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From my understanding over the course of the seasons the moon and sun rise at varying locations. Though the day to day differences are no noticeable, to me at least. For instance, in the summer, the sun takes a longer path overhead as a result of the earths tilt towards the sun in the summer months -- in the winter, short paths.
With the seemingly negligible difference in path lengths of the sun from day to day why then do solar eclipses only happen on a single day and not over the course of many days? It seems that if the moon and sun paths during the day were to intersect they should do it multiple days in a row as their path lengths across the sky during the day change.
I assume the answer to this lies particularly with the moons orbit around the earth and its shape/inclination. But I am far from my last astronomy courses and have lost all the jargon and knowledge needed to determine this.
The reason is because the moon moves much faster (in terms of angle per day) than the sun. In fact it moves on average 12.5 degrees per day, and all in the same direction. Given that the sun is only about 0.5 degrees in diameter, it doesn't take long for the moon to overtake it, and once it's past it doesn't go backwards.
Eclipses last for a couple to maybe a few hours, from a certain point of view. The time that an eclipse lasts is most commonly discussed relative to a specific location. For eclipse watchers, you park your car, get your glasses, and watch the show that lasts for a couple minutes for the total eclipse. (Longer for the partial).
Using this map
The eclipse hit Oregon at 10:17 AM Pacific time (1:17 PM Eastern time). It passed over the east coast of South Carolina at 2:46 PM Eastern time, or 1 hour and 29 minutes later. If you count the time the eclipse passed over parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, it probably lasted over 2 hours and if you count partial eclipses, a fair bit longer than that.
The difficulty is, to see the eclipse for 2 hours, you'd need to be in a fast plane, following the path.
The sun is about 1/2 of 1 degree of arc in the sky, or 1/720th the full circle. A Lunar synodic orbit takes 29.5 days, and 1/720th of 29.5 days is about 1 hour and that's partial to partial. The total eclipse is a small fraction of that and lasts a few minutes max, depending on how close the Moon is to the Earth and it's relative size to the sun. So for a total eclipse, it only takes a couple minutes for the Moon to pass through a complete one.
The reason why eclipses last longer than that the 1 hour it takes the Moon to move 0.5 degrees relative to the sun is because the Earth is quite large. At nearly 8,000 miles in diameter, it takes the a bit over 3 1/2 hours for the Moon's shadow or umbra, moving on average about 2,230 mph, to pass over nearly 8,000 miles and 4 1/2 hours time if you include the partial eclipse. That's only if it hits near the equator. If the eclipse only grazes the Earth near a pole it lasts much less time.
The 1 hour and 27 minutes is in part cause it takes the Moon about 1 hour to pass over the United States around Noon, and because the Earth rotates with the Moon, in the same direction, in a sense, the US is trying to keep up with the Moon's shadow, so that extends the time to about 1.5 hours to cross the US. If the Earth rotated faster, say, roughly 8-10 hour days depending on your latitude, then it might be possible to observe hour long total eclipses because the Earth's rotation could roughly match the Moon's relative movement to the sun under optimal conditions, but a 24 hour rotation is too slow for that to happen.
That's the problem with timing these things, we're on a rotating sphere observing an orbiting object. Eclipses vary in duration for those reasons. For the longest eclipse to the stationary observer, look for an eclipse near the equator and near mid-day. A larger, close moon might provide a total eclipse a little longer, but the closer the Moon is the faster it orbits so for a larger-closer moon, the partial eclipse period would be somewhat shorter.
I hope that wasn't unnecessarily complicated. Dr. Chuck's answer is correct. It doesn't take long for the Moon to cross the Sun's position in the sky. About 1 hour edge to edge.
This article goes into even more detail on these points with some videos if interested.
When Exactly Will the Eclipse Happen? A Multimillenium Tale of Computation
On August 21, 2017, there’s going to be a total eclipse of the Sun visible on a line across the US. But when exactly will the eclipse occur at a given location? Being able to predict astronomical events has historically been one of the great triumphs of exact science. But in 2017, how well can it actually be done?
The answer, I think, is well enough that even though the edge of totality moves at just over 1000 miles per hour it should be possible to predict when it will arrive at a given location to within perhaps a second. And as a demonstration of this, we’ve created a website to let anyone enter their geo location (or address) and then immediately compute when the eclipse will reach them—as well as generate many pages of other information.
Table 1 shows the chronology of events in the Odyssey and the numbering of days used henceforth, with an explanation of sequential and parallel chronologies a full listing of referenced passages and line numbers is in Table S1. The overt astronomical references in the Odyssey are few, yet significant. As Odysseus sets out from the island of Ogygia on the evening of Day −29 (v.270–277), he navigates by the stars as instructed by Calypso, watching the Pleiades and late-setting Boötes, and keeping the Great Bear to his left. [A few of these exact same lines appear in the Iliad (Il. xviii.485).] Later, as the Phaetians give him passage, they see Venus just before arriving in Phorcys's Bay before dawn on Day −5 (xiii.93–96). Several passages note the night before the massacre of the suitors and the presumed eclipse is New Moon: Odysseus himself, disguised as a beggar, declares first to Eumeus (xiv.161) and then to Penelope (xix.306) that Odysseus shall arrive after the passing of this Moon and the beginning of the new one Night −2 is dark and moonless (xiv.457). Because Day 0 is also stated multiple times to be the festival day of Apollo, a solar deity, there has been some speculation that the conjunction of a lunar and a solar period marks the end of a Metonic cycle (17, 18). We shall supplement these three overt references with a more conjectural one. There are two significant voyages of Gods (19) that appear precisely once in the epic. First, Hermes travels far west to Ogygia, makes a long-winded protestation about the length of his trip (v.55, v.97–103), delivers his information, and immediately travels back east. We shall interpret this trip as an allusion to a planetary motion of Mercury. Although this interpretation is fraught with uncertainty, we shall try our best to support it below and although it remains conjectural, we shall assume it as a hypothesis and see where it leads us. Second, at the outset, Poseidon is “in the land of the Ethiopians” immediately after returning, he sees Odysseus on his raft and sinks him (v.282). This has been conjectured to be an allusion to the Equinox (34) we shall not assume this conjecture, although we will bear it in mind.
Chronology of the Odyssey
To search for a potential date satisfying the references, we shall use the following strategy. The classical estimates for the date of the fall of Troy are (in years B.C.): 1135 (Ephorus), 1172 (Solsibus), 1184 (Eratosthenes), 1193 (Plato), 1208 (Parian chronicles) 1212 (Dicaearchus), ≈1250 (Herodotus) and 1333 (Douris) in addition, the most likely candidate for Homeric Troy is Troy VIIa, whose destruction layer has been dated to ≈1190 B.C. Neglecting Douris's estimate, separated from the others by the largest margin, this gives a range of 1240–1125 B.C. for Odysseus's return to Ithaka. These dates are modern interpretations and subject to uncertainty in ancient chronologies, so we shall extend the range by 10 years in both directions, to search in the range 1250–1115 B.C.
As Day 0 is a New Moon, we enumerate all 1684 New Moons in the range 1250–1115 B.C. call the date of each Ti. We shall then require that on Ti −29 the constellations be seen as described, that on Ti −5 Venus be high in the sky before Dawn, that on Ti −34 Mercury be far to the west, as detailed below.
There are numerous caveats that should be borne in mind. Many long-term trends need to be accurately estimated to obtain the position of stars and planets in historical periods: the precession of the axis of the earth, proper motion of the stars, accurate orbital parameters for planets and moons, and a good fit to the braking action of the tides on Earth (20), for which verified historical records of eclipses have been instrumental (2, 16, 21–30). Similarly, star and planetary visibility require an understanding of the refracting nature of the atmosphere close to the horizon, and the different visibility of a dim star or planet after sunset or before sunrise, depending on whether it lies on the same or the opposite side of the horizon as the Sun. These calculations are now implemented in commercial as well as open source astronomical software. Emphasizing that this exploration is available to any enthusiast, our calculations were done with off-the-shelf software we used Starry Night Pro as our general planetarium software [ref. 31 plots presented in this article were produced by using Starry Night Pro, which uses VSOP87 for planetary positions and Chapront's ELP-2000/82 for the Moon's position, and computes ΔT adjustments according to Meeus following Stephenson and Morrison (1984) with additional adjustments ΔT for our eclipse is 27,602.7 sec], EmapWin for maps of eclipse tracks [custom-corrected for the latest ΔT revisions from Espenak (2)], and Planetary, Lunar, and Stellar Visibility version 3.0 (32) for atmospheric extinction calculations of visibility phenomena. In the latter, we use its standard magnitude-corrected parameters for visibility phenomena, assuming a minimum height of 1° for visibility of Mercury and 2° for the Pleiades. We remind the reader that dates of first and last visibility are not astronomical but rather psychophysical phenomena influenced by weather, and should always be assumed to have an uncertainty of at least a day. All dates shall be in the Julian calendar, all times local to the Greek islands, and all seasonal references affected by Julian date creep and equinox precession refer to the 12th Century B.C.E.
Solar eclipse 2021: ‘Ring of fire’ to sweep across the Earth
It's celestial showtime on Thursday as much of the Northern Hemisphere gets to witness a solar eclipse.
This particular event is what's termed an annular eclipse. It will see the Moon move across the face of our star but not completely block out the light coming from it.
Instead, there will be just a thin sliver of brilliance left to shine around the Sun's disc.
The best of the action will be in the Arctic.
Yes, not many people live there, but a good portion of the globe will still get treated to a partial eclipse where the Moon appears to take a big bite out of the Sun.
This will include the eastern United States and northern Alaska, along with much of Canada, Greenland, and parts of Europe and Asia.
In the UK, the most favourable place to watch, in terms of the percentage of the Sun's disc that gets covered up, will be in Scotland - somewhere like Lerwick in the Shetland Islands (11:27 BST), or Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis (11:18 BST)
These places will see about 40% of the Sun eclipsed.
But even down south, in London (11:13 BST) for example, 20% of the star will be covered over.
As ever, the advice is not to try to look at the Sun with the naked eye. This can do severe damage.
Anyone gazing skyward should only do so with the aid of protective viewing equipment, such as approved eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector.
Better still, attend an organised event. Local astronomy clubs will be out in force to show people how to view the eclipse safely.
The so called "path of annularity" - the track across the Earth's surface where the Moon sits entirely within the Sun's disc to give the greatest spectacle - begins at sunrise in Ontario, Canada, at 09:49 GMT (10:49 BST).
It then sweeps across the top of the globe, including over the North Pole, to eventually reach Russia's Far East and lift off the planet at sunset at 11:33 GMT (12:33 BST).
The place which enjoys the greatest duration eclipse - at almost four minutes in length - is in the middle of the Nares Strait, the narrow channel that divides the Canadian archipelago from Greenland.
There'll be few there, however, to see 90% of the Sun's disc being blocked out. Perhaps only the odd walrus or two on an ice floe.
For all other locations, there are plenty of calculators out there where you can input your nearest city or town to get more relevant timings, such as here.
Not every eclipse can be total. The Moon's orbit around the Earth is not perfectly round the satellite's distance from the planet varies from about 356,500km to 406,700km (221,500 to 252,700 miles).
This difference makes the Moon's apparent size in the sky fluctuate by about 13%.
If the Moon happens to eclipse the Sun on the near side of its orbit, it totally blocks out the star (a total eclipse). But if the Moon eclipses the Sun on the far side of its orbit, as now, the satellite will not completely obscure the star's disc - and a "ring of fire" or annulus of sunlight is seen.
"An eclipse gives us an opportunity to connect with the Sun," said Prof Lucie Green from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
"Normally, our star is so dazzlingly bright we kind of don't pay it much attention. But during an eclipse of one form or another, we're able - if we look safely - to watch the Moon glide in front of the Sun and remind ourselves of this clockwork Solar System we live in," she told BBC News.
Why Solar Eclipses Don't Happen Every Month (Animation)
A new NASA video explains what determines when Earth experiences solar eclipses — and why they don't happen every month, as the moon crosses between the sun and the Earth.
To prepare for the 2017 total solar eclipse, which will cross the continental United States on Aug. 21, NASA illustrated how the moon orbits the Earth and why the natural satellite's shadow sometimes lines up just right to move across Earth's surface, effectively blotting out the sun for a short period of time.
Because the moon's orbit wobbles up and down with respect to the Earth, the satellite's shadow can be too high or too low to cause a solar eclipse. If the moon partially covers the sun for a given location, that area experiences a partial solar eclipse. But if the moon fully covers the sun, it will cause either a total solar eclipse or an annular solar eclipse that's when a bright ring of light is still visible in the sky around the dark silhouette of the moon.
How to Deal with Eclipses
Eclipses are dramatic “wild cards” in our horoscopes. They are some of the most dramatic tools that the universe uses to get us to pay attention to areas in our life that need to change. They uproot us, surprise us, and get us moving. They shake us out of our feelings of compliancy so that we can move from one level of maturity to another, to a higher plane, and they work very rapidly. Eclipses want us to change, and change we do!
Each year, you might want to pay special attention to the number and sign of the eclipses that are due to arrive and in what houses and degree they fall. Usually we have four eclipses in one year. In 2011 we had six, and there was one additional eclipse just ten days prior to the start of that year, so in effect, we had seven eclipses within a very short period of time. Years like that are hard, because they demand so many adjustments in a very tiny time period.
As you scroll down you will see specific points that you can keep in mind when dealing with eclipses. I have developed this list by watching them closely each year and keeping notes of what happened to people I know. I love social media, especially Twitter, because we can all share our experiences, and my research can widen. Social media is public, so we can all learn from one another. If you would like to share your experiences, you are welcome to come by and add your comments. I am on Twitter almost every day.
First, Some Basic Information
(If you feel you know the basics, skip down to the next section. Here I will speak about families of eclipses.)
Eclipses always arrive in pairs, coinciding with new moon and full moons, as solar and lunar eclipses, respectively. They appear in a family of signs that are joined on the same axis. Said another way, eclipse families come in pairs of signs that are found exactly opposite each other (six months apart) on the horoscope wheel.
For example, back in 2015 we had eclipses in the Pisces-Virgo family of signs. They included a solar new moon eclipse on March 20, 2015 in Pisces at 29 degrees, and later, a solar eclipse September 12 in Virgo at 20 degrees arrived. Two eclipses in the Aries-Libra family dotted the year too, with a lunar eclipse in Libra on April 4, at 14 degrees, and lunar eclipse full moon September 27 Aries 5 degrees. As you see we have two families of eclipses going on during the same year, and sometimes that happens.
In 2016 the same thing happened. Three eclipses in the Pisces-Virgo family of signs, including solar eclipses on March 8 in Pisces at 19 degrees, a solar new moon eclipse on September 1 at Virgo 9 degrees, and a lunar eclipse September 16 in Pisces. Earlier in the year we have lunar full moon eclipse in Libra, on March 23, 2016 at 3 degrees and that one will finally concludes two years of Libra-Aries family of eclipses.
By March 23, 2016, the total number of eclipses that occurred in the Libra-Aries family will be six. The Pisces-Virgo family will finish in February 26, 2017 with a total number of six eclipses as well, and in either case, that is enough to cause a transformation.
If you have planets that correspond to the mathematical degree of the eclipse in you natal chart, you will note the news of the eclipse in a dramatic way. You will see an eclipse works retrograde, starting with a high mathematical degree and working backward to early degrees. Most people do not feel every eclipse in a family of signs, only the ones touching planets, the Sun, moon, or ascendant in the natal chart. Eclipses are powerful so you would not need to feel all of them. The randomness of the degrees ensures a wide number of people will feel them in their natal chart at some point.
A family of signs will keep occurring in pairs, coinciding with new moons and full moons, every five and a half months for 18 to 24 months, until they are done. At that point, your transformation will be complete. Once a family of signs is finished, it will not be back for about seven or eight years.
The years that hold eclipses in your sign or rising sign will be vital for you and trigger fascinating turning points, so if you are a Pisces, Virgo, Aries, or Libra, 2015 and 2016 will be landmark years for you.
Back in 2011, we saw a striking example of how two families of eclipses can overlap, with a solar eclipse in Gemini June 1, a lunar eclipse arriving two weeks later in Sagittarius on June 15, and a third – a solar eclipse – arriving in Cancer on July 1. Three eclipses in a row are somewhat rare, each two weeks apart. The July 1, 2011, eclipse marked the end of a two-year series in Cancer-Capricorn. That was a tough time, as we were all called to make many adjustments quickly.
What is the Difference between a Solar and Lunar Eclipse
In a Scientific and Astrological Sense?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon stands between the Sun and earth, cutting off the light of the Sun. This is what we typically think of when we use the word “eclipse,” with the moon covering the Sun.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth stands between the moon and the Sun, cutting off the light of the Sun from the moon. The moon has no light of her own, as she simply reflects the light of the Sun. Here the moon basically disappears. A lunar eclipse is always a full moon and usually marks endings or culmination points.
Any eclipse is a significant event in the heavens. In truth, a solar eclipse is really a new moon on steroids and a lunar eclipse is a full moon on steroids – they have the strength of three new moons or full moons.
I have a lot of tips, so be sure to read all the points I have listed below. I start with the most interesting points to consider, but keep reading – I would like you to know them all.
Let’s review the points to keep in mind about eclipses so that you can cope with any unexpected changes they may bring.
UNDERSTANDING AND COPING WITH ECLIPSES
1. Eclipses bring news of life’s big events.
An eclipse can bring news of a birth of a baby, an engagement or marriage, a promotion or career breakthrough, important travel, the signing of a vital business contract, or the start of one’s own business. An eclipse can bring the sale or purchase of a house, a move to a new home across the country, the acquisition (or loss) of a family pet, surgery, or an important health development. It might bring a college graduation, or the eclipse may mark the start of your course of study. Eclipses sometimes bring on a divorce, a newly published book – you get the idea. Monumental events, meetings and partings, or changes within your career may also take place at an eclipse – they are dates we usually long remember.
No matter what occurs, it will become evident that the universe is intent on moving you forward. Eclipses often mark a major turning point.
If nothing happens to you, it may be happening to friends and family around you, depending on the precise degrees of the planets in your chart. (More about that much later.)
2. With all eclipses, something ends and something else begins.
During an eclipse period, it is as though you will walk over a rickety old bridge. As you walk across this bridge, over a very deep, rugged, treacherous ravine, you may be a little nervous. Once you make it to the other side, the bridge will collapse and you will see the pieces fall far into the deep, perhaps making you jittery. The bridge snaps just as you get to safe ground, but you realize, first, that you could have been on that bridge when it fell (but you weren’t), and more importantly, you will never again be able to walk back over to the other side. Once we go through an eclipse, we can never go back to the former situation again, for the universe wants us to make progress, not go back to good old days. That option is taken away, forever. The only way with an eclipse is forward. If you find later you don’t like where you wind up, you can always have the option to make changes up ahead, but again, they must be future choices, not ones that bring you back to the past.
The changes could happen instantly, but they also can occur over a period of months with each successive eclipse. Still, the news of those changes often comes as a shock.
Solar eclipses tend to create new beginnings and bright new opportunities.
Usually, they are exciting, are often very positive, and bring news out of the blue. We always need to see the kind of conversations a moon or the Sun s having with the other planets to judge if the eclipse is completely friendly or not. Your own natal chart will matter too – I cannot see your natal chart from where I sit, so after you pass the eclipse, write a note on your calendar about what happened.
Lunar eclipses are more emotional, for they bring on final endings.
They often make us aware of the passage of time, and make us sentimental. A full moon lunar eclipse is almost always an emotional time. Memories and dreams come up to the surface, and sometimes we feel sentimental.
3. Each eclipse in a series is united in theme and is strung together like pearls on a necklace.
Each eclipse in one family of signs will advance the discussion that the eclipse first brings up to a higher, more sophisticated level, and keep doing so, as each eclipse of that family arises until the matter is resolved. By then, you have evolved too. It is as if the universe knows that we can’t possibly process all the information and massive change it needs us to do at once, so each eclipse will bring another development, related in theme to the ones that came before, until the matter is finished over an 18 or 24 month period. As said, however, only eclipses that are mathematically significant to your natal chart will affect you – not the ones that are too far away from touching planets in your chart. Those may have only a very mild effect, or none at all. This is why you need to have your horoscope chart.
I will always tell you the degrees and precise birthdays of the signs that will be affected by the eclipses. There are other ways you might be affected, and I will cover those instances later in this chapter.
4. Eclipses will bring a random event you do not expect, didn’t know about. It will be triggered by an event happening elsewhere, and that is completely outside your control, but at eclipse time bring vast changes will come straight to your doorstep.
I might be able to explain this idea more easily if I give you an example. Let’s say you are an agent for a top recording artist. You have been good to your client, working hard for him for years. When you took him on, no one else would even meet with him, but you saw talent in this person, and although he was completely unknown at the time, you built him into a superstar. His talent plus your hard work put him on top of the industry charts.
Another agent has now come in to poach your artist and has offered him an attractive contract, one you could never match. Your competitor feels that by getting this artist, he will be able to get more name artists. This artist is your main source of income, and you have always been loyal to one another. You felt you both were happy.
On the day of the eclipse, you receive an email in error. It is an email that you were not supposed to be copied on, but on that day, you received it. It reveals the secret talks your artist has been having with the other agent. Until the eclipse, you had no idea these talks have been going on behind your back. You will have to talk with your talent quickly to try to dissuade him from leaving – he is ready to sign the other agent’s offer.
Honestly, because this is an eclipse, your efforts might be futile, as once an eclipse comes by, the results tend to be final. Of course, you should make an attempt – but make sure you make a dramatic move. In this instance, you will have to fight fire with fire!
As you see, outside events or actions of others that you did not know anything about and that were outside of your control can create forces of change on a massive scale in your own life. As a result, you may reassess your assumptions, your business strategy, and the way you conduct business. Maybe you will feel that you had too many eggs in one basket by allowing this one artist to account for such a large part of your income. Maybe you will feel you were too trusting or did not remain competitive enough. You probably will have to draw up a quick plan to attract other talent to your stable – eclipses often form a time of complete evaluation, for they have the power to change everything related to the area of your life that eclipse is emphasizing.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that things that are happening in the outside world over which you have no knowledge or control would have the power to trigger conditions of such massive change at eclipse time, but that is precisely what can happen. It can be a big or small event that changes everything. In the latter case, it could be something as small as finding a torn ticket stub in your mate’s pocket while doing laundry that eventually reveals a secret affair. Indeed, often at eclipse time an important piece of information is given to you accidentally. Still, no matter how the information comes to you, it can set off a chain of events that will force you to see things in a new light.
5. Eclipses speed your sense of time and change the timetables.
Eclipses bring events that you assumed were months or years away right up to your front door now. Let’s say that you planned to marry in two years, after you and your fiance saved up enough money for a down payment on a house. Now let’s say either you or your partner suddenly gets a big promotion that will require one of you to move to London, You would have to accept the offer immediately to take advantage of that new position. Suddenly your marriage plans will change in an instant – and you and your fiance may quickly marry in your own country so that you can move to England to begin your new life together. Timetables change in a blink of an eye.
There is always a feeling of life moving very rapidly – it is life on fast-forward, or great acceleration. Sometimes an event will make us sentimental at eclipse time, as we are very cognizant of the passage of time.
6. The job of an eclipse is to shine a glaring ray of truth to the part of your life that is being touched, and truth will likely arrive in a startling way.
Eclipses are brilliant illuminators, revealing a truth about a condition that you never in a million years knew existed. Once you are given the information, the news can act as a catalyst to a major decision or action you will take. Most often we are shocked or surprised by the information that comes to us, for the eclipse is one of the most dramatic tools the universe uses to get you to sit up, pay attention, and take action. Eclipses are always your friends, for they are there to help to protect you. Always be grateful for truth.
Here is another way to think about the way eclipse work: Imagine that a puzzle piece fell out of the sky into your hands. This new piece offers information, and when added to the overall picture of your puzzle will change the complexion of the situation and bring you a flash of insight. You may say, “For the first time, I understand!” Now you have a full picture of the situation and can make a fuller, more realistic appraisal of what it means to you. You will also know what you must do next. This is the experience of an eclipse!
7. An eclipse, especially a full moon lunar eclipse, will help you to see the true character of someone close – brace yourself, you may not like what you see.
It is hard to see someone’s true colors, but if you are being shown this, be grateful. You might have been operating in the dark for much too long, putting yourself in jeopardy. Once you know, you can make appropriate plans.
8. Take any message you hear from an eclipse as non-negotiable and firm, so accept it, and then move on.
Realize that there is little or no chance of getting things reversed. Eclipses demand that we forward, not backward to the way things used to be. Save your dignity and do not plead – eclipses are final. If you break up, don’t plead for the other person to come back.
If you are truly heartbroken, the soonest you might be able to try again to get a reconciliation would be in precisely four months from the date of the eclipse (forming a “trine” aspect to the eclipse). That would be your only option, but be aware that finding a permanent remedy to mend the problem is not likely. The eclipse wants you to have new experiences, so keep your eyes open for what is to come next.
9. Take notice of all news and signals you get near an eclipse, and take them seriously, even if news comes as subjective and ambiguous as gossip.
While sometimes news at eclipse time will be delivered in a dramatic and obvious way, at other times, the news will come in much more subtly, as a secret or as a piece of gossip. Nevertheless it will foretell dramatic changes to come. The fact that you are hearing this near an eclipse means you must listen and investigate – do not ignore it, or by the time the next eclipse comes by in five and a half months from the date you hear this piece of information, the situation, may have grown bigger. Sometimes you are able to head off difficulties by paying attention to the signals you pick up at eclipse time.
10. It’s vital you guard your health if an eclipse falls within five days of your birthday, or if the eclipse falls almost exactly opposite your birthday.
If your birthday, for instance, falls on February 1, and the eclipse falls six months from your birthday, August 1, it is still significant, as it will be 180 degrees away, and aimed directly at you, so to speak.
Also, note if the eclipse falls on or close to your rising sign degree or any planets in the first house, as that one will be felt strongly in terms of health, too. Eclipses will sometimes point out underlying weaknesses in health that can be addressed quickly so that you can soon be feeling great again.
11. Eclipses almost always bring up all kinds of unexpected changes of direction, assuming your Sun, moon, or a planet is touched.
12. Occasionally, an important person to you will be “eclipsed out” of your life.
A solar eclipse generally points to a prominent male in your life, so often a man may leave. If you are to be affected, you may break up a relationship with a man, or see that your boss has quit and is leaving, as another example. Astrologers generally use the following pecking order when trying to determine which man it may be: father, husband, grandfather, prominent boss or business associate/client, or male friend.
Lunar eclipses are generally female. A female friend may say she’s moving away or getting married, and you may not see her as often in the future. Your relationship may likely change quite a bit. Or, you may have a falling out, you may never see each other or speak again (let’s hope not)! The usual order we use for a lunar eclipse is: mother, wife, grandmother, prominent female boss, client or business associate, or female friend.
This is generally the case most of the time, but occasionally these genders will swap out, and I am not sure why!
13. Events brought on by an eclipse always have much more weight than events brought on by a normal new or full moon.
Even though eclipses coincide with new and full moons, they are much stronger than a regular new or full moon. You can think of eclipses as a new or full moon on steroids. They pack so much more energy and punch than a normal lunation of the Sun or moon. In fact, they feel like they are three new or full moons rolled into one. An eclipse may even bring on an event that seems “fated” in some way.
14. Try not to issue ultimatums or make big actions under an eclipse.
Bide your time and act a few weeks after the eclipse, at a time when less static will fill the air. It’s best to respond to others’ messages, but not to initiate your own. Said another way, it is better to listen and respond than to issue announcements and ultimatums. Hold off on beginning new ventures at eclipse time. If you need to sign a contract, try to add several days beyond the date of the eclipse to sign when your judgment will become stronger and sharper.
Let’s say you get a great new apartment, and the only day you can move in is the first of the month, the same day of a total eclipse of the moon (full moon). You didn’t choose that day to move – your landlord did, or events just worked out that way. In this case, you are responding, so it is fine to act.
Now let’s say instead of that example, we have another instance. Let’s say you want to have a major talk with your sweetheart because you are unhappy about something in the relationship. Do so later, well after the eclipse, not on the eclipse when you won’t have such a highly charged atmosphere.
Having said that, eclipses tend to get truth to the surface very fast, like a geyser of water forcefully rising to the surface. You may not keep things inside, even though you planned to do so!
The first example shows an action someone else is asking you to respond to (if your landlord – good, you can respond to any changes the landlord brings up), but the latter is an action you chose to take under the eclipse (a talk with your sweetheart – not such a good time to do so). The ancient astrologers always wrote that if you act under an eclipse, your plan would not work out quite the way you expected, and it will likely not be to your advantage. Of course, every eclipse is different, and some are friendly to your planets and some are not. That’s why it’s better to consider the ideas of others at eclipse time, but not to make proposals or decisions of your own at that time.
A final word: If you are a manager or own your own business, do not hire anyone at eclipse time! Give 10 days after the eclipse to add to your staff.
One other point: if you must act at eclipse time, make it a solar, new moon eclipse, for that one will open new doors and create new opportunities. If you know an astrologer, be sure the eclipse is friendly to the natal planets in your unique chart.
15. If an eclipse falls on your birthday, or within five days of your birthday, the year that follows that particular birthday will be a critical one for you.
You may experience a big change in lifestyle or massive change in one specific part of your life. The same is true if the eclipse falls on your rising sign – the first house of your chart. Your old life may now fade into history as a new one shapes up.
16. Eclipses that are in the same element (fire, air, water, or earth) as your birth sign are generally friendly and helpful.
Let me give you an example. If you are a Pisces (water) and there’s an eclipse in Scorpio (water), generally it will be positive for you. Of course the closer the mathematical degrees of the eclipse match your Sun, the better and the more important the eclipse will be for you.
I do have to add the disclaimer that we always have to look at all the planets involved in your chart and see how they are aspected at birth, but generally, this rule will be true. Eclipses in the same element are often friendly to each other.
The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. The air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
17. At eclipse time, keep your schedule light and elastic. No matter what is on your agenda at the time, something else will come in to demand immediate attention.
18. Leos tend to feel new moon solar eclipses strongly, because the Sun is their ruler. Said another way, the Sun rules Leo.
19. Cancers tend to feel full moons and lunar eclipses strongly, as the moon rules Cancer.
20. Once a family of signs is finished, it will not be back for seven or eight years.
For example, as soon as the Pisces-Virgo series of eclipses are done on February 26, 2017, that series will not be back until September 17, 2024.
21. Gold Star Point: Eclipses repeat in nearly exact degree and sign every 19 years.
While the family of signs will repeat sooner than that, in about seven or eight years, they will appear in different mathematical degrees than they did recently. However if you go back 19 years and look at the series of eclipses that arrived that year, you may be astounded to see that all of them will be nearly identical in the family of sign, mathematical degree and precise date it arrived. Keep in mind that the other planets in the sky will have since changed position, so no year is ever a carbon copy of any other year. Still, by looking back 19 years, you may be able to come up with a theme that will teach you something.
The most dramatic example I can give you is one that affected me. My daughter, Diana, was to go to college for the first time on an eclipse that fell August 30. It was the day her father was driving her to Boston College, and I was a little worried because there was an eclipse that day. I was hoping all would go well, that the drive there would be uneventful, and that Diana would like her dorm room.
I thought, well, I can look back 19 years. But wait, I thought, I can’t because Diana was only 18.How could the previous eclipse in the same sign and degree of 19 years ago possibly affect her, or me? I did the math and realized, much to my shock, that 19 years earlier, to the precise day, I had found out I was pregnant with her. The first eclipse, 19 years earlier, taught me to be a mother. I was now learning to be a mother again in a different way, by letting my little bird fly away independently. As I realized this, I got goose bumps all over. The universe runs on time and is a source of vast wisdom. I will never forget the moment I realized this!
22. The four eclipses coming up each year will arrive in the same degree, sign, and precise day as those that came by nineteen years earlier.
As said, sometimes it is helpful to look back to those years to see what themes e emerged at that time so that you can predict what might come up for you now. Just take 19 years from the present and look up to see what happened at eclipse time (from the table below).
23. You might ask, does an eclipse deliver its news on the very day of the eclipse? Not always. This is important, so be sure to read this!
1) A message brought to you by an eclipse is usually delivered on the day, or within a week of the actual date of the eclipse – but not always.
2) If nothing happens then think back to exactly one month earlier and one month later plus or minus five days.
So for example, your birthday falls on February 26. An eclipse is coming February 26, 2017, or you were born on August 26, exactly six months away. Watch January 26 (one month earlier), plus or minus five days, and one month later, March 26, plus or minus five days.
3) If neither period delivers any news, then watch for the days when Mars or Saturn will move over the precise degrees of the eclipse, oppose it, or challenge it In that regard, I will let you know when that is due to happen in my column.
Let me give you a visual idea of what I mean. Let’s pretend that an eclipse burns a burning hole in the sky say with a cigarette when it appears (it doesn’t, but only in the poetic sense here, for our purposes). Afterward, the sky forms a scab over the part of the sky that has been “pierced” and “hurts.”
Later, when Mars, the warrior planet, takes the same route as the eclipse did and reaches that scab, at the same mathematical degree and sign as the eclipse, something may happen. Being the rough and tumble guy that Mars is known to be, he will break that scab open and the news of the eclipse would be released. This may also happen if Mars is in the opposite sign of the eclipse but same degree.
Saturn, being a karmic planet, can do the same if he is close enough and is due to travel over the same path, same sign, and same degree. (It’s also possible for either of these planets to oppose the degree of the eclipse from 180 degrees.)
You don’t have to watch for any of this – I will tell you about that when or if it happens in my monthly column in Astrology Zone?. I thought you might like to know how I calculate things for you!
24. You may be feeling more emotional than usual under an eclipse, especially if the eclipse is lunar (full moon).
Your judgment may be impaired, or pieces of information may be missing, so bargain for more time to think about your decision or next action. You may want to wait seven days before deciding, but that is not always possible. If someone comes to you with a proposal, consider it carefully. If after looking at it from all sides you like it, then proceed, but try to beg for just a little extra time.
25. Do not have an over-packed schedule at eclipse time.
Keep your schedule light because urgent things often come up at eclipse time that will need your immediate attention. You may see your life change as a result. Get expert help if necessary, or hire helpers in your own personal life if you need more hands on deck.
26. Don’t be too quick to pronounce an eclipse “good” or “bad.” All eclipses have a second act.
An eclipse may bring news suddenly, but it takes weeks to understand its real meaning. If you should suffer under an eclipse, consider that perhaps that situation is being swept away so that the universe can provide you with something better. Be patient and keep an open mind. In the fluid situation it creates you can find ways to benefit.
Here is one example. Mary has worked at the same company 15 years and does her job well. Her raises have been so little as to be almost non-existent, but she was so loyal to her employer she would never think of leaving. Now comes the eclipse and she is downsized. Mary is terribly upset, worried about how she will pay her rent, and if you asked Mary, she would say that the effect of the eclipse on her has been catastrophic. However, the universe, in its wisdom, knows Mary can parlay her experience and qualifications for a much more interesting and well-paying job. The universe clears her basket so it can provide her with something infinitely better. In two months, Mary found a wonderful new job, and she only then realized what a blessing in disguise the eclipse had brought her.
27. Eclipses can help you do things you never thought you could do!
Eclipses can show you that you are capable of much more than you assumed. You may be offered a chance to write a book or to record an album, for example or head up an entire department of your company. Eclipses sometimes will suddenly open a door, and it would be one that was previously bolted shut and impossible to enter.
Here is a good analogy of an eclipse. You are riding a horse in unfamiliar, beautiful terrain. The horse’s trainer told you that you would have to jump a tall stone fence ten miles down the road. Distracted by the lovely scenery, you completely forget about the fence until it looms suddenly, straight in front of you. It is so much bigger than the trainer let on – this fence is huge. You certainly don’t feel ready to jump, and you doubt you ever will. You cannot imagine going over that fence and surviving! This is a big stretch for you!
Yet, it would be something you wish you could do, but in panic, you try to pull on the reins of the horse to try to stop him. However, the horse has been trained to jump, and before you know it, you are flying through the air over a fence you feel is scary high. Each second you are in the air you feel you are moving in slow motion, for as up, up you go and over the massive stone fence. (Remember I had said earlier, eclipses play with your sense of time.) The horse is doing the jump for you. You land perfectly. The horse is fine and so are you – but you feel very shaky and breathless, and you are counting your fingers and toes. You did it! You feel proud! That is often the experience of an eclipse.
Some Important, Basic, Fundamental Information on Eclipses
28. Not all eclipses in a family of signs will affect you. Some will, some won’t. Math will make the difference.
The eclipses that will touch you are the ones that are mathematically significant to your natal Sun, moon, and planets. Those are the ones that touch the same degree (or are close to it) of your Sun, moon, or one or two planets in that part of the sky on the day you were born.
In each chapter (and on my website), be sure to check the birthdates and degree of the eclipse that I will mention in association with each eclipse. It is true that eclipses in a family of signs that highlight your Sun sign will be vitally important.
Typically we will get six to eight eclipses in any one series (family) of signs in an 18-to-24-month period, but you may only feel two or three of those, not all six or eight. The other eclipses, in any series, may have only a mild effect, or none at all.
29. The eclipse does not have to fall in your sign or rising sign to affect you.
Let’s say you are an Aries, and there will be an eclipse in Gemini. Don’t tune out, because that eclipse may cause you to sign a contract, take a sudden short trip, or hear news about your sister or brother. The point is, you don’t have to just be a Gemini or the opposite sign of Sagittarius to feel it.
30. If your birthday is not listed, check to see if a coming eclipse falls on, or within five degrees, of one of your natal (or progressed) planets.
If you have your natal chart and you see that one planet, the Sun, or moon will be “lit up,” that means that heavenly body will be expressing lots of news in your chart. Unless you know astrology, it is hard to tell you how that eclipse will affect you. You don’t have to know astrology to learn. It would be wise for you to keep a little notebook of events that happen near each eclipse (and the sign, date, and degree of each eclipse) because in time you will see a pattern every time that planet, your Sun, or moon is visited by an eclipse. Even if nothing happens, write that down, too. If you ever see an astrologer, that information will prove very valuable.
If your Venus is well aspected in your natal chart (that means friendly to one or more planets on the day you were born), then it means that the new eclipse will trigger that happy natal configuration, and the eclipse would likely prove to be positive.
If your Venus is afflicted at birth, meaning not friendly to other planets at the time you were born, you may have problems at the eclipse, for that sore point will be triggered occasionally. The difficult eclipse will unlock underlying feelings or factors swirling around you and help you come to terms with that configuration in your chart.
An eclipse will always provide you with information you need to know about it, and for that, reason even though you may say it is “difficult,” the eclipse will still be a force for good. You can and probably will address the topic forthrightly now.
31. If you know your rising sign, read for that sign as well.
Treat your rising sign just like you would your Sun sign. They are equal in importance. Furthermore, if you have a planet near your rising sign, note if the mathematical degrees of the planet and the eclipse are close. The closer the degrees (within five degrees), the more likely you will feel something.
Your rising sign (or ascendant) can only be determined by doing your natal chart using the day, month, year, city, and precise time, to the minute, of your birth. Once you know your rising sign, you must always read for your rising sign as well as your Sun sign. Your rising sign has the same significance as your Sun sign – they are equal in importance in your chart. The rising sign partially explains why every one of the same sign is not alike – you are a combination of both. The rising sign has another critical function, and without my getting too technical here, it gives further information of the timing of events in your chart.
If you don’t know your birth time, go to the government office (not the hospital) that saves this information, such as the Bureau of Vital Statistics or the Hall of Records in your state or country capital. Request the original or vault copy of your birth certificate. In the US, it should cost $10 or more. If it is $5, it is the wrong record – the Department of Motor Vehicles has a computer copy that deletes the time of birth. You need the original, handwritten birth certificate the nurse recorded. It is available if you ask for it. If you don’t know your birth time and can’t find out, I can still write a book about your natal chart – I use sunrise as the default function – but I cannot tell you your rising sign. (At dawn, you have the same rising sign as your Sun sign. I can tell you where all eight planets were based, however, and more information about your Sun. It’s still valuable information to have.)
Once you have your explanation of your natal chart, you need never do it again. Your natal chart will remain the same for life, so memorize your rising sign and degree.
32. Look to the house of both your solar chart and your rising sign chart where the eclipse will be to find out what areas of life will bring a major change in status.
This is a very important point to remember. As said above (and bears repeating), you have two charts: your solar Sun-sign chart, and your rising sign, custom chart done by the day, month, year, time, and city of birth. Both charts are vital to have and to read! Everyone, everywhere has two charts.
If you read one without the other, you will only have half the information you need. So if you are a Capricorn, read for the section on Capricorn, and if you know you have Taurus rising, read for Taurus too.
If you have a planet, or the moon, at the same or in close degree to the eclipse, pay attention to that planet, its placement in the chart, and the house that planet rules. (I realize this may be way to complicated to comprehend, so just circle that planet and see what happens later.)
What if the news of the two charts conflict? Then the one with the more severe news will find comfort from the better aspected chart. There will be a mitigating, softening effect, so things may work out better than if you didn’t have the good news in the other chart.
The best way to learn astrology is simply to observe! You are likely to see the area of life that the house rules will become important to you, as well as the area of the chart that the planet rules. You may not know enough astrology to figure these things out, but in time, you will. Taking notes on each eclipse is a good way to get acquainted with the movements of eclipses.
You don’t have to know astrology to know this. Just read for your rising sign and your Sun (birthday) sign, and I will take care of the rest for you.
Now you know all you need to know about how to deal with eclipses and win!
Students Dagmara and Isabella from Haverstock School in Camden had questions answered by Professor Tim O'Brien:
Q: How do solar eclipses happen?
A: The Moon orbits the Earth once every 28 days or so. So once a month it moves between the Earth and the Sun. Because the orbit of the Moon is inclined at an angle to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, usually the Moon passes above or below the Sun as we see it on the sky.
However, occasionally, the the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, blocking its light. This is an eclipse.
Although the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, measured side to side, it is also 400 times closer. So, coincidentally, they appear about the same size on the sky. This means that when they line up exactly, the Moon can perfectly block the Sun causing a total solar eclipse.
Q:What is the time gap between each solar eclipse?
A: Typically, there is a solar eclipse of some type visible somewhere on the Earth every six months or so but there is only a total eclipse every one or two years.
Q: Why is it so rare that we witness them in the UK?
The 1999 solar eclipse was a major news event in the UK
A: Although eclipses are relatively common they are only visible when the Moon's shadow passes over you and for each eclipse this is quite a small area. So the chances of seeing one from any particular fixed location like the UK are relatively small.
Q: Is there any chance that the predicted timings will be different to what is expected?
A: We're now very good at calculating the motions of the Moon, the Sun and the Earth so we can be confident in the timings that have been predicted for this eclipse. Exact timings depend on where you are in the country but may differ across the UK by a few minutes. The Moon will start to pass in front of the Sun at about 08:27 GMT, maximum eclipse is at 09:32 and the Moon leaves the Sun at 10:42.
Q: Are there any negative issues that could arise because of the solar eclipse?
A: Not that I can think of. If you were reliant on solar power then that might be an issue to consider as sunlight levels will drop by 90% or so at the peak of the eclipse but then again this is similar to the effect of having a cloudy day so can be accommodated.
In a total eclipse, birds can often start to roost, preparing to go to sleep as the sky darkens but this is only partial so we wouldn't expect such unusual effects. It's worth looking around you though and seeing if you spot anything unusual - shadows can look strange because the Sun is an unusual shape and any small chinks of sunlight will appear crescent-shaped like the images through the colander!
Q: We have read that one way to view the eclipse is using pin hole projection, how do we do this?
Using a kitchen colander is one safe way to view the eclipse
A: There are safe ways to observe an eclipse in which you do not look directly at the Sun. One is to make a pinhole camera in which the Sun's light passes through a small hole which you make in a large piece of card and forms an image of the Sun projected onto another piece of card (or the floor) behind.
A fun and easy thing to try is to use a kitchen colander - the many small holes in the colander will each act like a pinhole camera forming multiple images of the crescent Sun during a partial eclipse.
Hold the colander between the Sun and a piece of paper held in your other hand - the Sun images should appear on the paper!
But aren’t all of the hotels along the eclipse path booked?
Many hotels along the path of totality are already full. But all hope is not lost. A quick on-line search shows that (as of June 27) rooms are still available in Portland, Oregon (less than a two-hour drive from the path of totality) Salt Lake City (a four-hour drive) Denver (roughly a three-and-a-half-hour drive) and St. Louis, a city whose metropolitan area straddles the eclipse path.
Renting an RV is another option, as is camping. It’s also possible that some homeowners and farmers will have rooms to rent, or lawn space for a tent, on the night of the 20th.
Total Eclipse of the Plot
A Solar Eclipse is when the moon passes in-between the Earth and the Sun. Sometimes it can have a strange effect on people. It makes them do things they normally wouldn't do. Gee I hope our pals in Magicland are doing okay.
Eclipses are inherently dramatic. That's why they're often used in fiction to punctuate dramatic events, or as a major plot element. They frequently mark something supernatural or magical in nature, even if the eclipse itself is a normal event.
In Real Life, eclipses don't usually last very long, a matter of minutes, but in fiction they seem to be able to last however long they darn well please. (Justified for places with smaller suns and/or bigger moons, although this is rarely addressed and opens further questions.) Alternately, the story can play the time straight and create a Race Against the Clock scenario when there's something that must be done during the eclipse (and there always is).
Also, solar eclipses only completely block out the light in one relatively small area and the light reduction gets less pronounced the further away from the center of the eclipse, but in fiction tend to block out the sun completely wherever they happen to be. Lunar eclipses can be seen anywhere on the nightside of the earth.
See an astronomical event that only happens once every 26 years
This artist’s impression shows an eclipsing binary star system. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.
A truly fascinating event may be in the offing this month.
Picture two distant burning embers (candles, light bulbs, LEDs, what have you) circling each other in the distance. From our far-flung vantage point, the two points of light are too faint to resolve individually, but as they pass in front of each other, a telltale dip in combined brightness occurs as one blocks out the other.
Welcome to the fascinating world of eclipsing binary stars. This week, we'd like to turn our attention towards a special star in the constellation of Coma Berenices which may—or may not—put on such a dimming act later this month.
The brightest star in the constellation Coma Berenices, Alpha (sometimes referred to as Diadem, or the 'crown' of Queen Berenice) shines at an apparent magnitude of +4.3. Located 63 light years distant, the system consists of two +5th magnitude F-type stars each about 3 times more luminous than our Sun locked in a 26 year orbital embrace. The physical separation of the pair is about 10 astronomical units: place Alpha Comae Berenices in our solar system, and the pair would fit nicely between the Sun and Saturn.
The orbital plane of the pair is inclined nearly along our line of sight as seen from the Earth, and it's long been thought that catching a grazing or central eclipse of the pair might just be possible. No eclipse was recorded last time 'round back in February 1989, but times have changed lots in observational astronomy. Today, there are enough backyard observers armed with dedicated observatories and rigs that'd be the envy of a small university that documenting such an eclipse might just be possible. In fact, a central eclipse might just dim the star by 0.8 magnitudes, and should be noticeable to the naked eye.
The binary nature of Alpha Comae Berenices was first noted by F. G. W. Struve in 1827, and the split is a challenging one during the best of years with a maximum angular separation of just 0.7 arc seconds. The pair also has a third faint +10th magnitude companion located about 89 arc seconds away.An Alpha Comae Berenices (Diadem) finder chart, with comparison stars and magnitudes, decimals omitted. Credit: Starry Night Education Software.
The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) has an Alert Notice calling for sky watchers worldwide to monitor the star. We also understand the orbit of Alpha Comae Berenices much better in 2015 than back in 1989, and the suspected eclipse should occur somewhere between January 22nd and January 28th and may last anywhere from 28 to 45 hours. This lingering ambiguity means that having a dedicated team of observers worldwide may well be key to nabbing this eclipse.
The Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) has already begun refining measurements of the brightness of the star last month, and professional facilities, to include the Fairborn Observatory atop Mt Hopkins in Arizona and the CHARA (the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy) Array at Mount Wilson Observatory in southern California will also be monitoring the event.
Sky and Telescope magazine also has an excellent article in their January 2015 issue on the prospects for catching this eclipse.
In late January, the constellation of Coma Berenices rises high to the northeast just after local midnight. It's worth noting that, if the eclipsing binary nature of Alpha Comae Berenices is confirmed, it would be the longest period known, beating out 14.6 year Gamma Persei discovered in 1990 by more than a decade. A system with as wide a separation as Alpha Comae Berenices would have about a 1 in 1,200 chance in eclipsing along our line of sight due to random chance.
Note: Epsilon Aurigae does have a comparable 27 year period involving a debris disk surrounding its host star. Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Dr. John Barentine for pointing this out!
Of course, the universe does provide us with lots of near misses, allowing for an 'occasional Diadem' to indeed occur. Most famous eclipsing variables, such as Algol or Beta Lyrae have periods measured over the span of days or hours. Incidentally, these also make great 'practice stars' to test your skills as a visual athlete leading up to the big event next week. A skilled visual observer can note a change as slight as a 0.1 of a magnitude, and it's a good idea to begin familiarizing yourself with the environs of the star now. The Coma Cluster of galaxies, the globular cluster M53, and the galactic plane crossing intruder Arcturus all lie nearby.Alpha Comae Berenices rising.
Why study eclipsing binaries? Well, said fleeting mutual events when coupled with spectroscopic measurements and determinations of parallax can tell us a good deal about the astrophysical nature of the stars involved. Eclipsing binary stars have even been used to back up standard candle measurements over extragalactic distances. And of course, orbiting observatories such as Kepler and TESS (to be launched in 2017) look for transiting exoplanets using virtually the same method.
But beyond its practical application, we just think that it's plain cool that you can actually see something out beyond our solar system changing in the span of just a few days or hours.A simplified diagram depicting an eclipsing binary event along our line of sight. Created by the author.
Observers also still carry out visual observations of variable stars, just like those pipe-smoking, pocket watch carrying astronomers of yore. This involves merely comparing the target star to nearby stars of the same brightness. If you have a DSLR or a CCD rig plus a telescope, the AAVSO also has instructions for how to monitor a star's brightness as well. No pocket watch required.
Unless, of course, you want to carry a pocket watch just for good luck. Don't let the cold January winters keep you from joining the hunt. Let's make some astrophysical history!Looking eastward past local midnight. Credit: Stellarium