According to acclaimed astronomer and Explorers’ ‘galactic ranger’ Dr John Mason, who accompanies the tours, the top items packed to capture the unique shadows cast during an annular eclipse are:
1. A kitchen colander
2. A rubber bathmat
3. A hole-punch
4. A colander spoon
5. A sink-plug strainer
Mason, who has appeared on BBC TV’s ‘The Sky at Night’ and is the former 'space correspondent' for LBC and Sky TV, said: “People presume that my suitcase and hand-luggage are packed full of expensive telescope and camera equipment but the truth is one of my top eclipse essentials is actually a kitchen colander spoon which cost me a couple of pounds. It weighs very little and fits easily into my bag between my clothes so is a permanent part of my eclipse travels.”
During an annular eclipse the dark disk of the moon appears smaller than the sun which leaves a ‘ring of fire’ as the sun’s rays beam from behind. This means that people need to wear special eclipse glasses to watch the phenomenon directly, but all Explorers’ guests are provided with these. The pinhole effect is an equally effective way of watching the eclipse because it allows people to follow the eclipse’s progress by projecting the sun’s image through a small hole, such as that made by a hole-punch in a piece of card, and follow the changes on the ground.
“The advantage of conventional household objects over paper is simply that you have so many more holes to project an image of the partially eclipsed sun on the ground,” adds Mason. “This is very handy when you have large numbers of local people wanting to view the eclipse as no specialist equipment is then needed. One Explorers’ guest regularly travels with a rubber bathmat and it was amazing to see how multiple images of the partially eclipsed sun were projected onto the ground, though I’m sure it could have raised a few eyebrows at customs.
“These occasions do seem to bring out the most inventive side of people and my backup suggestion is simply to grab something you are already wearing, such as whipping off your belt to use the small holes in that to make an impromptu eclipse projector.
“However, as eclipses usually take you to some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes, there’s no need to limit yourself to purely man-made objects. One of my favourite eclipse patterns was generated when we were in the middle of the Kenyan bush last year and thousands of overlapping images of the crescent sun were naturally projected through tiny gaps between the leaves of a nearby Acacia tree – a truly unforgettable experience.”
With the first annular solar eclipse in two and a half years set to darken America’s skies in May 2012, Dr Mason is expecting more innovative uses of traditional everyday items as people take the pinhole method to the extreme.
The contrasting beauty of the canyons in Zion and Bryce National Parks will provide an added extra to 2012’s annular eclipse, with the picturesque location of Bryce Canyon’s cliffs making for a truly dramatic backdrop. Options range from a seven-day US Annular Eclipse break to a 14-day tour of the US National Parks including the famous film location of Monument Valley with prices starting from £1,899pp, including flights.
During the tours Dr Mason will host a number of discussions to explain the experience and the science behind the annular eclipse. An experienced local leader will also help travellers make the most of their surroundings with a range of trails and hikes available throughout the holiday taking in the natural rock formations, seasonal wildflowers and the varying wildlife such as chipmunks and deer.
To find out more contact Explorers on 0845 609 1591 or visit www.astronomytours.co.uk.
- Ends -
22 November 2011
NB: Photo of a rubber bathmat in action on an Explorers’ Eclipse available.
For further information please contact:
Suzanne Seyghal, Explorers PR Manager
Tel: 020 8971 2967 Mobile:
Felicity Hay, Explorers PR Assistant
Tel: 020 8971 0498
Note to Editors
- Explorers offers a selection of specialist astronomy expeditions which enable travellers to enjoy memorable trips to witness spectacular natural events. With over 25 years’ experience of organising expeditions accompanied by astronomy experts to observe total solar eclipses, Explorers has an unrivalled pedigree in arranging astronomy tours.
- The next total solar eclipse tour is planned for November 2012 from North East Australia (14 November). A Solar Eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, obscuring the earth’s view of the sun in the process. Prices from £2,419pp including flights.