Monday, May 21, 2012

Eclipse Trip

We had a fun, event-filled weekend this past week. The events started early Saturday morning with the Ogden Marathon. I got a best-ever time of 3:29. You can read my race report here.

After the marathon, Rita and I went to lunch at my favorite restaurant, Winger's. Then we packed the kids into the car and headed to St. George for a relaxing evening in the warmth of Southern Utah. On Sunday afternoon we drove to Parowan Gap to watch the solar eclipse with the Ogden Astronomical Society. The event was a private gathering for the members of the society, so we expected about 10-20 people. To our amazement there were about 100 people there.

Eclipse observers just outside the Parowan Gap
The gap is about 12 miles from I-15, half way between Parowan and Cedar City. Its claim to fame is a set of sophisticated petroglyphs that include detailed astronomical observations made by the Sevier-Fremont people starting about 1,500 years ago. We parked about 200 yards from the gap in a grassy area that would provide good viewing of the eclipse. We then walked up the rode to the petroglyphs.

BLM Lecture
We when arrived, there was a lecture in progress being hosted by the BLM. As we learned, the largest, most sophisticated petroglyph is called the Zipper Glyph that is a detailed map of the surrounding foothills. The glyph details the location of several gatherings of rocks called cairns, which are located at various spots in the nearby hills. Each cairn is positioned such that the sun, moon, or planets are just visible in the gap during significant astronomical events (e.g. during the summer or winter solstice).

The Zipper Glyph

After the lecture, we walked back to the car and got settled in to watch the eclipse. It wasn't a total eclipse, but rather an annular eclipse, which means the moon was directly in front of the sun but too small to block it out entirely. Instead, it formed a "ring of fire" by blocking out all but a thin ring of sunlight. Our observational equipment consisted of eclipse glasses and my telescope. It would be much too bright to look through the telescopes eyepiece, so we instead projected the image of the eclipse onto a piece of paper. This provided a surprisingly detailed view of the sun, along with a couple of prominent sun spots that just happened to be visible. A side benefit of this technique was that I was able to get good pictures of the event. Here you can see me looking at the eclipse when the sun was only about a fourth the way obscured.

Brent checking out the partially-obscured sun

Here are the eclipse glasses in action:
Kenna, Alec, Rita, and Todd kick back and watch the eclipse
This is what the eclipse looked like at its peak:
The Ring of Fire
After the eclipse, we drove home to Layton, arriving after 1:00am. It made for a difficult Monday morning, but it was a very unique event and everyone in the family enjoyed it.


Barb said...

Brent awesome I don't understand how you took pictures of the eclipse. I love the history of the site how great. And of course PB at the first of the season soooooooooo excited. You know something great about setting a goal and not getting it the first time, is that it will mean that much more to you when you do get and I do believe that you will get it.

Beverly said...

How FUN!!! Wish I had been there for both events. Keep up the posts. We love them.