|UND eclipse chasers to broadcast Aug. 1 from China|
Two UND professors and a lecturer from the University of Minnesota-Crookston are traveling to Xi’an, China to broadcast a total solar eclipse Friday, Aug. 1.
This will be the second total solar eclipse that Tim Young, UND professor of physics, and Ron Marsh, UND professor of computer science, will attempt to share with the world via streamed images over the Internet. They will be joined by Tricia Johnson from UMC.
The upcoming webcast could pose a challenge for the UND eclipse chasers, as the "path of totality" traverses regions across Russia, Mongolia, and China, areas with little access to the Internet.
“The key to these webcasts is finding a local source on broadband Internet to send the signal back to the servers here in Grand Forks” said Young, the team leader. For this eclipse, there are very few spots for this to happen -- Xian, China is one of two; the other is Novobroski, Russia, he said.
Young said weather also was a big factor in the team's decision on where to broadcast.
“It looked like the weather on average was better closer to the desert area in China," he said.
Totality for the eclipse will be brief: only one minute and 30 seconds in some places. Those not in the path, can catch the whole astronomical event at the eclipse chasers' Web site, www.sems.und.edu.
Locally, you will have to get up early Friday, Aug. 1, as it will happen live at 3 a.m. The team also will rebroadcast the event on its Web page. It takes one hour for the moon to move across the disk of the sun, about one minute and 30 seconds of totality, and then one hour for the moon to slowly move out of the direct line between the Earth and sun.
The reason that eclipses are so rare is because the moon's orbit is tilted five degrees from the ecliptic (the Earth-sun plane). That leaves only two points where the sun, Earth and moon can line up exactly.
A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most magnificent sights. The moon being nearly the same angular size as the sun can block it out over a 200-mile wide path that sweeps across half the Earth. Lucky individuals along the path witness a breathtaking, albeit, short few minutes of darkness. It's not completely dark, however, as the corona -- a million- degree thin gas surrounding the sun -- still holds some brilliance.
Young said, when the silhouette of the moon is centered on the corona, one can witness the “eye in the sky,” which looks like a giant eye looking down. Along with this eerie sight in the darkness, quietness settles in as animals assume sunset has come early. When the moon is bull’s-eye with the sun, it is dark enough to see planets in the daytime, he said.
The eclipse chasers' first broadcast was from Antalya,Turkey on March 26, 2006. Soon after, the team did a live interview with students in Brent Miller’s Century Middle School class. The team's efforts are extremely interactive through use of its chatroom, audio question/answer system, podcasts and blogs.