Free Astronomy Magazine – And Aurora! – July-August 2024 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: The Sun, putting on another show the morning after (11 May 2024) from downtown Rochester.

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (July-August 2024) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and Arabic at (and facebook).

Browser-readable version (and PDF download):

The amazing aurora from May 10/11 of this year (didn't you hear? was perfectly timed to coax an informative article for this issue about when and how often the Sun might be far less benign. Since the solar events of 1859, we've gone even farther down some "War Of The Worlds"-esque path, where our technology has become simultaneously more complex (computation) yet more fragile (one good solar storm = kaput). Whereas the Carrington Event lit some telegraph lines and made for some great press the days and weeks after, a similar (or worse) event might risk knocking out every satellite we have in orbit and a whole lot of transformers on the ground, setting us back decades and sending us back as far as our own natures might permit.

With that said, I'm very pleased that Michele chose to replace one of his much better aurora pics from the original draft with one that I took (that I only sent along to show him that we had a display here as well).

That story – The Mrs. and I snuck out after the kids were asleep on May 10th in hopes of finding a quiet clearing along the southern edge of Lake Ontario. Try as we might, every festival that could have been going on was going on. 45 minutes of driving later, we head back to the house having not seen much of anything on the road anyway. I park and go to the deck for one random look and, good heavens, aurora! We're minutes from major retailers, lit parking lots, neighbors who have complicated my observing attempts for years, and the show was amazing. Grabbed the camera and tripod, set to long exposure, and just hung out for another hour. Was, by far, the best show I've ever seen the Sun put on. Click either below for a larger view.

Dazed and tired from the night before, we're making our morning rounds on the 11th when the Sun put on another impressive show from the comfort of our sunroof – in this case a gorgeous halo.

Morning solar halo, with random bird for unusable scale.

Made up, a bit, for missing the total solar eclipse around here.

Free Astronomy Magazine – And Eclipse Commentary – May-June 2024 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: Everything except the clear skies. Theodore, papou, filtered scopes, our DIRECTV "cloudsonian" (long story, fun project, post to follow), and an overly-optimistic prep for the 8 April 2024 total solar eclipse from the backyard.

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (May-June 2024) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure in English, Italian, Spanish, French, and Arabic at (and facebook).

Browser-readable version (and PDF download):

My initial contribution to this issue was going to be the "(and didn't)" part of the feature article. Instead, that main article is primary due to fellow contributor François Blateyron, who traveled to Mazatlán, Mexico to enjoy the first land-touch of totality for this most amazing event.

The entirety of my half-unused contribution is reproduced below, which I include here as my Rochester-centric observing report of the afternoon. Having talked up the eclipse during my eight Solar System Ambassador lectures in the area over the few weeks leading up to totality, I can say I was disappointed for myself and the whole area (but did my best to talk up the NASA component of the eclipse for the article). It was great to watch the buzz among the local astronomy clubs and those members who hit-road to greener pastures and bluer skies – so much so that this house is committed to that same road-hit at some point in the next 50 years or so.

A long, thin slice of the United States and portions of Mexico and Canada were treated this past April 8th to a total solar eclipse, the second solar eclipse since August 21st of 2017 and the last total solar eclipse for the continental Unites States until the 23rd of August, 2044. An estimated 32 million people were already living under the path of totality of the April 8th solar eclipse, with estimates by some tourism organizations of 5-to-10 million more people making the pilgrimages to be along that path. Given the length and direction of the path over North America, it is arguable that this was one of, if not the, most well-attended solar eclipse in history.

That is not to say, however, that it was the most directly-observed totality in history. The weather over some of the most anticipating locations along the path, including the author's location in the Buffalo/Rochester area, went from pristine and blue on Sunday to fully overcast for the duration of Monday. For those of us in the Rochester, NY area, the only direct evidence that the Sun was even present in the sky was it being daylight (of course) and, in my backyard, a converted DirecTV dish for simple solar observing, producing a highly-audible tone when directly aligned with the Sun that slowly decreased in volume as the Earth slowly rotated the dish away.

The email list for the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science, our local astronomy club, was busy through the evening prior to the eclipse. For some members, discussions were of morning drives and redirections to alternative locations. For others, it was the planning for the club eclipse event on the observatory grounds regardless of the predicted state of cloud cover. Members of the Syracuse Astronomical Society (Syracuse, NY) and Kopernik Astronomical Society (Binghamton, NY) engaged in the same discussions of where to go and how clear the skies might be in their respective lists, making for a dynamic few days among the local amateur astronomy communities.

We missed the sight of totality, but all of the additional features of a total solar eclipse were present. The transition from near-totality to totality is remarkably fast, with the sky going from near-sunset brightness to well-past-dusk over only a minute. We were spared the large change in temperature associated with totality by the insulating cloud cover, but there was a noticeable change going into and out of totality. The silencing of birds and rustling at the ground from nocturnal animals might be obvious in a secluded location – those of us in the suburbs were treated to hoots, hollars, the occasional firecracker, and clapping hands in the distance.

NASA was a prominent force in promoting outreach for the eclipse, coordinating citizen science efforts during the eclipse, and addressing solar safety prior to the eclipse. The NASA Solar System Ambassador program, a volunteer effort that provides schools, libraries, and other interested parties with technical astronomy and space science expertise, hosted 37 lectures specifically for the eclipse just within the author's Central/Western New York area. The NASA Science Editorial Team reports that over 36,000 people provided over 60,000 observations and datapoints to a number of citizen science projects. For those with their smartphone at the ready, the GLOBE Observer Project provided data about environmental changes during the eclipse, while the SunSketcher Project members took pictures of Bailey's beads in efforts to better determine the size and shape of the Sun. To the cellphone-focused GLOBE Observer and SunSketcher projects, several projects involving telescopes, DSLR cameras, and HAM radios were also NASA-sponsored, including HamSCI, Eclipse Soundscapes, the Eclipse Megamovie, CATE 2024, and the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative. While a total eclipse provides great opportunity to promote such efforts to a wider audience, there are a multitude of citizen science programs currently awaiting involvement and contributions from the general public – you are encouraged to consider contributing!