Stellarium To The Rescue! Solar Eclipse


Eclipses

Wisconsin, as well as the rest of the United States, was treated to at least a partial solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. A mere 70-mile wide swath actually experienced a total eclipse– lucky folks.  I understand it to be a euphoric, perhaps even spiritual experience based on first-hand reports, and one I probably will never know.  🙁  I was fully prepared to watch it safely with a kitchen colander and sheet of white paper. “Frugal, I am!”, saith Yoda.

Since I wasn’t able to watch the eclipse due to climactic flukes (also known as clouds), I watched it on a program I keep in my sock called “Stellarium”. It is a free program that allows you to play around with the universe. That’s quite a statement when you consider the size of the topic when compared with the size of the program.

I keep Stellarium in my back pocket for occasions such as these. You never know when a celestial occasion may occur and you unfortunately don’t happen to have your personal jet available.  Trump may suddenly need it for golfing purposes– and who can argue with the current POTUS? Many have suffered a significant demise of late for that very reason.

The Eclipse From My Perspective

This is how it looked from my back yard at its peak:

cloudy-sky

This isn’t actually a picture from my back yard, but it is an accurate depiction of the sky’s dismal appearance at the time

Quite impressive, wouldn’t you say? That would be true if you were interested in cloudy skies. I was more interested in the once-of-a-lifetime solar eclipse thing that everyone was talking about. I wanted to experience that spiritual thing that everyone was talking about. Damn the bad luck.

Stellarium

Stellarium is a free program that allows you to look at the universe in a very personal way. As is the case with the above “eclipse” scenario, it allowed me to view something that the climate gods would not otherwise allow. So much for their authority!


Granted, even though watching the progress of a solar eclipse within Stellarium is not comparable to the actual experience, it is still a viable substitute. Those of you who may be concerned with seconds and dimensions will certainly appreciate the control this program affords.

Stellarium Views Of the Eclipse

For your entertainment, I will offer a few views of the eclipse provided by Stellarium which I was unable to see because of the tormenting nature of nature:

Image 1 at 10:30am:

eclipse-1030

If you look closely, you will be able to see a silhouette of the moon to the upper-right of the sun.

I will now jump ahead to the near maximum solar eclipse at around 1300; for those of you who may be illiterate in the ways of a 24-hour clock, that means about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.


eclipse-1300

How beautiful. Meh… at least you can see what it’s supposed to look like when you can’t actually see it. Compared to how it actually looks, it is quite dull. Here is an example of how Mother Nature intended it, shown in its full glory in Oregon without any marijuana involved (really!):

eclipse-oregon-2000(1)

Beautiful, isn’t it?

A Short Video

This video explains some of the basics of eclipses, why they happen, and when you might expect them to happen. I hope I am not boring you with this:

Forgive me, but I wanted to share some interesting facts with you…

How To Get Stellarium

Stellarium is a wonderful, free program that you can find if you search the Internet. Here’s the Stellarium home page.

There you have it. If you have cloudy skies and want to see something anyway, then this may be a solution to your frustrations. I wasn’t totally satisfied, but it did help. A little bit…

Richard

About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

There are 4 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *