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Solar Eclipse 2017

15 August 2017

The U.S. Postal Service has Solar Eclipse stamps. Place a finger on the eclipse and the thermochromic ink changes the image of the eclipsed Sun to the Moon!

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Note NASA’s website for the 2017 solar eclipse

The talk has been about the path of totality (a 100% eclipse) locations quite a bit south or north of the path will experience substantial eclipses—Fort Lauderdale FL will experience an 80% eclipse though hundreds of miles away, by way of example. This map can help make plans for witnessing this spectacular event on August 21st.

NASA’s map of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

NASA publishes this schedule


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From Dr. Charles Stanley (see comment below) we have this sage advice:


The solar eclipse will be here next Monday.  The countdown is proceeding apace.  If you are near the center of totality, you will have approximately two and a half minutes of total eclipse. The time becomes shorter the closer you are to the edge of the zone of totality. 

I have seen partial eclipses before, but never a total eclipse. This is the first one to span the entire USA in 99 years. The last total eclipse to span the entire US from Washington state to Florida was on June 8, 1918.  The path of that one was similar, but not quite identical, to the one which will take place next Monday.

Xavier Jubiear created one of the best interactive sites on the internet. Xavier’s eclipse site.

Another good site is the Great American Eclipse, also interactive.

If you don’t get to see this one, there will be another that crosses from Mexico up through Maine on April 8, 2024. 

After that, the eclipse of August 12, 2045 will start over northern California, passing across the southern states and Florida.  That track will be similar to the one next Monday, but a couple of hundred miles south of Monday’s track.

If you are extremely young and have good health, you may get to see the last US eclipse of the 21st Century on September 14, 2099.

If you do not have special eclipse glasses yet, you may be out of luck. Lowe’s had a shipment in the other day, and the rather large display was gone in one day. You should use only NASA and American Astronomical Society approved vision protection. Smoking a piece of glass or using welder’s goggles is a bad idea. However, although arc welding glass rated at #14 or higher is a minimum requirement if you do decide to use welders goggles or mask.  Any welder’s filter glass rated less than #14 is totally unacceptable for viewing the sun.

NASA has has a list of approved eye protection equipment, as well as some instructions for viewing safely.  These are not so much suggestions as warnings.  NASA page on eye safety at this link.  

There used to be a caveat that eye protection should carry the label showing that it meets the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard; however, counterfeits are on the market through questionable vendors, so the label is not always to be trusted.  For a list of American Astronomical Society approved eye wear brands and reputable vendors, this page by the American Astronomical Society may be helpful.

For the sake of all that’s holy, NEVER look at the sun with your SLR camera, binoculars, or telescope. You will burn a hole completely through the back of your eye. That is not something that will grow back. You will be blinded permanently.  

Some of the telescope makers sell filters for the objective lens.  Use a filter that fits your device. The AAS has recommendations and instructions for using optical devices when viewing the sun at this link.  

As Sgt. Esterhaus used to say on the Hill Street Blues cop show, “Be careful out there.”

Dr. Billy Hix of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network gives some great instructions for the safest way to see any sun event. Indirect viewing is recommended if you are unsure about the safety of your filters. This cannot be emphasized enough.

This is the third of three excellent videos by Dr. Hix, but is the one which explains how to make an indirect viewing device.

If you are interested in seeing the other videos in this series, here are the links:

Solar Eclipse Video 1-What to Expect & Direct Solar Viewing  

Solar Eclipse Video 2-Direct Viewing with Optical Equipment

Solar Eclipse Video 3 – Indirect Viewing Tips

If you plan to view the eclipse, I suggest most strongly that you watch all three of Dr. Hix’s videos.

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From NASA: How to make and use a pinhole camera-like device to view the eclipse

From NASA: another way to view the eclipse safely

Solar Eclipse 2017

14 August 2017

We all know there will be a total solar eclipse will occur on August 21st—here is a graphical illustration 🙂

NASA’s graphical illustration of what the solar eclipse will look like, from space, showing the umbra as well as penumbra 

Montblanc Hails Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

13 August 2017


Montblanc’s Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ballpoint pen refill packaging. The color is named, Encre de Desert—which is Desert Ink when translated to English. But take care since Montblanc refills fit only in Montblanc pens.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a pioneering aviator of legend. Piloting during aviation’s Golden Age with much of his career consisted of flying and crashing in northern African countries. A prolific writer, as well, his personal life was as daring and tempestuous as his flying life. He died at age 38 on a combat reconnaissance mission during World War II in an F-38 Lightning. Quite a writer and quite an aviator—read his The Aviator, Night Flight, Flight to Arras  and The Little Prince to understand why.

F-35B Lightning II ASRAAM launch

29 July 2017

AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile) launches from the right wingtip of a Lockheed F-35B Lightning II. The ASRAAM is an IR lock-after-launch Mach 3+ 50km range weapon intended to out range any other existing IR air-to-air missile—Lockheed image

The HMS Queen Elizabeth afloat

25 July 2017

The United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier is the HMS Queen Elizabeth and, pursuant to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier design history, innovative—after all, it was the Royal Navy which invented the aircraft carrier. The most obvious innovation is her two island structures—the forward island controls ship operations and the aft island controls flight operations. Much of the ship’s aircraft arming is mechanized to increase sortie rates [But, can aircraft maintenance keep up?] and, in theory, can be crewed by as few as twelve. A pair of Rolls Royce Trent gas turbines deliver the ship’s primary power of nearly 100,000 hp allowing for the design maximum speed of more than 26 knots.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth—© Crown Copyright image by Cpl Paul Oldfield RAF

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship built in the UK, displacing over 70,000 tons. She is sans catapults, instead using a ski ramp which has the Queen Elizabeth married to the Lockheed F-35B Lightning II to not become a helicopter carrier. It is the F-35B Lightning II (which has V/STOL abilities) which gives her fangs and it is the helicopters, with V-22 Ospreys, which gives her claws. Unlike other navies, the Royal Navy uses helicopter borne airborne early warning systems—in present case the AugustaWestland Merlin Crowsnest. The Boeing Vertol Chinook, Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Boeing Apache, the AugustaWestland HM2 Wildcat and AugustaWestland HC4 Merlin round out the vertical flight compliment—for as many as 70 aircraft all up.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth laying at anchor (note the ski jump and forward island controlling ship operations)—Rolls Royce image

The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland in July 2014. In an operation that started earlier that week, the dry dock in Rosyth near Edinburgh was flooded for the first time to allow the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier to float. It then took only three hours this morning to carefully manoeuvre HMS Queen Elizabeth out of the dock with just two metres clearance at either side and then berth her alongside a nearby jetty. Teams will now continue to outfit the ship and steadily bring her systems to life in preparation for sea trials in 2016. The dock she vacates will be used for final assembly of her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, which will begin in September 2014—© Crown Copyright 2014 image HMS Gannet

A computer generated image (CGI) of one of the two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers soon to be in service, passing Round Tower and out of the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth, Hampshire. Marking the start of the manufacture of the Royal Navy’s largest ever warships. Together with the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft and the brand new Type 45 destroyers, they will form the cornerstone of Britain’s future ability to jointly project air power worldwide from land or sea at a time and place of UK’s choosing—© Crown Copyright image by BVT Surface Fleet

The HMS Queen Elizabeth under tow for trials—Rolls Royce image

The HMS Queen Elizabeth under tow for trials—Rolls Royce image


Book Review: “Carrier Pilot”

17 July 2017

Review of an excellent WW II carrier fighter pilot’s expriences. An unusual and insightful book.

Pickled Wings

Carrier Pilot
By: Norman Hanson
Patrick Stephens Ltd. (1979)
Silvertail Books (2016)

This book is considered by many notable authors and critics to be one of the best pilots’ memoirs of the Second World War.

The author, Norman Hanson, served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as a pilot of Vought Corsair fighters in the Pacific Theatre of Operations and this book follows him from recuitment into the service to commanding officer of a fighter squadron.

He gives very good insights into the various aircraft he flew from the basic trainers he experienced in America to the Fairey Fulmar that he trained and qualified for carrier operations in. Ultimately, the Corsair fighter itself gets the spotlight and it’s a very enlightnening look at real life operations with the legendary carrier borne fighter in both shipboard and land based operations.

The book balances levity and poignancy particularly well. Efforts…

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Aces Flying High’s Swiss Air Force Centre Review

15 July 2017

In the 1950’s the Swiss worked on the development of two domestically designed and produced jet combat aircraft for the Swiss Air Force, the EFW N-20 Aiguillon (Sting) fighter and the FFA P-16 ground attack fighter. Both projects only reached the prototype stage and ultimately both were cancelled. Luckily examples of both aircraft survive today and are on display in […]

via Swiss Air Force Centre: Home Grown Jet Fighter Prototypes — Aces Flying High