When the NLSI team was welcomed to the Grand Canyon National Park, the sign at the Vistor’s Center read “Get to know Grand Canyon. Be inspired.” And that we were.

The Grand Canyon itself exposes a beautiful, almost bewildering, panorama of rock. The tilted remnants of sedimentary and igneous rock, sporadically exposed above the contorted folds of metamorphic rocks, plunge into the depths of the canyon to reflect their tortured past.

View of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Credit: Soderman

Directly under the path of the eclipse, the Grand Canyon was the perfect setting from which to watch the May 20, 2012 Annular eclipse of the Sun.

NLSI’s Brian Day gave several public lectures on the eclipse, and spoke eloquently about our Sun and Moon before detailing NASA’s space missions to these exciting destinations. These talks were followed by the main viewing event. More than 20 telescopes were set up to behold the spectacle, with over 1,500 people in attendance.

Brian Day, Director of Communication and Public Outreach, and NLSI Director Yvonne Pendleton, set up the telescopes. Credit: Soderman

Here you can see a video of the annular eclipse. Listen for the reactions of the crowd as a ring of fire surrounds the Moon:

Below is an incredible sequence of photos taken during the eclipse by Dr. Dale Cruikshank. Dale Cruikshank is one of the premier astronomers and planetary scientists in the Astrophysics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Shortly after first contact, when the Moon’s limb first becomes visible on the solar disk. Credit: Cruikshank

If you click on the photo below to enlarge it, you can see the edge of the Moon just grazing the edge of the Sun. Because of the irregularities of the lunar limb profile (the “edge” of the Moon, as seen from a distance) caused by mountains, craters, valleys and other topographical features on the Moon, the rugged lunar limb topography allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places, and not in others. This effect is called Baily’s beads, not after NLSI’s Staff Scientist Brad Bailey as we liked to tease, but rather in honor of Francis Baily who first provided an exact explanation of the phenomenon in 1836.

Second contact, starting with Baily’s Beads (caused by light shining through valleys on the Moon’s surface). Almost the entire disk is covered. Credit: Cruikshank

Annularity, the Moon is too small to cover the entire Sun’s disk so a ring or “annulus” of bright sunlight surrounds the Moon. Credit: Cruikshank

Third contact, when the first bright light becomes visible and the shadow is moving away from the observer. Again Baily’s Beads may be observed. Credit: Cruikshank

Some minutes before Fourth contact, when the trailing edge of the Moon ceases to overlap with the solar disk. Credit: Cruikshank

Another amazing effect as the Moon passed in front of the sun, was the transformation of sunbeams into fat crescents and thin rings of light. Rays of light beaming through holes and gaps have the same shape as the eclipsed sun. Standing under a tree, the sight of a thousand ring-shaped sunbeams swaying back and forth was unforgettable.

Crescent sunbeams dapple the ground beneath a tree during the annular eclipse. Credit: Soderman

Stay tuned, we will be posting links to more fantastic eclipse images in the coming days…

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NLSI

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