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EYES TO THE SKY: Planet Jupiter, winter stars setting. Eclipse reflection

It was an afternoon like no other: High in the blue sky, the dark sphere of Moon slowly rolled into and over the round, golden Sun.

A partial eclipse of the Sun was experienced with an outpouring of exhilaration and awe here in the Berkshires. I travelled back home, near Burlington, Vt., to be on the path of totality. Here is my recollection of the lead-up to and description of the three minutes, 19 seconds of total eclipse. All who viewed the partial eclipse will find a similar experience leading up to but ending before the total eclipse of the Sun by our Moon. This edition of “Eyes to the Sky” concludes with a return to nighttime stargazing.

It was an afternoon like no other: High in the blue sky, the dark sphere of Moon slowly rolled into and over the round, golden Sun.

On Monday, April 8, at about 2:15 in the afternoon in Burlington, Vt., we watched a dark smudge appear at the bottom of the Sun. We never look at the Sun, but this day, from about 2 to 5 p.m., on and off, we covered our eyes with specialized, opaque-seeming lenses, and gazed straight at the glowing orb near the top of the sky.

The dark smudge on Sun’s round right limb (edge) widened into a black arc that moved deeper into the brilliant orb, until the edges of light formed a crescent around what we perceived to be the closer, three-dimensional body of Moon traveling across the face of our distant star. Earth’s moon in a crescent of sunlight. Birds burst out in song, then went quiet.

The narrow crescent became a faint ring of sunlight surrounding the moon. An explosion of searing white light, the “diamond” burst from the lower rim, followed by a fiery pink bead of light, a Baily’s bead. Totality. We removed our glasses to see the Moon covering the Sun. The air cooled. We put our sweaters on. Sunlight withdrawn from the blue sky, bright planet Venus appeared below, Jupiter above the sealed union of Moon and Sun.

A second diamond burst, this time upper right, and dark Moon rolling away from the surface of Sun.

Jupiter and Venus stand out as bright points to the upper left and lower right of the eclipsed Sun on April 8, 2024. Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, Mercury, Saturn, and Mars are much fainter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Jupiter’s position in the diagram, above, shows the planet closely following the Sun, illustrating that it will set soon after sunset. In the skyview diagram, below, look above the western horizon for Jupiter at 8:40 p.m. tonight. Jupiter sets close above the western horizon at 9:42 p.m. tonight and is visible for about one more week before disappearing in the sunset glow, not to return until September.

Skyview for April 13, 2024, 8:40 p.m., Great Barrington. Planet Jupiter sets in the west at 9:42 p.m. at horizon views. The smudge under Jupiter is Comet Pons-Brooks that sets at 9:25 p.m. at horizon views. Turn light way up on your screen. Drawings of constellations by H.A. Rey. StarryNight 7 map annotated by Judy Isacoff.

Enjoy H.A. Rey’s animated portraits of winter constellations. Look for them in the west before they leave the night sky for summer break. For optimum viewing, turn light way up on your screen. Note the Little Dipper near the top of the sky. Polaris is the North Star.


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

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EYES TO THE SKY: Great North American Eclipse, April 8, 2024 (Part Two — Special Edition)

On eclipse day, from 2 to 4 p.m., Great Barrington’s Mason Public Library is hosting amateur astronomer Rick Costello, four telescopes with shielded optics in tow.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.