Tag: light years

Solar Eclipse Fever? Mark your calendar for 2024

Solar Eclipse Fever? Mark your calendar for 2024

Total Eclipse of Sun and Corona Photo by Fred Espenak, 1999

Once in a lifetime solar eclipse? Maybe not. 

Nature’s rarest celestial spectacle, a total solar eclipse. Now that you’ve seen it on television and heard the awe of the spectators, you wish you’d been able to work it out. For a variety of reasons I was content to see a 72% eclipse from my home in Las Vegas, alas, for the single hour that would have been needed to watch, it rained. And it really rained, like big, black, storm cloud rain.

Rain might not seem such a big deal to most, but we have sun about 350 days a year here. It’s why I have a 10.5K solar array on my roof, why my bath towels are kind of stiff from drying on the clothesline six months of the year, and why I expected that in this valley my odds (no obvious Vegas pun intended here) of visibility were about 34:1 in favor of sun.  In fact, even with rain, at some point the sun will appear even on those days. And, I was right. The clouds cleared around noon, well past the entire event in the southwest part of the country.

Solar eclipse of 1979

So the last chance I had was in 1979. I will tell you, without too many age revealing details, I happened to be on a school campus at the time, sometime around 8:15. I used the pinhole method, a hole in a paper cast upon another sheet of paper. My classmates thought I was nuts for even caring. I was probably the only person that day who bothered, or cared, that in the sky above us something extraordinary was occurring, in real time, and that tiny little grey crescent, as it changed from fat to thin to fat and whole again, in the past had confirmed Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, in 1919.

And as sad as that experience might sound, I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve been nerdy since before they invented the term, and I’m not surprised to find myself writing scientific fiction stories, hoping to instill the same feelings of amazement and cosmic unity in my readers as I embrace. I call this a natural worldview. Only a handful of humans have ventured beyond our stratosphere, and only as far as our moon.

The speed of light is 186,000+ miles per second (300,000 km/sec), or 6.71×108  per hour. I seared that number into my brain prepping for a science club contest between high schools. A photon of light can circle the Earth 7.5 times in one second. Light travels between the moon and Earth in less than two seconds. It takes light 8 minutes to get from our sun to Earth. My point is, space is big, and that’s an understatement.

Next total solar eclipse in United States
Texas to Maine 2024

April 8th, 2024, we have another coast to coast total eclipse, but instead of west to east, it will be south to north, more or less.






annular solar eclipse 2023
Oregon to Gulf of Mexico

An annular eclipse, where instead of the corona you see a ring of fire, will occur shortly before that, on October 14th, 2023.


It works like this: the Sun is 400 times +- larger than the moon. It is also 400 times farther away from the moon than the moon is to Earth. For a deeper explanation, go read this Popular Science blog. No sense in reinventing the wheel here. And since the moon moves away from Earth a few centimeters each year, before another billion years pass, a total solar eclipse will be a thing of the past. Of course, none of us will be here to lament the demise. We are on the planet, conscious, sentient, intelligent, at the best time since life began.

I wrote about humans on another planet experiencing a solar eclipse, not a total eclipse, but one in which three moons converge to cast their shadows and block out the star, Beta Hydri, and this defining moment in their lives brings a new beginning and hope as they patiently await rescue on a planet that, like Nature here, doesn’t care for the life forms; they simply must use their brains to stay alive, and the solar powered escape pods are pretty helpful, too. If you want to check that book out, just pop over here and you can find it on Smashwords or Amazon as an eBook, or in paperback if you prefer. Paradox: The Alien Genome, the first novel of the Captain Jackson Adventures series.

novel alien genome
Five Star Rated, Paradox: The Alien Genome

Until the next worthy news item, wear your sunscreen. Those UV rays are Naughty Nature at her most wicked!

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway

gilesemooncoverStarts today! runs through the end of January – enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Paradox: The Alien Genome. Share with those who love Hard Science Fiction, this will take you from the vastness of our galaxy to the microcosm of molecules!  Castaway astronauts may never see Earth again, which is a shame since what humanity needs most is all around them.

Enter to Win!

#amwriting #sciencefiction #startrek

Last Chance 2016

Last Chance 2016

 It’s the last day this year that PARADOX: The Alien Genome will be available for FREE on Amazon. If Science Fiction isn’t your cup of Earl Grey, Coffee, or Passion Fruit Iced Tea, do a friend a favor and share this post with them!

Don’t Miss Out

Don’t Miss Out


My e-novel, PARADOX, is FREE, no strings attached! Today, Saturday and  tomorrow, Sunday, August 27 & 28, through Amazon. Check out the short trailer below, and get in one more good read before school starts!

Click here:  Free This Weekend Only


Sky Guide

Sky Guide

Sky Guide. It’s not free, but the small fee is worth it if you like celestial things. IMG_4035

Just a quick entry today about an app that I bet most of you have never heard of. Of course, there are plenty of sports apps and things I don’t know about. But this is cool for everyone who has ever looked up at the stars at night and wondered what the heck they were looking at.

This is a screen print from my phone of the app. I took it this morning, as you can see, the sun is in the east, and the sky is dark so you can see the stars. You can’t tell from the screen print, but it shows the constellations, planets, stars in real time. You can also set the time and date for almost any day in the past or future and see what the sky looked like at that moment.

If you tap on an object, such as a white dot, the name of the item will appear and you can tap again for a detailed description, including the type of star, its distance in light years, and its location in degrees and minutes.

If you want to search for something specific, just tap the menu icon and you are given choices of stars, satellites, planets, and more to search for! Tap the Satellites, and select the ISS. You’ll get a quick location and its path in the sky.

It has some ethereal music to go with it, and if you are sky watching, simply hold your device with the camera pointing in the sky. It will automatically orient itself and tell you exactly what you’re looking at. Point it toward a dot in the sky, you’ll discover you’re looking at Jupiter or Venus, or Regulus or Betelgeuse.

But don’t take my word for it. Go to the app store and check it out for yourself. Nothing is quite as fun as hearing a push notification that the ISS is going to be flying overhead in 5 minutes! What are you waiting for, go have some fun!

Moon Day

Moon Day

Artist's impression of the trio of super-Earths discovered by an European team using the HARPS spectrograph on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile, after 5 years of monitoring. The three planets, having 4.2, 6.7, and 9.4 times the mass of the Earth, orbit the star HD 40307 with periods of 4.3, 9.6, and 20.4 days, respectively.
Artist’s impression of the trio of super-Earths discovered by an European team using the HARPS spectrograph on ESO’s 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile, after 5 years of monitoring. The three planets, having 4.2, 6.7, and 9.4 times the mass of the Earth, orbit the star HD 40307 with periods of 4.3, 9.6, and 20.4 days, respectively.

I like to challenge the brain on a regular basis. Now I’m going to challenge your brain.  Don’t look up the answer on the internet right away, this is a private process for your brain only.

True or False:  The nearest earth type planet discovered by humans is only 4 light years away.

Think about that for a minute. Four light years, if we could travel the speed of light, would take, well, four years to reach (at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, or seven times around the diameter of the earth).  If we could go ten times the speed of light, it would still take more almost five months (speed of 1,860,000 miles per second). It takes eight minutes for the light of our sun to reach the earth. Four light years is pretty far away. At 17,000 mph, the current average space shuttle speed, it would take 165,000 years to reach a planet 4 light years from here.

And the truth is the closest earth-like planet discovered is 11.9 light yeas away around the sun-like star Tau Ceti. Now triple all the figures above. Half a million years to get there with today’s technology? That’s the disappointing fact. Even a generational ship is a pretty far stretch of the imagination. And yet we still dream of discovering life on other planets, shaking hands with extra terrestrials, or at least finding an amoebae we can bring home in a Petri dish.   So what do we do?

We keep hunting nearby, we keep studying whatever we can, and we don’t stop reaching for the stars.