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 www.astropublishing.com (and facebook).

Browser-readable version (and PDF download): www.astropublishing.com/3FAM2024/

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!

Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Lecture Slides


For more info about the Solar System Ambassador program (and to join!), visit science.nasa.gov/engage/solar-system-ambassadors/

Lecture Locations

Slidedeck (Powerpoint)

  • PPTX (370MB) – whole slide deck with embedded videos, slide notes, and external links

PDFs (No Videos, But Faster Downloads)

  • PDF (28MB) – just the slides
  • PDF & Notes (25MB) – slides with brief notes about the discussion that occurred around each slide