Starfest is October 14 in Central Park and for the first time ever we will be combining solar viewing with a nighttime program! There will be a partial solar eclipse from 11 AM to 2:30 PM on October 14th when about 22% of the Sun’s disc will be occluded as viewed from New York City. We will be setting up our solar telescopes and handing out solar glasses for people at Bethesda Fountain which is near the east 72nd street entrance to the park. Then in the evening we will be hosting our traditional Fall Starfest at East Meadow from 7-10 PM, and you can enter the Park on East 96th street to see us there with our scopes set up. Of course, some of us will be traveling out West to New Mexico and Utah to take in the full solar eclipse on that day. I am especially looking forward to it as this solar eclipse will be what is called an annular eclipse. We did a series of classes on eclipses back in July when we discussed eclipse lore, eclipse history, and the celestial mechanics driving eclipses. If you missed this wonderful series of classes, reach out to [email protected] to see the recordings.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is a bit more distant from the Earth in its orbit. Astronomers call this position “apogee”, and it makes the moon a little smaller in terms of its visual diameter. As such it does not completely block out the light from the sun, and instead we get this wonderful golden ring around the sun as you can see from this photograph from NASA. As a Tolkien fan I like to think of this phenomenon as a reminder of “The One Ring” from his famous “Lord of the Rings” novels. In that regard I see myself and the fellow club members traveling out West to see this event as a fellowship of AAA members paying homage to one of life’s great astronomical events that hopefully all of you may one day witness. And if you grant me ripping off an iconic Gandalf quote: “An astronomer is never late, nor is he early. He always arrives precisely when he means to…” especially when it comes to seeing an eclipse!