By Faustine Colin
In almost every culture and society, before the invention of writing, the prodigious phenomenon of a solar eclipse was connected to a supernatural cause, the creation of God, or the appearance of a demon threatening to darken the world.
Today many traditional beliefs make the eclipse magical. But how magical is it and would you go as far as China or Egypt to see a five-minute event?
‘’In the dark of the moon,’’ a public talk at CCSU’s planetarium last Wednesday given by Dr. Kristine Larsen, gave meaning to those questions as she spoke about her trips to view total solar eclipses in Egypt and China.
The talk served to remind students of the mystery surrounding the sky, and despite that we see our planet as the whole world, it is just a speck of dust. 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical observations with a telescope and are celebrating a year of astronomy and that we are no longer the center of the universe.
Larsen, of the CCSU physics department, explained that she headed to Egypt for her first trip, where she was sure to catch a good view of the eclipse in the cloudless skies. She made listeners feel as though they were on the trip with her when she showed us sightseeing pictures of pyramids and other attractions.
On the day of the eclipse, on March 29, 2006, her group was escorted by security guards to the site where there were forty thousand astronomers preparing for the occasion. After hearing about the preparation of eclipse glasses, digital cameras, and telescopes and seeing pictures of the eclipse, it became clear why one would travel to another part of the world to catch at glimpse of an eclipse.
On her second trip to China, there was a 60 percent chance of a cloudy sky. After the sight-seeing, Larsen told listeners that her group had to find another spot to see the eclipse because it was supposed to rain in the original one.
Mario Motta, who organized the first trip, drove around Shina for ten hours until he finally found a dry place for viewing. The morning of the eclipse, between 9:30 and 10 a.m. the eclipse appeared. Larsen said that just after the sun emerged from behind the moon, the topography of the moon allowed beads of sunlight to shine through, called the Diamond ring effect.
“I literally stopped breathing,” Larsen said. After seeing the picture, guests of the talk believed her. That is the magical aspect of an eclipse, it can make a five-minute event last forever in the minds of those who witnessed it.
The upcoming year holds many astronomy-related events, such as planetarium shows, talks, hands-on workshops for children and special observing sessions throughout the year. Saturday, Oct. 3 is the planetarium show and on the following Saturday, CCSU Astronomy Academy looks into the “Astronomy of Harry Potter” from 2 to 4 p.m. by RSVP only. Another planetarium show follows, along with the event “The Stars of Hogwarts” at 4 p.m.
Astronomy Academy: Astronomy of Harry Potter
The Stars of Hogwarts