04 August 2008

Is your memory eclipsed?

I don`t recall much detail more than 50 years ago, but do remember a warm day near the end of the school year. We gathered in the school playground, (52°34'33.40"N, 1°43'34.32"E) pieces of darkly smoked glass in hand, not recommended now, to watch the solar eclipse. There were a few clouds above our school playground but we had a good view of the partial eclipse which caused noticeable darkening. Thanks to a couple of web sites I now know the date -- Wednesday 30th June 1954.

First seen in Nebraska, the eclipse was visible from the Great Lakes eastward, although according to newspaper reports cloud obscured the observation across much of Ontario. Glimpses were seen from Ottawa between the clouds. The moon`s shadow crossed all of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, most of the USSR and was last seen in Jodhpur, India. Britain was south of the path of totality, except for the extreme north of the Shetland Islands.

Did you, or did your parents, see that solar eclipse? Which eclipses might your ancestors have seen?

NASA has a detailed solar eclipse page and a Javascript Solar Eclipse Explorer facility where you can enter latitude and longitude, or choose a major city, and explore solar eclipses back to 1499 BC and forward to the year 3000. Apparently the 30 June 1954 event only 80% obscured the sun at maximum where I was.

Using the Eclipses Online Portal you can specify a year, from 1501 to 2100, choose an eclipse, and view animations of the passage of the moon's shadow across the globe and how the eclipse looked from a selection of major cities.

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