Solar Eclipse, August 21st, 2017, @Cronyn Observatory

A generally clear blue sky with a few clouds greeted some 6,000—7,000 visitors to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory and University College Hill for the Solar Eclipse, Monday, August 21st, 2017, 1:07—3:48 p.m. The event was organized by Professor Jan Cami, with students and staff from Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), as well as volunteers from the RASC London Centre.

This was a Partial Solar Eclipse in London with a maximum obscuration of 74.9 percent. The beginning of the eclipse (first contact) was at 1:06:56 p.m., with maximum eclipse (74.9 percent covered) at 2:29:46 p.m., and the end of the eclipse (fourth contact) was at 3:48:32 p.m.

The big 25.4cm refractor in the Cronyn Observatory dome was fitted with a Herschel Wedge and projection screen and graduate students supervised as a long line of visitors viewed the projected image of the eclipsing Sun. RASC London Centre member Mark Tovey, gave tours of the historic “1940s Period Room,” a recreation of Dr. H. R. Kingston’s 1940 office and the “1967 Period Room” recreating the early control room of the Elginfield Observatory to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 1867—Canada 150. Both “Period Rooms” were designed by Mark Tovey. A live feed from the eclipse path of totality was available next door in the Spencer Engineering Building, Room SEB 1200.

On University College Hill visitors lined up to receive information pamphlets and eclipse glasses. There were 3 tents located along the walkway up UC Hill with the welcome tent at the bottom of the hill, distributing eclipse glasses and flyers, with more eclipse glasses and bottled water in the tent at the top of the hill, and a solar projection station midway down UC Hill—featuring the Sunspotter provided by Fanshawe College. There were 3,000 eclipse glasses supplied by Western University and another 250 provided by RASC. These were soon gone with just one provided per family. The visitors lined up to view through amateur telescopes, which were fitted with solar filters and set beside the walkway running down UC Hill.

RASC London Centre members present as volunteers included David Clark, Everett Clark, Mike Costa, Bob Duff, Gaetan Godin, Paul Kerans, Heather MacIsaac, Harold Tutt, and Mark Tovey. RASC London member Henry Leparskas was also there taking pictures. There were 8 telescopes set up by graduate students and RASC London Centre members, along the walkway up University College Hill. These included the Cronyn Observatory’s 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope, operated by undergraduate student Roy Zang (and others), and Meade 8-inch (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain, with a Kendrick Baader film solar filter, operated by London Centre member Bob Duff.

RASC London Centre members who brought their telescopes included Dave Clark, with his Celestron Super 8 (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain and Thousand Oaks solar filter; Mike Costa, with his iOptron Solar 60 refractor; Gaetan Godin, his home-built 20.3cm Newtonian reflector on a Sky-Watcher NEQ6 Pro mount and fitted with a Kendrick Baader film solar filter; Paul Kerans and Charlene Kerans, with their 80mm Sky-Watcher refractor with solar filter and Vixen equatorial mount; Heather MacIsaac, with her Celestron NexStar 90SLT 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain with Kendrick Baader film filter; and Harold Tutt, with his 80mm Stellarvue Nighthawk refractor with solar filter. Gaetan Godin also took pictures of the eclipse with his Canon camera installed at prime focus on his 20.3cm Newtonian reflector telescope—with visitors viewing the eclipse through the camera!

RASC Ottawa Centre member Tony Peterson came down to London for a better view of the eclipse with his Celestron 15cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and solar filter. RASC London member Ryan Fraser came to take pictures of the eclipse and soon found a line-up of some 80 people behind his Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera—equipped with a 100—400mm zoom lens and solar filter—set-up the bottom of UC Hill near Talbot College. Ryan put his camera on live view and provided commentary for some 500—750 people until 3:20 p.m.

Professor Pauline Barmby was media contact. The overall organizer / coordinator of this event was graduate student Robin Arnason. CPSX Outreach Coordinator and doctoral graduate Parshati Patel took care of social media and designed the eclipse T-shirts for volunteers as well as the cardboard “Western” and “CPSX” pinhole letter projections. Roaming University College Hill was Everett Clark making sure everything was running well and assisting where needed.

Professor Phil McCausland (Western University Department of Earth Sciences and RASC London member) set up his solar filtered 11 X 80mm binoculars on a camera tripod near the bus stop in front of the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library. Some 300 people came by and Phil handed out 150 eclipse glasses. Phil reported nice views of the eclipse through the binoculars with the Moon sliding across a prominent group of Earth-sized sunspots, making an excellent local reference for the minute-by-minute orbital motion of the Moon across the Sun’s disk. Many people noticed significant dimming within 20 minutes of the eclipse, with the heat of the day noticeably receding during maximum—a welcome relief from an otherwise hot 2.5 hours. One visitor made a pinhole projector with cracker-box cardboard and aluminum foil. Sunlight through tree leaves produced crescent shapes on the ground and people found that they could also project tiny crescents of the eclipse by making pinholes with their hands. The eclipse glasses Phil gave out were ones obtained from the RASC for the Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012, along with a pack bought at some time from Kendrick Astro Instruments.

The solar eclipse was over at 3:48 p.m. and everybody began packing up the telescopes and tents after a very successful and well organized event at the Cronyn Observatory and University College Hill, under a mostly clear sky.