Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yesterday's eclipse as an internet phenomenon: a first sampling

It hardly hit any solid ground and only in pretty remote spots of the planet - and yet thanks to the WWW and its old and new communications tools you could almost "be there" during the 26 January solar eclipse while frantically switching between various general 'social media' and highly specialized eclipse-related "feeds". In the early hours several true webcasts (with almost video rate) and open image collection sites, esp. Flickr and Twitpic, plus a special chatroom won hands down regarding speed, though the majority of the early images - access the individual screenshots via the "ase" tag - was poor (with a few really good ones scattered among them); the same was true for the early YouTube entries. With the hours passing after the antumbra had left the Earth, key "firsts" came every hour or so: the first clear image of a deep partial phase through clouds, stunning views of the partially eclipsed Sun setting in Manila Bay, then the first closed ring with hardly any clouds interfering. While most of Indonesia in the path of annularity was cloudy as expected, in several places it had been almost clear - while on the Cocos Islands it was raining like hell at the crucial time, smashing the hopes of the 11 eclipse chasers who had made it there.

As I write this, some 36 hours after it was over, high quality material has started to roll in through the "traditional" amateur astronomical channels, but I haven't seen an image of annularity with clearly visible Baily's Beads so far, let alome the chromosphere inbetween them - thus the Grand Prize of Annularity (easily served in 2005, for example) isn't in yet and may have been missed by the lucky few in the clear zones of Indonesia. But there are outstanding images aplenty - for example somewhat fuzzy TV material of the ring closing, seen here (with Spanish commentary), here (German; from second 56) and here (silent). The best still photos of the ring phase are probably these by an amateur (two more in the stream) from Bontang on Kalimantan and these from Reuters on Sumatra. But regarding "stunningness" they have hard competition from these gorgeous pictures (many in the stream!) from Manila - hardly ever has an eclipsed Sun been captured that clearly on the very horizon. The most convincing picture collections to date are probably those from SpaceWeather (starting with a fine animation of the ring closing), Flickr (an extremely huge set) and a South African IYA project (connected to this Flickr tag).

Special reports from the annularity zone have been received only from Indonesia's Anyer so far: Jay Pasachoff shows his results (heavy clouds but ring seen) and all pictures from the trip while Xavier Jubier has a small sampling. One of the webcast projects in Indonesia also has something to show - and report. From the partial zone reports have been found from Zamboanga City in the S. Philippines (pretty 'artsy' pics), Chennai (with more pictures) and Bangalore in India, Malaysia and Australia (another one). Amateur video clips of note come from Indonesia (another and another one), the Philippines and Malaysia. Selected pictures are worth highlighting from Jakarta (another stream and another pic probably from there) and Manila (probably); Manila shots also appear in the news media here (als #35) and here, while a view from Thailand was used here. And eclipse articles were found here, here, here, here, here, here, here (w/slide show), here, here, here, here and here. And while I'm frantically collecting further results, S. Krause is doing the same here.

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