Get Ready for 2017 Solar Eclipse
With clearing skies, AstroCampers targeted the sun by day in anticipation of the 2017 solar eclipse. While a partial solar eclipse will be visible August 21, 2017, across all of North America, the staff encourages kids and their families to prepare well in advance to witness a total eclipse that will be visible along a narrow swath from Oregon to South Carolina.
Staff guided the kids by looking at the sun with live video images of solar prominences; by projecting the admittedly spotless solar disk onto white poster board; by using a commercial Sunspotter and a homemade Sun Funnel; by looking through #14 (and only #14) welding goggles; and by observing prominences and surface features with a hydrogen alpha telescope. They even burned holes deliberately in paper to emphasize the ever-present danger of viewing the sun recklessly.
Twilight featured three prominent planets, eliciting smiles and exclamations by AstroCampers new to astronomy. At first awkwardly, they slewed their 8-inch reflector telescopes to emerging Jupiter, which had four moons dangling off to one side. Visible dark and light belts indicated today's weather on the giant planet--high winds going this way and that. Mars was prominent to the south as a ruddy ball, outshining but conveniently near the star Antares, which means "rival of Mars". Saturn always delights, and its tilted rings didn't disappoint as the kids quickly improved their telescoping skills.