com/live/


Just for fun, we’ll be trying a live ‘experiment’ on the day… Just before sunset, the edge of the moon’s shadow reaches the edge of western Europe. In Stavanger there will be a 0.5% partial eclipse (in other words, half of one per cent of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon). With the the sun hanging just above the horizon, will this extremely tiny ‘nick’ be visible in our telescope at timeanddate.com’s HQ…?


By the way, have you seen timeanddate.com’s new tool showing the Distance, Brightness, and Size of Planets? (Which body is closest to us right now: Venus, Mercury or the Sun? What will happen over the next few weeks?)


 

Science + Stories: a creative-writing competition for the 2017 US eclipse

For most of human history, solar eclipses have been unexpected and terrifying events. All over the world, across all cultures and societies, people have reacted to these hair-raising experiences in a very human way. They have made up stories to explain why the sun sometimes vanishes in the middle of the day.


Image: Neil Pitts

In China they told the story of a heavenly dog who tries to eat the sun. Many South American tribes believed eclipses were caused by a giant bird attacking the sun. In North America, the Nuxalk people, who live in the area around Bella Coola in Canada, thought eclipses occur when the sun (rather carelessly) drops his torch.

These myths and stories form an important part of human history. They are some of our earliest attempts to explain the mysteries of the universe.

Today we know precisely when eclipses will happen. That’s good news for us, because it means we don’t have to run around being terrified. For storytellers, however, it’s bad news, because we no longer have the chance to invent tales to try and make sense of what’s going on.

Until now…

Science + Stories

Together with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books, we’re running a creative-writing competition called Science + Stories. We’re challenging young people in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth.

Entries can be up to 150 words long, and there are four age groups. The winners will be the stories that show the greatest originality and creativity, and the winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia.

The Great American Eclipse

The total solar eclipse of August 21st 2017 will cross the US from coast to coast. The path of totality (the very narrow, dark orange strip in the map below) runs through 14 states: Oregon, Idaho, Montana (a tiny bit), Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa (a tiny bit), Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

In the town of North Platte, Nebraska, totality will last for 1 minute 40 seconds, starting at 12:54 pm local time. (Many North Platte residents will be travelling 30 miles north of the town to the ‘central line’ of the eclipse, where totality will last for two-and-a-half minutes.)


Image: timeanddate.com

The whole of North America – together with the upper part of South America, plus a tiny bit of western Europe – will experience a partial solar eclipse.

How a solar eclipse made Einstein famous


Images: Wikimedia / CC-PD-Mark

We all know the genius on the left. But who is the genius on the right…?

My latest article for Sky & Telescope magazine asks: “Why do some great scientists become household names, whereas others do not? Why, these days, does everyone in the world know who Einstein is (and what he looked like)? On the other hand, when we do a Google search for ‘Maxwell’, why does the scientist who unified electricity, magnetism and light appear below a musician with the same name? The answers to these questions will lead us to a solar eclipse that took place across South America and Africa 98 years ago.”

“A need to know and increased motivation to learn”

“For cranking motivation levels up to eleven, nothing says ‘teachable moment’ like a solar eclipse…” Sky & Telescope magazine has an article about our science outreach project in Angola :)

A perfect week in Angola. Except one thing…

Obrigado Huambo! Our Global Communication and Science project to mark the February 26th annular eclipse in the city of Huambo was a huge success – despite the fact that, just before the eclipse started, a thunderstorm descended upon the central highlands of Angola and blocked our view of events in the sky…

Sky & Telescope logo

In the week leading up to the eclipse, our hosts in Huambo, the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação (ISCED), put together a brilliant programme that included school visits, public workshops and media interviews.

Huambo Angola

At the Escola Comandante Bula, students had a go at creating a scale model of the earth-moon-sun system. There were also a lot of questions – a lot of questions! – about astronomy, space and science.

Escola Comandante Bula

We could not have done any of this without the support of our sponsors: timeanddate.com, our magnificent lead sponsor, and NCR Angola, who generously sponsored the eclipse glasses we gave away to members of the community.

Eclipse glasses

The day of the eclipse began with bright sunshine and beautiful skies.

morning

Our observation site at ISCED quickly drew a inquisitive and enthusiastic crowd – who had lots more great questions about eclipses!

observation-site

Thirty minutes before first contact – the moment when the moon took its first ‘bite’ out of the sun – we did a live broadcast with the astronomy network Slooh. (A big thank you to Tricia Ennis and Paul Cox at Slooh for making this happen.) You can click the video below to watch our segment.

o
But, shortly after that, the thunderstorm struck, and we were forced inside…

thunderstorm

ISCED’s lecture theatre was packed out for an impromptu seminar using timeanddate.com’s live feed of the eclipse from other locations in the southern hemisphere.

live-feed

Annularity – when the sun formed a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon – occurred at 5:28 pm local time. Alas, all we can report is that it definitely got darker!

annularity

Despite the disappointment with the weather, it was an amazing week of educational activities. I am tremendously grateful to the outstanding team at ISCED, including, from left to right below, Eugenio Calei, Mário Rodrigues, Neto Rangel and Ndjimi Malaka.

ISCED

We would also like to thank the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education and the Provincial Government of Huambo for supporting this project.

Africa gets ready for another sun and moon show

mgafrica-17-feb-17

Mail & Guardian Africa has published a piece about next weekend’s African eclipse, and our Angolan “Global Communication and Science” project.

logo


Africa gets ready for another sun and moon show
Graham Jones | Mail & Guardian Africa | 17 February 2017

Six months after Africa played host to a spectacular eclipse of the sun, it will happen all over again. Shortly before sunset on February 26th, an annular solar eclipse – where the sun forms a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon – will be visible in parts of Angola, Zambia and the DRC. Across the rest of continent, most places will experience a partial eclipse.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. But there’s a catch: the moon’s orbit around the earth is slightly tilted, which means it is rare for the earth, moon and sun to line up exactly. Although the most recent African eclipse occurred on September 1st last year, when an annular eclipse swept across the continent from Gabon to Madagascar, the next annular eclipse in Africa won’t be until 2020; for the next total eclipse in Africa (where the moon covers the sun completely) we’ll have to wait until 2027.

In the very late afternoon of February 26th, a partial solar eclipse will be visible across western, central and southern Africa. In Lagos, 24% of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon, starting at 4:46 pm, with the maximum eclipse at 5:41 pm (all the times given in this article are local times). In Kinshasa it will be a 69% partial eclipse (4:31 pm start, 5:36 pm maximum); in Johannesburg it will be 52% (5:14 pm start, 6:13 pm maximum).

The ring of fire will be visible along a narrow ‘path of annularity’ running from the small town of Bentiaba on the coast of Angola, through the northern tip of Zambia’s North-Western Province, to the city of Likasi in the south-east of the DRC. The dramatic effect is caused by the moon being too far away from the earth to cover the sun completely, so the dark moon becomes surrounded by a thin ring of the sun’s bright disk. (The world annular means ‘ring-shaped’.)

The largest city on the path of annularity is Huambo, in Angola’s central highlands. Here the ring of fire will begin at 5:28 pm, and last up to half a minute in the southern part of the city. (The city lies right on the northern limit of the path of annularity, so the ring of fire is not visible in the northernmost areas of the city.)

Huambo is the focal point of a series of educational events being planned for the eclipse. The Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, and the Provincial Government of Huambo, have given their backing to a Global Communication and Science project taking place at the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação do Huambo (ISCED). The planned activities include a public workshop and seminar at ISCED, classroom activities for schools, and a live broadcast of the eclipse in partnership with the astronomy network Slooh.

The events in Huambo are being sponsored by timeanddate.com, the world’s largest time-zone related website, and a leading supplier of eclipse information. “We are very excited about this collaboration,” commented Steffen Thorsen, the chief executive officer of the website’s parent company. “People everywhere will be able to follow the annular eclipse in Angola as it happens, and we hope to inspire people of all ages about the wonders of eclipses.”

The project is also being backed by Angola NCR, the leader in Angola’s IT sector, who are sponsoring solar eclipse glasses being given to members of the local community. “The February 26th eclipse creates an exciting and important educational opportunity,” said Eduardo Lobato, NCR’s operations manager. “Over the past year we’ve been focussed on strengthening our relationship with universities and students, in an effort to promote the values of innovation and technology, and support developments in Angola’s education sector.”

In the map at the top of this article, the path of annularity is shown as a thin red line. The other shadings indicate the areas where a partial eclipse is visible: dark orange – more than 90%; medium orange – up to 90%; light orange – up to 40%. No eclipse is visible in the white areas. You can obtain full details for your town or city here.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE
NEVER look at the sun with the naked eye. Even if the sun is 99% covered by the moon, the remaining sunlight is extremely bright and can cause permanent damage to the eye. Click here for information on how to protect your while eyes watching the sun.


 

Classroom activity for Angolan schools

Solar eclipses are teachable moments! We’ve created a 45-minute classroom activity for school teachers in Angola, which can be downloaded below as a PDF in English or Portuguese.

handout-1-ten-sentences

It’s part of our Global Communication and Science project to mark the Angolan solar eclipse on February 26th: we’re running a public workshop/seminar at the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação (ISCED) in the city of Huambo; we’re giving away eclipse glasses to members of the community; and we’re doing a live broadcast with the astronomy network Slooh.

We’re extremely grateful to timeanddate.com, our lead sponsor, and NCR Angola, who are sponsoring our eclipse glasses. We’ve also had tremendous support from the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, and the Provincial Government of Huamb0.

Our classroom activity is called “Space is enormous!”, or “O espaço é enorme!”. It tackles a popular misconception – that the earth, moon and sun are similar size, and close together in space – by asking schoolchildren to imagine the earth was 10 cm across. It also challenges pupils to think about questions such as: why don’t solar eclipses happen every month…?

You can download the activity here:

space-is-enormous

We’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Mário José da Costa Rodrigues, Ndjimi Dumba Watembo Malaka and the rest of the outstanding team at ISCED. Enormous thanks also to Paul Cox, Tricia Ennis and all the other incredible people at Slooh.

 

NCR Angola supports solar eclipse project

We are tremendously grateful to NCR Angola, the leader in Angola’s information-technology sector, who are sponsoring solar eclipse glasses to give away to members of the community in Huambo later this month.

ncr-eclipse-glasses

On February 26th the city of Huambo, in Angola’s central highlands, will experience an annular solar eclipse, where the sun forms a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon. We’re running a Global Communication and Science project at the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação do Huambo. Our lead sponsor is timeanddate.com; we’re also working with the astronomy website Slooh, the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, and the Provincial Government of Huambo.

NCR Angola has given its support to the project by sponsoring eclipse glasses for local community members. The company is one of Angola’s most respected blue-chip firms, with a network of IT retail stores, and a business unit providing IT management and consultancy services.

ncr-angola-logo
Eduardo Lobato, NCR’s Operations Manager, said:

“The February 26th eclipse creates an exciting and important educational opportunity. Over the past year we’ve been focussed on strengthening our relationship with universities and students, in an effort to promote the values of innovation and technology, and support developments in Angola’s education sector.”