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Archive for September, 2011

Eclipse of the Century

In Hawaii on July 11, 1991, astronomers and scientists discovered a remarkable opportunity to examine a total eclipse of the sun. Sun, moon and earth would perfectly align, achieving “totality” directly above technologically advanced observatories perched atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano. For the first time, giant telescopes could see behind the sizzle of the sun and begin to understand our closest star.

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NOVA (PBS) – Eclipse of the Century (1992)
(Video hosted on Youtube.)

ut the project was not as simple as it seemed. In the days preceding “the eclipse of the century,” astronomers faced equipment breakdowns, incompatible telescopes, threatening weather and a celestial spectacle that would wait for no one. Join the action as scientists prepare for an unprecedented look at the normally invisible corona, the sun’s superheated atmosphere. And take a breathtaking look at the sky’s most exciting event. As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon fully or partially covers the Sun as viewed from a location on Earth. This can happen only during a new moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth. At least two, and up to five, solar eclipses occur each year; no more than two can be total eclipses. Total solar eclipses are nevertheless rare at any particular location because totality exists only along a narrow path on the Earth’s surface traced by the Moon’s umbra.

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