I thought I'd throw in my $.02 worth about the weekend. Hope you enjoy it. Grand Canyon Solar Eclipse Weekend - June 18-21 2012 - A Fantastic Experience Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation Weather: 70-80s at Noon, 60-70 at sunset. Completely clear skies all nights. Seeing and Transparency: Very dry weather brought with it very good seeing, but we lost some transparency on Saturday night and had some visible haze on Sunday night, most likely due to the Crown King and Gladiator fires to the south. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount, full aperture Thousand Oaks glass white light filter 60mm Lunt LS60THa/B600 H-Alpha solar telescope As a prologue, Marker Marshall, our Interpretive Ranger contact for the event, and I have been working steadily since last year to make this happen. And Marker and the staff did a tremendous job of planning and physically setting this up. This was quite an experience in crowd management for a unique event. The night before the big show we set up a private star party at the usual GCSP location, and invited members of the Grand Canyon Association to join us as a thanks for all they have done behind the scenes to make GCSP work. It just happened that the annual members gathering was occurring in conjunction with the eclipse, so we took this opportunity to invite them out to join us. We had about 25 telescopes, and about 30 to 40 of the GCA members joined in. Quite different from our usual 800 visitor night at GCSP! This was somewhat of an experimental weekend to see what the true, useful, setup work we would need to do for next month's GCSP. On the light reduction side of things, through changes in electrical configuration and other modifications, we only needed to block three exterior lights with rubylith; my long time observing partner from TAAA, John Anderson, and I took about 20 minutes to cover the lights, and done. The park was also trying a new way of counting the visitors, with electronic counting possible at the entry points to the observing area. There were other simplifications we tried, and all seemed to minimize the setup and takedown load for GCSP. We need to digest the results and see how we might revise some of our procedures for the better. As if such a special event as an eclipse wasn't enough excitement, Saturday was the annual GCNP Celebrate Wildlife Day. The overlap with the GCA members' gathering required moving the live animal displays to the Visitor Center. I think this was the most striking live animal exhibit I have ever seen. Out in front of the visitor center, a Game and Fish handler was walking around with a huge Golden Eagle who, it seemed to me, was well fed. Then, entering the visitor center itself, several other predator birds were on perches along the east side of the lobby behind an information counter. At first I thought it was a mounted display, until I saw the heads moving, surveying the crowd. On Saturday afternoon, the Rangers began checking in the astronomers for the star party. We had 26 amateurs who had registered with me, and 11 NASA lunar specialists and amateur astronomers who set up with us and would be helping on Sunday with the eclipse. My wife Susan and I had built four Baader solar filters for Ranger telescopes going out to remote locations, using email dimensions, and each fit like a glove. Huge sigh of relief. Oh, and at least half a dozen more unexpected amateurs showed up as well. Since we had two hours to sundown I set up both scopes for tomorrow's event to check things out, and all seemed well. Our Saturday cadre was filing in and setting up for our personal star party and our invited guests. We had constellation tours set up for 9, 9:30, and 10 PM, and our lead Ranger asked if I'd like to give one or more of the tours; I felt quite honored to be asked, so I said sure. With an hour of dark before the visitors were showing up, I took down the solar scope and did a full alignment of the SCT and headed down to the end of the lot. When I do these tours at schools and public events, I try to do it a bit differently, not only pointing out the physicality of the sky, but how other cultures have used what was visible to them to relate the sky to their needs, each culture seeing the sky in a different way. But usually, I have to do it at sundown, with only a few night lights popping out. This was full sky contact touring. Humans seem to have a need to understand their place in the universe, and how to make their journey sometimes for the betterment of themselves, sometimes for their culture. And sometimes the stories serve to keep imaginary tigers away. This time of year is perfect for these tours, especially here in Arizona, with a useful progression of the Zodiac on the western horizon, and a late Milky Way rising in the east. The sun has just set, and the first structure in the sky is the zodiac to the west. We walked through Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, stopping with Venus, Mars, and Saturn along the way. We could just see Scorpius rising. From there, I jumped to the anchor point of the sky, Polaris and precession of the earth's axis due to the earth spinning down like a top, showing Thuban in Draco where the north facing hallway of the pyramids pointed to the north pole star 4500 years ago. Not only pharohs were buried this way; this alignment was a core part of the Egyptian culture of 4500 years ago, so there are many lost spirits wandering around out there. I did the whole walk around and story telling, forgetting to bring physicality like the zodiacal light, galactic core, and galactic pole into the presentation. Marker saved me by adding those points in. After that save, the rest went well. Some of my key points were Mizar, a visible double star (and our sun being somewhat unusal by being alone) as the Horse and Rider for some Native Americans, or a test for leadership several millenia ago. The story fits the cultural need. Then the Arcturus/Spica connection and Bootes with his dogs Canes and Venatici keeping the bears and the sky aligned and the sun in Virgo for harvest using Alkaid to Arcturus as The Rudder, the legend of Queen Berenice and her hair near the north galactic pole, placed there by Zeus in honor of her sacrifice of her hair to Venus for her husband Ptolemy III's s afe return from battle. Now we call it the Coma Berenices Open Cluster, or Mel 111, near our galaxy's pole. We did have a brightening Milky Way and all the many approaches cultures take to what they see, but Sagittarius was still out of view so we just talked about our galactic core. For the last two tours we had pretty good Cygnus and Lyra, so we could work in the Eye of God or Orph eus' lost harp, equally valid for us. So now we have our North Celestial Pole, our North Galactic Pole, our galactic center, galactic plane (or is that the campfires of all the elders who have come before us?), our Zodiac, and it is up to each of us what we take from the knowledge of how other cultures might look at what they, and we, have seen. We might think of the stars as just bright lights, or they might be the Cherokee sky spirits who may someday come to earth and may have lived here before and have returned to the sky, or they might be the eyes of animals we have killed without need or reason, every culture will fit the stories to the needs. And if we are missing a constellation for our zodiac, lets just cut the claws off of Scorpius (Zubenelshemali, Zubenelgenubi, left and right claw) and make it Libra and satisfy the astrologers. We also touched on the rising Summer triangle, with only Lyra (and the legend of Mercury and Orpheus for the Greeks, or the Eye of God for eastern Mediteraneans) and Cygnus visible. A 20 minute journey around many cultures' history and beliefs, with a little science thrown in. After the last tour, the visitors had departed and I was pretty tired so I packed up for the night with only about five visitors at the scope, but the big lift from the tours. For the eclipse, we headed over to the Visitor Center lot around 2:30 PM to have plenty of time to set up, and try my version of the video setup one more time. Nope, too much fuss. Meanwhile, our NASA crew was doing talks and other presentations in the theater, with visitors coming back saying Brian Day's work was awesome. Since I had two scopes, and Susan was going to be taking pictures, John did not have a solar instrument so he agreed to run the 10" white light while I used the Lunt. Around 4 PM we had around 31 or more telescopes set up, since at least another five or six astronomers who had not pre-registered show up, neatly filling in for over a half dozen who had move to one of the remote locations. And the visitors started coming. And coming. And coming. Based on our usual 800 or so Grand Canyon Star Party nights, there had to be about 1400 people at our location, a parking lot north of the Visitor Center. And you couldn't ask for better crowd control at our location, nor a better crowd. We later heard that some print media had said Lipan Point would have the best viewing, so law enforcement had to finally close off entry to stop the growing hostility with the crush at that point. Susan decided to set up with us instead of one of the rim locations. We used Baader material over the lens of her Canon T3i, and the show was rolling. It was quite an entertaining circus, with a huge line near one of the video displays, while John usually had around 10 or so in line at the 10", and I had a half dozen or so at mine. Both scopes had the rich collection of sunspots, while the Lunt showed a strong filament and fairly monstrous facula around the biggest group, with prominences all over the place. WOW seems to have a universal meaning. Susan had brought six spare pairs of eclipse glasses we were loaning out to protect against any bad events. When First Contact was announced it was like the team coming out at Homecoming football. The crowd roared, and everyone was getting a view either rotating through telescopes, watching the video displays or Marker's reverse projection, or using eclipse glasses. As the sun walked across the disk, the excitement stayed high until second contact, then the cheering started again. I can't recall all of the wonderous reactions as folks would look through the scope at the sun in H-Alpha, the same with the huge image in John's 10". People in our area were borrowing Susan's spare eclipse glasses to take pictures with every variety of cell phone and camera imaginable, and many were taking pictures through the eyepieces unaided as well. Around each group of three or four telescopes or cameras there would be a migrating crowd of about 20 to 30 visitors orbiting, switching between telescope views and eclipse glasses, solar cards, or Optical Density 14 welder's glass. About 15 minutes after third contact the crowd started evaporating. Just as the sun hit the top of a treeline on the far horizon, with about six more minutes to sunset, the four D cells in the Lunt's mount died so I packed it up to get ready for the night show. LOTS of thanks from all of the visitors, and LOTS of successful photography. One astronomer near me got a serendipitous shot with a flash of Bailey's Beads. I heard some folks with between six and eleven hundred images taken. In the Lunt, the Ring of Fire showing the prominences was incredibly striking. A student at a school event a few months ago during a rather active afternoon on the limb said it looked like when his brother shaved their cat. Yep, that's it. During the event there were many, many interesting conversations with crowd members. I talked with an author of a book about to be published on Albert Einstein, so we talked about the attempts to disprove relativity through eclipses and features of his life. You just can't buy these experiences. Like many of the children looking in the Lunt agreeing that it looked like a cookie with a ghost taking bites out of it. We had over an hour until the public star party was to start, so some of the volunteers took off for a bite to eat, some just left, and I set up for the night event. After sunset I was doing an alignment and ended up on Regulus as the final star, and was asked to do the 9 PM tour. Only two or three people were at my scope watching me align it so I said sure. And followed with the 9:30 and 10 PM tours. And absolutely nailed each one. This time, instead of five or ten in each group, I had 50, 40, and 30 and it was a blast. Got great questions about the colors of stars, zodiacal constellation locations, Summer Triangle, structure of the Milky Way, even about the change in apparent size and elevation of the moon. Back to the scope at 10:30, Regulus still in the eyepiece, crowd wisely departed after an afternoon of being fried. Me, higher than a kite with the constellation tour excitement. Packed up, done until Venus transit June 5, but that'll be close to home at Biosphere II. It is such a pleasure working with Marker and the other Rangers. We know whatever we have to do, it'll get done right. Jim O'Connor South Rim Coordinator Grand Canyon Star Party gcsp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx -- See message header for info on list archives or unsubscribing, and please send personal replies to the author, not the list.