IAU First Impressions

Let the chaos begin! I’m currently at the XXVII General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Rio de Janeiro. For the next two weeks, astronomers from all around the globe will converge on the SulAmerica Convention Center. I’m here to represent the USA in Special Session 2: The International Year of Astronomy. I have 12 minutes this afternoon to communicate all the IYA events in the USA, ranging from NASA events to Independent events to movie events, to everything else, including all of new media. In 12 minutes. I feel like I’m preparing as 12 course sampling menu, where no one item is enough to sate you, but taken together you feel a bit plump. I arrived mid-day yesterday, and I have to admit that I’m still trying to process...

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Eclipse of the Century Part 3 of 3: My First Total Eclipse

I have had several near misses with the Sun. In 1984, I lived beneath an annular eclipse that occurred above rather thick and nasty rain clouds. In 1994 I viewed a partial eclipse from the upper peninsula of Michigan. Total eclipses, however, have always avoided my path. This year I decided to purposely put myself directly in the path of the eclipse of the century. The phrase “Eclipse of the Century” sounds a bit pretentious, but with this summer’s eclipse that phrase actually applied. This eclipse had the longest totality time that will occur during this century thanks to the lucky combination of the moon being about as close as it gets to the Earth and Sun being about as far as it gets from the earth. This meant the Sun appeared (if measured...

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The Eclipse of the Century Part 2 of 3: Nagasaki

Writing this series of blog post got somewhat stalled as I tried to figure out how to explain Nagasaki. Some things are easy to communicate. For instance, I went to breakfast at a diner that had eggs and spent an amusing 3 minutes trying via much pointing and sign language to first understand the question “What type of bread do you want with your eggs?” and then answer it (thick, btw, was what I ended up with). There was also an excellent meal of small cooked foods on sticks. And the city tram was safe, and clean, and only mildly confusing. But food and tram rides aren’t the major things one goes to Nagasaki to see. 20 years from now there are three things I’m certain I’ll remember: The day of the eclipse, eating fugu in a sushi shop...

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