Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A few may see tomorrow's annular eclipse

It is not just for the penguins: a few diehard amateur astronomers should be right now climbing Mt. Vinson in Antarctica to see the Feb. 7 eclipse as an annular one. The last report came at 7:36 UTC this morning from X. Jubier: "I made it a few days ago to the base of the highest peak in Antarctica, Mt Vinson," where several camps have been set up. "From high camp to the summit the climb last about 12 hours. Since today I had some very nice weather I decided to bring a small tent and some equipment about half way to the summit in order to reduce the time necessary to reach it."

And what about the weather? So far it "has been either pretty good or really bad. Right now the sky is mostly clear but with a strong wind," with a high of -34°C at midday on the high camp, which means that on the summit it's likely under -40°C - and perhaps -50°C during the eclipse without even taking the windchill factor into account. "From the latest information I have the weather should hold for tomorrow and hopefully the wind won't get any stronger," reports Jubier: "However I can't be sure yet to see the annular eclipse as from high camp I can't see in the direction of the eclipse. My view is blocked by the peak so I have no idea if the horizon is clear enough" ...

In other news we are reminded of a rare stellar occultation by a big Kuiperoid when (20,000) Varuna occults an 11.9 mag. star in the night of Feb. 10/11. Nominally the Kuiperoid's shadow doesn't even touch the Earth, but the prediction is not very precise and an occultation is possible after all. Or a potential satellite occults the star for you: whoever has access to a larger telescope, is on the right side of the Earth and has good weather should be on the lookout, preferably with a video camera.

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