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Chasing Eclipses Around the World is a Way of Living: A Small Group of People Cannot Get Enough of it

Chasing eclipses is a way of living. Eclipse chasers travel around the world for enjoying watching eclipses.

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Solar Eclipse
FILE - This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. Wyoming state tourism officials say the solar eclipse passing over the entire length of Wyoming in August could give the state economy a much needed boost. (AP Photo, File) VOA

Washington D.C. [USA], August 21, 2017: While Monday’s total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be a once-in-a-lifetime sky show for millions, there’s a small group of people who have experienced it all before and they can’t get enough of it.

Glenn Schneider has seen 33. Fred Espenak has watched 28. Donald Liebenberg has logged 26. For newbie Kate Russo, it’s 10 and counting.

These veteran eclipse chasers spend lots of money and craft intricate plans all to experience another mid-day darkening of the sky. Many work in science and related fields and they’ll travel around the world, even to Antarctica, to see one more.

A minibus parked in a designated eclipse viewing area is seen in a campground near Guernsey, Wyoming, Aug. 20, 2017.VOA

“I do this not so much as an avocation, but as an addiction,” said Schneider, a University of Arizona astronomy professor.

Russo, a psychologist in Ireland who wrote a book about people’s eclipse experiences, said some people find the experience life-changing. That happened to her.

“Eclipse chasing isn’t just a hobby or interest,” Russo wrote in an email from Wyoming, where she traveled to see Monday’s eclipse. “Eclipse chasing is a way of life. It becomes who you are.”

This photo provided by the Oregon State Police shows the crowd at the Big Summit Eclipse 2017 event near Prineville, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. The full solar eclipse will happen Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (Oregon State Police via AP) VOA

Monday’s eclipse will cut a 70-mile-wide (112-kilometer) path of totality across the country, when the moon moves between Earth and the sun, blocking it for as much as 2 1/2 minutes. It’s the first coast-to-coast full eclipse since 1918. Many of the big eclipse chasers are planning to be in Oregon or Wyoming because there’s a better chance of clear weather there in August. They’ll be ready to drive hundreds of miles if need be to find good weather.

Total solar eclipses happen on average every 18 months or so, but they usually aren’t near easy-to-drive highways. Norma Liebenberg has been to a dozen, mostly joining her avid eclipse watcher husband, Donald, in remote places like Libya, Zambia and Western China.

“It’s sort of mind-boggling that there are 1,000 people out in these isolated places to see it,” she said. She even forgave her husband when he missed their first anniversary to go to a clouded-out eclipse in the South Pacific.

There’s a compulsiveness to eclipse chasers, especially photographers, said Dr. Gordon Telepun, an Alabama plastic surgeon who has seen only three.

“It’s very anxiety-producing, it’s very challenging,” said Telepun, who even developed a talking phone app that times an eclipse so photographers don’t miss anything. “It’s an adrenaline rush man, I’m telling you.”

FILE – Retired NASA astrophysicist, author, photographer and eclipse expert Fred Espenak known as “Mr. Eclipse” speaks during a press conference in Torshavn, the capital city of the Faeroe Islands, March 19, 2015. VOA

Telepun said his hero is “Mr. Eclipse” Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist, who explains why chasers are the way they are.

“It’s the closest any of us will come to being an astronaut and being in space,” Espenak said.

Eclipse chasers say their first always hooks them.

Schneider, who got a telescope at age 5, planned out his first eclipse precisely. He was 14 in 1970 and he traveled from New York City to East Carolina University’s stadium. He had choreographed how he was going to spend the 2 minutes 53 seconds of darkness. Then came the moment.

“I was frozen in place,” he recalled. “I had binoculars around my neck for two and a half minutes and I never picked them up.”

When it was over “I was shaking. I was crying. I was overwhelmed,” he said. “It was at that instant when I said ‘Yeah, this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life’.”

Now Schneider takes his grown daughter with him to eclipses. And he invented what he calls the “lug-o-scope,” a telescope that folds into its own luggage to make his eclipse chasing easier.

“Flexibility is probably No. 1,” Schneider said. “Keeping your options and open and be ready to take that option if that’s what’s needed.”

A veteran of 28 eclipses, Espenak often leads groups of 50 some people to view eclipses, lecturing both about the beauty and the science. Except when the hour grows close and the skies get dark, he goes silent.

“On eclipse day he’s all business. He does not want to be diverted from his checklist of everything he wants to do,” explains University of Tennessee’s Mark Littmann, co-author with Espenak of the book “Totality.” “It’s like you’re kind of trying to chat with a pilot coming in for an emergency landing. It isn’t that he’s just not friendly, it’s just not the right time anymore.”

Donald Liebenberg has seen and blogged about his 26 eclipses for Clemson University, where he does research. He holds the record for most time in totality because the retired federal scientist used to view them by airplane whenever possible. In 1973, he convinced the French to let him use the supersonic Concorde for eclipse viewing and he flew at twice the speed of sound. He got 74 minutes of eclipse time in that one flight.

After spending more than 60 years flying around the world, this time the Liebenbergs are only going as far as their driveway.

This eclipse is coming directly to them in South Carolina.

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Oldest recorded solar eclipse occurred 3,200 years ago

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Solar eclipse

Cambridge University researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible, and could help historians to date Egyptian pharaohs.

“Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world,” said Professor Colin Humphreys from University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

Using a combination of the biblical text and an ancient Egyptian text, the researchers were able to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, in particular, the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical text in question comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.

It records that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan, a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” Humphreys said.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the Sun and Moon stopped moving,” Humphreys said.

“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the Sun and Moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the Moon passes between the earth and the Sun, and the Sun appears to stop shining,” Humphreys said.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses, he added.

Independent evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC can be found in the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian text dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Great, the study said.

The large granite block, held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.

Earlier historians had used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but were not successful as they were only looking at total eclipses, in which the disc of the Sun appears to be completely covered by the moon as the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

What the earlier historians failed to consider was that it was instead an annular eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, the researchers said.

In the ancient world, the same word was used for both total and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a new eclipse code, which takes into account variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.

From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.

If their arguments are accepted, it would not only be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded, it would also enable researchers to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.

Using these new calculations, the researchers determined that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year.(IANS)

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Landmark Achievement: 6 Astronomers from India Discover Giant Radio Galaxies (GRGs)

A team of 6 astronomers from India have reportedly discovered Giant Radio Galaxies (GRGs) which are the largest known galaxies in the universe

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Giant Radio Galaxies
Out of total known galaxies, only 300 have been classifies as Giant Radio Galaxies. Wikimedia
  • Six astronomers from India have recently discovered the largest galaxies known to the universe, called Giant Radio Galaxies (GRGs)
  • Only 300 out of total number of galaxies are classified as Giang Radio Galaxies
  • The research was successful taking into account the research of last 6 decades of radio astronomy

July 06, 2017: A team of six astronomers from India has made a landmark discovery. Using the research from last six decades of radio astronomy and a 20-year-old survey, the team has detected the existence of Giant Radio Galaxies (GRGs).

Giant Radio Galaxies are known to be the largest galaxies in the universe. The reason for their large size is unknown as of now. As one of the lead researcher, Pratik Dabhade from Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), explains in the study, “The huge size of GRGs has defied any theoretical explanation so far. Our work will help in understanding how these galaxies grow to be so large.”

The other researchers also involved include Joydeep Bagchi (IUCAA), Mamta Pommier (CNRS Observatoire de Lyon), Madhuri Gaikwad (Max Planck Institute Bonn), Shishir Sankhyayan (IISER Pune) and Somak Raychaudhary (IUCAA).

Also Read: “Do not Stand and Drink Water”: Here is Why it is often said so

Their research has been published in Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The Giant Radio Galaxies are found co-existing with a supermassive black hole at the core of center of the nucleus. High energy particles are discharged at the speed of light which emerges into two giant radio lobes.

The Giant Radio Galaxies are known to be the last stage of evolution of galaxies, mainly because of their massive size. However, these galaxies are visible only through radio telescopes.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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May 20 is World Whisky Day: Why would a wine maker foray into the whisky space? To give it a twist!

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Wine, Pixabay

– by Vishnu Makhijani

May 20, 2017: Why would a wine maker foray into the whisky space? To give it a twist!

“We’ve always wanted to offer something new to our consumers and therefore Eclipse is crafted with a twist, with the addition of a matured Grape Spirit and blended with peated malt and scotch,” Yogesh Mathur, Vice President, Artisan Spirits Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Sula Vineyards, told IANS as World Whisky Day was celebrated on Saturday (May 20).

“So, even though Sula has ventured into the whisky market, we have successfully managed to keep our feet firm to our roots. In this cluttered beverage market, Eclipse is clearly a stand-out from the crowd as being the only whisky in the market produced with matured grape spirits, leaving a smooth and lasting flavour of fruits and vanilla on the palate,” he added.

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What else can one expect in the whisky space in the year ahead?

“There seems to be a growing trend of whisky cocktails, which is very exciting. In general, the way in which whisky is consumed these days is more relaxed — acceptable neat, with ice, with mixers and in cocktails – whatever consumers prefer,” Caroline Martin, the master blender for Diageo’s Signature whisky, told IANS in an email interaction.

Don’t many consider it sacrilegious to use whisky, particularly single malts, as a base for cocktails?

“I agree it’s sacrilege and so we used the Glennfiddich 12 (instead of a higher-end single malt). Why not experiment? Not everyone is a purist,” Chef Manish Mehrohtra had previously told IANS at a tony food-tasting event.

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So, enter the Monkey Thandai, with the base being Monkey Shoulder, a free-spirited, fun-loving three-malt blend with an easygoing smooth, rich and mellow vanilla deliciousness. Quite faddish it has become for the Indian summer drinker.

To get back to Martin, how does one describe a whisky drinker?

“In my opinion, people who are new to whisky prefer accessible flavours, whereas adorers of whisky are more open to more robust flavours.

“I think this very much depends on the occasion to some extent. Consumers will choose what they want to drink depending on what they want to get from it. It’s important, therefore, to ensure consumers are given a broad range of whiskies to choose from — in terms of flavour/price and the like — so that their drink of choice is always a whisky,” she added.

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What then, at the bottom line, drives the whisky market in India?

“India is the world’s biggest whisky market and that makes it a fantastic place for us to do business. One of the biggest trends we are currently seeing in India is the rise of a cocktail culture in whisky,” James Pennefather, Managing Director, William Grant & Sons India, told IANS.

He attributed this to three factors.

“Bartenders with better skills, an increasingly vibrant bar scene plus drinkers with an international outlook who are looking for different drinks’ experiences.”

“Through our investment in mixology initiatives such as our current ‘Summer Tails’ activations in bars and programmes such as the Ultimate Bartender Challenge have helped develop bartenders’ skills further,” Pennefather added. (IANS)