Good news: the Solar Eclipse of 2012 came and went yesterday, and the world did not end. As a result, we will now have to wait for the next big celestial event – the transit of Venus (the last one of the 21st century, FYI) to find out if indeed the apocalypse is happening. Fortunately, we do not have to wait long – this event will be occurring on June 5, and June 6 of this year. (http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/last-transit-of-venus-in-21st-century-will-happen-in-june-2012). If by some fluke chance, the transit of Venus does not end all life as we know it on the planet, there will only be a few more months left until December 2012 comes along and provides a definitive answer on whether life on this planet will end this year. If not, there’s always next year with all of its associated predictions of doom and gloom to look forward to!
In San Diego, as the forecast for Sunday was for a coastal cloud layer up to approximately 1500 feet, I elected to take my group of eclipse viewers to higher ground atop the summit of Iron Mountain in order not to miss the show. I figured that at 2,696 feet, we’d be well above the cloud deck, and have a great bird’s eye view with our “Eclipse Glasses” that I had picked up from the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater. (http://www.rhfleet.org/).
The Trail: I took my group up the standard Iron Mountain trail described here: http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2012/2/11/iron-mountain.html. Not surprisingly, the trail had not changed at all since I had last been on it. We made good time up the trail, and there were no obstructions of any sort, nor any new developments on the trail that I can report for spring 2012. The City of Poway does a good job of keeping the trail clean and clear; so aside from several yuccas being consumed by hungry beetles, everything appears normal for this time of year. The only thing I will say about the hike was that as it is now late May, the temperatures are starting to heat up on the trail, so plan accordingly, bring plenty of water, and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.
The Eclipse: While Iron Mountain has a good view from the summit, this view was obscured to the west yesterday by those aforementioned coastal clouds. And, while Iron Mountain has a good view, we there to see the eclipse, and it did not disappoint. Around 5:27 p.m., the moon slowly began to move in front of the sun, and for the next hour, my group and everyone else who made the hike had a great view of the phenomenon. While the summit did eventually fill up with people by around 6:30 p.m., at which point the sun was almost 83% covered, it was a sociable crowd which was willing to help one another by sharing pieces of welder’s glass, eclipse glasses, or other safe-sun viewing equipment and knowledge. There was even a telescope set up that could pick out sunspots on the visible portions of the sun, so if you were a science person, the summit was a good place to be.
Lessons Learned: First and foremost, while the Eclipse Glasses may have looked like something out of a bad 1950’s three-dimensional movie, they were very effective in protecting our eyes. In this respect, I am very pleased to report that none of my group went blind, so thank you Reuben H. Fleet science center. (Again: http://www.rhfleet.org/). In addition to preventing blindness, these glasses sold at an economical $2.00 per pair, which saved me the trouble of wandering around the county as some parties apparently did looking for welder’s glass. We also learned that while cell phones are great at snapping images of everyday life, they’re not so good for taking pictures of the eclipse (even when filtered through a set of eclipse eyeglasses). Other than that, it was an excellent time, and I’m sure I’ll be out for the next solar eclipse, because at those times, the sun and moon have the power to turn minutes into centuries.