Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Partial Solar Eclipse

For the past few months we've been pretty focused on the moon here in Thailand as it seems to be just frolicking around up there, playing children's games. A few months ago, the moon Venus and Jupiter treated us to a celestial smile. The happy face in the sky was promptly followed by last years largest full moon (as seen from Earth) and then in January, 2009's largest as well as the moon is at it's closest point to the Earth during the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009...also known as "perigee".

But Monday afternoon we were treated to a partial eclipse of the sun. Most of my students could tell you what that is and how it occurs, while the lower 5% of them, well, lets not talk about them...I try not to be frustrated by them...grrrr!

So anyway, one of my students came to me asking for a "FRIM" as school was about to end for the day. I had no idea what she wanted (second grader) but I was happy that she actually approached me and started the conversation IN ENGLISH with me for the first time. Usually getting her to speak English in class is like pulling teeth. SO she was begging for FRIM and I had no idea what she was talking about. I told her "Sorry sweety, I don't seem to have any FRIM on me at the moment" and she skipped off unfazed, but hopefully better off for having the 2 minute English speaking one-on-one with Teacher Guy.

That forgotten, I arrived at my apartment to find Pae standing outside the window, peering up into the sky with an old chest x-ray the school gave me for our annual health checkups last year. Her neck was stretched out towards the x-ray film like a turtle reaching out of the shell to grab a distant piece of cabbage with its mouth. It was certainly not what I had expected to come home to. I paused at the entrance to the room for a split second to try to figure out what was going on...Did someone from the hospital call her and tell her that they took a second look at my chest x-ray and they had bad news for me? Stupid thoughts go through your mind in unexpected moments like that!

I was relieved as she smiled and invited me out to the balcony to look at the eclipse. Oooooh! Riiiight! Two things suddenly made sense to me. 1. Why Pae was standing there with my x-ray film, and 2. what my second grader meant by FRIM, she was looking for some x-ray film so she could look at the eclipse. Apparently the newscasters on tv suggested that people use old x-rays if they didn't have the proper eclipse gazing equipment. So, there was supposed to be an eclipse (partial) today and Pae was out using the x-ray to get a look at it without killing her eyes. She quickly showed me the best part of the x-ray to use to block the most light and to get the best look at the sun. The picture below is what the sun actually looked like even as the new moon slowly passed infront and covered about 25% of it. Taken from the apartment.I looked and for the first time, I saw a partial solar eclipse. It was pretty cool, but curiosity struck and I wondered how it really looked with the naked eye, no x-ray, no sun glasses, no weird eclipse box thingy. So, dummy that I am, I pulled the film away from my face and found out that you can't really see the eclipse with an unprotected eye!We managed to use the x-ray film with our digital camera to get some pictures of the event. In places like Indonesia and the Philippines there was actually an annular eclipse of the sun, here it was only partial. The picture above was taken at about 5pm, about 4 minutes before the eclipse was at its greatest point. I think there is another occurance in about a month, but this time in the morning.

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