Monday, May 21, 2012

Opossums and Eclipses by Twilight


No, not the conclusion of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight trilogy. See, if I meant that Eclipse, it would have been in italics. Like I did there.

I mean the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse featuring a ring of fire. Did you hear me? A RING-OF-FIRE! Why was this not publicized more? I mean, did you hear Johnny Cash belting out his famous tune while radio DJs made lame puns about the day’s solar activity? I did not.

Did Sting and The Police feature prominently on your Pandora today, singing about little black spots on the sun? Confession: I did use those lyrics on Facebook today myself. Because they are greatness. I did not however, give Cash any props because I did not witness the vaunted ring of fire firsthand.

My father, Pops, called to invite the girls to watch the solar eclipse through the highly technical shoebox pinhole viewer.

”Eclipse?” I asked.

“Yes, he said. “It’s tonight.”

In my defense, we have been mildly consumed for the past week with two dance recitals, dress rehearsals and much softball. Not sun stuff.

“Okay,” I said. “They can go. But I want to go, too.”

Seriously, I wanted to go. It was 1994 when these things last came together where we Texans could watch. Generally, the sun and moon like to keep their distance!

Not to be outdone by his promised shoebox viewer, I decided to whip up one of our own. I love my kids but they do not share. Really, neither do I-especially if it’s something cool, so I figured we needed at least two of these things.

CAUTION: this is NOT a pretty project. It is rough, and it was hastily made!

I rustled up a rectangular skinny box and taped white paper to the inside end flap (unnecessary if your box is white inside). I then taped the flap shut all the way around.
line bottom of box with white paper
In fairness, I forgot what we did back at Hedrick Elementary the last time I made one of these, so I Googled many tutorials and merged them into my own version.

I cut a two-inch hole in the opposite end flap from the one I covered in white paper. Over this hole I taped aluminum foil. I really taped the flaps down well to eliminate stray light.

Next, I cut a hole in the top narrow side of the box near the foil end. About a two-inch hole as well.

told you it wasn't pretty!
Finally, I put a straight pin through the middle of the foil and Voila! It was done.

Straight pin
Pinhole before
and after!

The kids looked at me like I was an alien and this was my weapon.

What is THAT?”

I proceeded to regale them on the wonders of the pinhole device, how you could construct something similar to take pictures and they looked at me, pityingly, like I’d lost my mind.

“It’s true!” I protested, showing them examples online to prove my sanity.

I then went through the obligatory, cautionary, parental job of warning them against looking at the sun. Telling them that their retinas have no pain receptors so they won’t feel the sun frying their sight away like they burned leaves with a magnifying glass at the softball fields yesterday (yes, we put a stop to that-we aren’t trying to torch the town)!

So, once they were sufficiently scared of blindness and coated with bug spray we headed out into the twilight to chase the eclipse (hey, there is a connection between twilight and eclipse here too! How about that?)

We arrived at the field deemed highest and with the least obstructed view of the western sky. Pops had not yet arrived so a game of keep-the-soccer-ball-away-from-whoever-has-the-least-skills-and-most-whininess took place. I took off to scout local wild plum and blackberry offerings within walking distance. Nada.

The sky participated by obscuring the sun with huge, distant thunderclouds that would never reach our parched yards. 

no eclipse yet!
We were soon rewarded, however, by the arrival of an early-foraging baby opossum.

He was cute. All references to aside, he was pretty adorable.

We launched into a healthy debate over whether or not he was rabid, since it was not yet dark. It was universally decided that he was simply young, hungry and a bit early.

When the opossum tried to climb the trashcan nearby, the oldest said, “Mommy, should you go knock that over so he can get into it?”

“Ummmm, No!”


The middle child said, peeking from behind me where I demanded they stay in case he did have rabies, “Take a picture with the flash, then run!”

I am so glad these kids aren’t in charge of animals on a regular basis. Oh, wait, they are. At our house. Awesome.

About this time, the little guy wandered back into the woods, while the youngest crooned, “Awwww, he’s so cute! We should keep him.”

Again, no!

We Googled opossums and their diets, etc. I asked if they knew what an omnivore was and the middle child said, "Yes, it is a meatavore and vegavore put together!"

When her sisters corrected her, the youngest very disgustedly with an, "HERB-avore!"
she just grinned and skipped back to the pinhole viewers.

What did we do on nature walks and trips without Google? Looked things up in a book later, I guess.

The clouds started to clear just as the eclipse began. The kids looked through the two pinhole viewers (well they started as pinholes and the holes kept growing as fingers poked them) and the things actually worked! You could see a tiny replica of the eclipse projected on the paper.

I kept taking pictures by lining up the camera just below the sun and then closing my eyes and raising the camera up and snapping. Somehow, when the camera takes a straight shot into the sun, a lens flare, like a halo, is formed below the sun. Due to light refracting or reflecting or whatever it does, the eclipse was actually captured in my pictures in that lens flare. It is very cool!
see the eclipse in the flare?
Well, the clouds moved back in and so did bug spray-resistant mosquitoes so we took off. Hopefully someone out west saw the ring of fire. 
Clouds came back but, how cool does that look?
We had a pretty great and educational evening, with everything from eclipses, to soccer, to opossum sightings, to caution-induced blindness nightmares I am sure are just around the corner. Although, as I write this at 3:30 a.m. from my Sudafed-induced insomnia, I hear nothing stirring upstairs. Sweet Dreams!

*Did you see the eclipse? The ring-of-fire? comment and let me know or send photos-we'd love to see what others saw in different places!

1 comment:

Jim Attrell said...

Emily, this would make an excellent chapter in your book that I can see coming....

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