Back when astronomers were as bad as economists

8/21/2017: 1970 eclipse “Will Be Seen Only in Florida”, from the NYT in 1932:

By 1970 the astronomists were using a few more significant digits and they’d changed their prediction for the path of totality to include good chunks of Georgia, the Carolinas, and SE Virginia. So my Mother drove me and some Boy Scout friends down to Virginia Beach in her new Datsun 510. Sorry professor, it was total.

This time NASA seems to have nailed it. Lebanon Oregon had perfect weather, maybe 50 people in the park, plus the kid across the street yelling “Mom, you’ve got 5 minutes, come out here!” At totality we used some binoculars and could see the corona, beads, and 3 orange solar flares erupting at between 30 and 80 degrees. Of course no trip to Lebanon is complete without a stop at Research Mannikins, Came home the back way, no traffic to speak of.

8/29/2016: Duck physicists lose bidding war to Beavers for lucrative 2017 Solar Eclipse

It’s a bitter night down at the UO Faculty Club after NASA’s announcement that Corvallis – not Eugene – will have a place in the lucrative Path of Totality for the August 21 2017 Solar Eclipse. The official map is below.

NASA is still refusing to respond to my public records request for “all documents showing how the eclipse’s path was determined”, but the physics profs seem pretty sure the fix has been in for years. I’m guessing Corvallis took a page from the UO Foundation’s IAAF championship playbook and promised the NASA bosses free tickets and luxury hotel rooms, subsidized with their cut of the state’s lodging tax.

Yesterday the Eugene Astronomical Society, a special-interest group that sponsors celestial events – but which doesn’t have the gravitas to shift this thing 30 minutes of latitude south – published a revealing op-ed in the RG:

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Oregon is one of the best places climatologically to see this eclipse. Many will come here from all over the world, offering an economic boon to the state and creating an excellent educational opportunity. Watching day turn rapidly into twilight and seeing the black disk of the moon block the sun, allowing us to view the sun’s thin corona as bright stars and planets become visible, will be unforgettable.

Of course, even our astronomical boosters have to admit there’s a downside risk of permanent blindness:

Interstate 5 crosses the track of the eclipse for nearly 70 miles. There will be the usual heavy commercial traffic; some who aren’t aware an eclipse is occurring may be startled by sudden darkness at about 10:20 a.m., some will look while driving, and others will slow down or pull off the road, get out and look. This is a bad combination.

… you must use adequate eye protection: mylar eclipse glasses, No. 14 welding filters, commercial solar filters for optics, or indirect projection — not X-Ray or other film, sunglasses or staring at the sun. Eclipse glasses are cheap and easily available.

Sure they’ll be cheap – until the astronomers corner the market. Interactive map here:

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Say what you will about Senator Ron Wyden, but he does know how to bring in the pork. Oregon will be the only non-Trump state to get a major cut of the 2017 eclipse:

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7 Responses to Back when astronomers were as bad as economists

  1. You readers are invited to visit for more information on the 2017 eclipse.

  2. Tycho says:

    Mark my words, this eclipse will cast a dark penumbra over Oregon. And you think the energy tax credits are a shadowy business.

    • just different says:

      But there’s always something shady going on in Salem that never sees the light of day.

    • UO Matters says:

      “Trump appointed NASA scientists predict solar eclipse will cool US, eliminate need for CO2 reductions”

  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    I’m no physicist! But my physics friends tell me that Corvallis just might get sucked into a black hole when that eclipse passes over. Something to do with the nuclear reactor they have up there.

    Be very careful on Aug. 21!

  4. As the date of the August 21 eclipse draws near, keep this important safety information in mind: You MUST use special eclipse safety glasses to view a partial eclipse and the partial phases of a total eclipse. To do otherwise is risking permanent eye damage and even blindness. The ONLY time it’s safe to look at a TOTAL eclipse without proper eye protection is during the very brief period of totality when the Sun is 100 percent blocked by the Moon. If you’re in a location where the eclipse won’t be total, there is NEVER a time when it’s safe to look with unprotected eyes. NEVER attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device (camera, binoculars, telescope) that doesn’t have a specially designed solar filter that fits snugly on the front end (the Sun side) of the device. Additionally, never attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device while wearing eclipse glasses; the focused light will destroy the glasses and enter and damage your eyes.

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