The first significant solar eclipse visible in California since 1992, was the carrot that motivated Boojums Bebo and Ron to fire up the humbugy at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning and strike out for a suitable viewing site in Northern California. Not only would we be able to observe a rare astronomical event, but also photographing the eclipse would be an opportunity to rehearse our photography skills prior to our anticipated trip to Australia in November to view a total eclipse of the sun.
The week prior was used to prepare equipment and research the upcoming event. At the urging of veteran eclipse chaser Cherrill Spencer (10 events), we settled on the National Park sponsored site at Whiskeytown Lake, a few miles west of Redding, CA as our destination.
The Whiskey town site which combined mountains, beach and water, resulted in an easy-going crowd and a party-like atmosphere. It was a mixed group ranging from preschoolers in water wings, teens in bikinis and locals selling Kambucha drinks, to electronic game programmers, chemistry professors, elementary school science teachers and so on. The Astronomical Club of the Sierra kept everyone grounded with an astounding array of heavy-duty telescopes, equatorial mounts and computers. They graciously made all of the equipment available for viewing by the general public on ‘Telescope Row.”
Most of us made use of eclipse glasses, welding glass filters, and pinhole cameras. The eclipse started almost imperceptibly, but the movement of the moon slowly progressed over the course of an hour to dim the sunlight and finally to perfectly align with the sun. Since the moon was at its furthest orbit from the earth, the sun was only 96% covered resulting in a ‘ring of fire” around the rim of the moon. The moment of maximum eclipse was met with applause, whistles and gasps.
The maximum eclipse passed quickly lasting only about four minutes. We continued to watch for another hour as the process reversed itself and the sun was fully restored to its former intensity.
After an overnight stay in Red Bluff, the energized Boojums headed back to San Francisco. Topics of discussion included:
The Titanic: engineering and operational failures, recovery methods and the ethical implications disturbing this site and other burials for commercial or scientific justification.
Torture: waterboarding, is it or isn’t it. Physical vs. psychological torture. Rendition. If or when torture might be justified.
Drug trade: methamphetamine use and distribution in E and SE Asia. Iranian drug production, Mexican drug cartel violence, US drug laws.
Immigration and Citizenship: renouncing citizenship to avoid paying taxes, the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.
Prison sentencing guidelines: capital punishment – when or if ever appropriate, length of prison sentencing generally. Effects of long-term incarceration.
Denigration of Presidential candidates by the left and right: Super pacs, dirty tricks, Republican primary, personal attacks and boycotts by activists against non politicians. German privacy laws.
Lifestyles of the suddenly rich and famous: effects on personality, lifestyle, and questions of social responsibility.
Transfer of Intellectual property: US regulations or lack thereof vs. advancement of emerging countries.