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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The Eclipse of the Century Part 1 of 3: There and back again

The Eclipse of the Century Part 1 of 3: There and back again

Waking up in my own bed today, I felt a little like Alice waking beside the rabbit hole, not sure if the adventure of my last week was real or not. Luckily I have pictures to confirm the reality of the past 10 days. On July 15th, I flew from St Louis, MO (38° 45′ N, 90° 23′ W) to Shanghai, China (31° 14′ N, 121° 29′ E), traveling 11 timezones and ~148 degrees around the globe. I was on my way to join the Eclipse of the Century tour group to board the Costa Allegra and chase what was the longest eclipse of this century, at just over 6 minutes. Along the way we would explore the South Korean island of Cheju (also spelled Jeju), and the Japanese cities of Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima. After the last of these cities we...

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Getting ready for a Hungry Dragon

Getting ready for a Hungry Dragon

I’m currently in Shanghai, China. The city is undergoing a truly amazing amount of construction as it prepares for Expo 2010 (a version of the world’s fair I believe). Everywhere there are young trees and new landscapes growing up along roads still being built and building from ancient times that are being refurbished in a frenzy of labor. 20 million people in one place; it is amazing. There are the negatives: exceedingly aggressive beggers, horrible smog, frightening traffic. But at the same time there is an awesomeness to the sheer scale of humanity at this high a density. I’m here to see the July 22 Solar Eclipse. In Chinese lore this is a Dragon consuming the Sun. In pre-modern times, people would bang pots and launch fireworks and otherwise...

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On the road again

As my mostly empty blog hints, life has gotten away from me. From Portal to the Universe in the fall to Galaxy Zoo in the winter to travel travel travel in spring and summer, I’ve been happily running amok online and on American Airlines for the past 10 months or so. I’ve reached the point of “Wow – it’s not going to calm down, is it?” and I’m going to try and force myself to budget time to blog since it is clear that free time no longer exists (or at least free time not spent with the newest member of our household – my horse Skye) In this first blog post (which will be followed in short order by at least two more posts on MS Faculty Summit and the upcoming Solar Eclipse I’m going to go see) I want to...

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Heathrow 5, Munich, and a Dragon

Heathrow 5, Munich, and a Dragon

I’m not quite sure how I’m still moving, but I am. Friday, a little after noon Central time (GMT-6) I gathered my belongings and rushed for a plane. From St Louis to Chicago, with a run from Terminal H to K, I raced to catch a flight to London. Finally settling into my seat (39J) I settled in to fly roughly a quarter of the way around the globe. Airplanes are one of those random places where I get to learn just how poor education is in America. As we sat waiting to take off, the women in 40J loudly complained into her cell phone, “I don’t understand why we have to fly all across Canada and then down over England. Why can’t we just Fricken Fly straight to F***ing London.” She, like the rest of us, was looking at the map that...

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