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Experiencing the Total Eclipse

I became a member of St. Mary’s several years ago, long after first being confirmed in the Episcopal Church in Florida in the early 1970s.  I participate in the caregiver’s support group, men’s activities, and retreats. I also had the privilege of participating in the 2016 St. Mary’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Photo by Alson Wong

My interest in astronomy and astrophysics started in elementary school and continued while growing up in Miami during the very early days of the space program taking place up the coast at Cape Canaveral, never dreaming that one day I would work at a place near there called Kennedy Space Center that didn’t even exist then.

Some of you may have seen the 80+ percent partial eclipse visible in the DC area on August 21 — and wonder what’s the big deal — Which is what I thought before experiencing (not just seeing) the total eclipse from Jackson, WY during a tour of the national parks out west this year.  I could never understand why “eclipse chasers” (aka “eclipsophiles”) would travel all over the world every few years just to see another solar eclipse.  Let me point out that a 90 percent covered partially eclipsed sun is still 100,000 times brighter than a total eclipse.  It gets dark enough to see stars and planets around the eclipsed sun during totality!
First some background information — Our sun is about 400 times the size of our moon, and — miraculously — about 400 times further away.  Therefore, while the moon’s orbit is not always perfect, the moon is often visually exactly the same size as the sun when viewed from the earth during an eclipse.  This size match is not so for any other planet in our solar system, or anywhere else as far as we know now.  I remember a science fiction book years ago where visitors from elsewhere would come to the Earth as tourists just to see the solar eclipse.
Our sun, old Sol, acts like a continuously exploding hydrogen bomb changing hydrogen into helium while converting a few percent of the mass into energy — a LOT of energy.  Our sun has several layers above its core — We can see the photosphere, chromosphere, and corona.  A very, very thin layer between the chromosphere and the corona is known as the transition region, where the temperature rises from 14,000 degrees F at the chromosphere to 900,000 degrees F at the beginning of the corona.
The thin photosphere is what we see when we look at astronomer’s pictures of the sun’s surface.  The photosphere is a bright, granulated layer of plasma containing darker, cooler sunspots.  The photosphere also generates flares that extend hundreds of thousands of miles into space.
The layer of the chromosphere is next up from the photosphere.  The chromosphere emits a reddish glow as super-heated hydrogen burns off.  But this thin red rim can only be seen during a total solar eclipse as it is much dimmer than the photosphere.
Photo by Alson Wong

The third layer up is the corona consisting of white plumes, tendrils, and streamers of ionized gas that flow visibly outward into space for multiple sun diameters.  These are spectacular during a total eclipse.  While the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun’s surface, it is also millions of times less dense.  Therefore the corona is still much dimmer than the sun’s surface, so also only seen during a total eclipse.  The corona does not have an upper limit and is the source of the solar wind that goes off into space with enough energy to cause auroras on Earth and other planets and sometimes damages Earth satellites.

The eye may see large sunspots, which could contain multiple Earth-sized planets, on the sun’s surface and flares at the sun’s edge through solar eclipse glasses sold for viewing the solar eclipse and optical devices with solar filters, such as binoculars and telescopes.  During a total eclipse, we see only the flares from the photosphere, glimpses of the chromosphere, and the glorious corona.
Due to the rotation of the surface of the Earth, which is moving much faster than the Moon’s shadow, the solar eclipse shadow moves west to the east, even though our sun and moon rise in the east.   The eclipse went across the entire US for the first time in almost a hundred years on August 21.  The shadow was moving at 2,400 mph starting in Oregon, then slowing down due to the curvature of the Earth to 1400 mph in Illinois for the greatest total eclipse duration for this eclipse of over two and a half minutes.  Then it sped up again going on to exit the US from South Carolina.  In other locations around the Earth, a total eclipse may last several minutes.  In 1973, a Concorde supersonic jetliner with scientists on board stayed in the total eclipse shadow for 75 minutes — still a world record for viewing totality!
If you are in a high enough location to see a total eclipse where you can see the ground far away, you may see the Moon’s shadow coming toward you. When you are in the shadow, you may see sunset 360 degrees around you.  You can feel the temperature drop as the partial eclipse shadow moves over you, and it will be noticeably even colder during totality.  Animal life gets confused and thinks it is nightfall. We had crickets start chirping on my eclipse tour at Jackson, WY, and nocturnal animals may wake up and become active.
As the leading edge of the Moon moves over the Sun to almost completely cover it, someone in the tour group shouted out “Diamond Ring” — This is the last bit of sun visible as the Moon covers it, and it looks like — well, a diamond ring…  Then it is safe to remove your solar filter glasses, or filters on whatever optics you are using, and view the total eclipse without filters.  Then comes “Baileys Beads” a view of smaller bright spots on the rim showing through valleys on the leading edge of the moon, which makes it look like a necklace or bracelet.
Then comes totality — The corona pops into view with white streamers and plumes extending multiple moon diameters in various directions around the dark black disk of the completely eclipsed sun!  This event must be experienced to get the full effect.  The children in the group go wild — including teenagers who had been blase until this point.
The experience of totality seemed like it lasted only several seconds, even though it was over two minutes long in reality.  In fact, an oft-quoted eclipse expert has said that “totality is always eight seconds long.”
At the end of totality when the trailing edge of the moon starts to move off of the sun, some chromosphere and then “Bailey’s beads” reappear at the trailing edge of the Moon, followed by another “Diamond Ring.” The Solar filters go back in place for the trailing part of the partial eclipse phase — But most people start to leave, as they already saw the partial phases leading up to the total eclipse.   Anything after seeing a total eclipse is anticlimactic.
Now, I am thinking about a cruise to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific in 2019 and seeing the eclipse from a ship.  Or, maybe seeing the eclipse from the coast of Chile north of Santiago and stopping at Manchu Pichu on the way

 

By Glenn Mucklow

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VOICE-Wide State Election Forum-Oct. 15

Location: Patriot High School, Prince William County – 10504 Kettle Run Road

Join 1,600 VOICE clergy, school, and other community leaders from 75+ institutions representing 180,000 families from throughout NOVA to hear how the Gubernatorial & Attorney General candidate will lead on OUR VOICE Issues. VOICE is strictly non-partisan.

Event starts at 4:30 PM

  • Sign up to join St. Mary’s delegation at this forum event. Be sure to tell us if you are interested in carpooling.
  • Can’t make this event, but would like to learn about outcomes and additional VOICE events? Sign up!

Event Category: Team Meeting
Event Date: Sunday, October 15, 2017 – 16:30

Blessing of the Pets Oct. 8 @ 5:00 pm

Furry and Feathered Friends are invited to join us for the 5:00 service at the point for a Eucharist and a Blessing. Our neighbors from Rock Springs Congregational Church will be joining us and participate fully.
After the joint worship (outdoor) service at St. Mary’s fenced in “point,” we will have activities at three tables for those attending.
  • Table 1 – Certificates of Blessings to fill out
  • Table 2- Animal Tattoo’s for children
  • Table 3 – Goldfish, apple slices, water, and doggie and cat treats (Rock Springs and St. Mary’s to provide)
 
A photo area will be set up so that people can take pictures with their pet ( using their own mobile device or camera)
  • Please note: If it rains, we will move the worship service indoors, but the pet event will be rescheduled for another time.

20’s & 30’s Gathers Sept 25 @ 6:00 pm

Capture a glimpse into this group as we gather for a meal (in Paca Hall) and conversation about our Response to God’s blessing — Fr. Chris will guide the reflection of this phenomenon. Jay and Lindsay Liwanag, who are part of the 20s and 30s group, will be there to help celebrate and extend the conversation about our talents, time and treasure.

Adults of all ages are invited.

Join us this Sunday, September 25 from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm.  Childcare will be provided.

Please RSVP via Sign Up Genius.

Sept 10: Regular Sunday Service Schedule Resumes

On Sunday, Sept. 10, St. Mary’s regular Sunday Worship Schedule resumes. 
>>Holy Eucharist at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. , 11:15 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.<< 

Sept. 10, we will have Children’s Chapel during the 9:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services.

Sept. 17, we will resume Sunday School, which is scheduled at 10:15 a.m. downstairs. Adult Forums and coffee hours will also resume at 10:15 a.m. upstairs in Paca Hall.

Weekday Services 

  • Tuesday
    12:00 p.m. – Noonday prayer
  • Wednesday
    6:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
  • Thursday
    11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist with Healing Prayer