Eclipse reports from the 'hoods

by Jane Houston Jones

A lot of folks stayed home or viewed the eclipse near home in the SF Bay area. Last nights' eclipse was late for kids and parents alike on a school and work night, from moonrise at 8:00 pm to the end of the eclipse at 11:00 p.m. PDT. Plus you don't really have to drive to a remote location to enjoy an eclipse. All the big science centers, and observatories had heaps of visitors and heaps media too. But lots of neighborhood eclipse stations had as many people as the big centers, but within walking distance to home. Here are some of them.

I'll start with my own event. I was at my project astro K-8 school with several hundred kids, parents and members of the local community. My project astro partner ( ), the 6th and 7th grade science teacher prepared a handout on lunar eclipse geometry for the crowd. Three amateur astronomers plus their young kids or relatives brought a total of six small to medium size inexpensive and/or homemade reflector telescopes and a few sets of binoculars to the schoolyard. After checking my compass, I knew exactly where the moon would rise, through some trees and between some buildings. We observed Jupiter and Saturn until 8:55 p.m.PDT 3:45 UT when we finally spotted the moon near the end of totality -- a reddish/orange low contrast moonglow, which slowly brightened as the moon left the umbra. When the school event was over, I eclipse-hopped to another local gathering of lunatics on...

San Pablo Bay, San Rafael, CA. Four amateur astronomers set up a couple large Meade and Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain telescopes, and some big mounted binos. First they observed the sun in h-alpha light and through solar safe filters early in the evening. They eagerly hunted the eclipsed moon as it rose above San Pablo Bay, north of the golden gate. All of a sudden, it popped out of the horizon hugging muck a little off where they thought it would appear, and a couple hundred visitors had great views. Some viewers celebrated with champagne! Another astronomer was set up away from the crowd quietly doing some imaging of the eclipse. When the eclipse was over the bright moonlight reflected on the calm water of the bay, offering a lovely image to carry home in our memories..

A salt marsh wetlands park, San Rafael, CA. My mom and dad scouted out the moonrise location the previous night, and joined a dozen or two casual observers along the marshes. They brought their 9 x 63 Celestron Ultima binos for a perfect view, but left their Pierre Schwaar 6-inch f/5.2 reflector at home. Mom was first to spot the moon!

Bernal Hill, San Francisco. Mojo and some other San Francisco amateur astronomers were there with binos - there was a hill to walk up for the good horizon, so the telescopes stayed stowed. No matter. One participant reported it was a very festive atmosphere with lots of folks from the immediate neighborhood, all speaking in "oohs and aahs", the language of the stargazer. Haze prevented everyone from seeing the moon until it was totality was nearly over - a hazy orange color. Lots of folks looked through the one spotting scope. We're taking hundreds of folks here from theis neighborhood. Mojo spottted the moon first at 8:46 p.m. PDT.

Coast Guard Island, San Francisco. A local high school employee viewed the eclipse from the Coast Guard Island. Sensational at 9:00 p.m. The students in her class were treated to a heavenly treasure as the class got out.

A mom and 9-year old daughter got a penthouse room atop one of SF's finest hotels (dad works there) for eclipse night. They got fantastic views in an elegant room, but wished there was no glass between them and the moon. They really missed looking at the moon through their own telescope, and vow to observe outdoors come November. I'm glad someone got a view from high, tho'. Several view restaurants and bars had excellent eclipse views.

The Marina Green is a lovely area of SF, site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, with sweeping views of the nearby Golden Gate and Bay bridges. To the SE, the moon rose against the cityscape of San Francsico. Not the best spot for early views, but a crowd magnet nevertheless. Several telescopes plus one SF Chronicle reporter viewed from here.

Portrero Hill looks down on Pac Bell Park and across the bay to Oakland. A couple SF astronomers set up a couple telescopes near their home. First glimpse of the eclipse was an ashen gray moon at 8:45 p.m. They had people shooting pictures of the eclipse through the eyepiece of their telescopes...using a cell phone!

Twin Peaks - Long lines of cars snaked down Twin Peaks Road with people parked all over the place. One local amateur astronomer reported the color and other details we all saw, but added this. "While waiting for the moon to climb above the low clouds I trained my telescope on Jupiter to the delight of the crowd. Many people viewed the glorious site of the giant planet and its four moons for the first time and remarked how moving the image was. It reminded me of the very first time 45 years ago when I first trained my little 50mm Tasco refractor that my parents bought for my 10th birthday on the moon, Saturn and Jupiter and what an impression they made on me at that early age. There were lots of kids too and I am sure they experienced the thrill I did so long ago with their first look through a telescope."

And at Pac Bell Park, the moon would rise over San Francisco Bay and would become visible following a path from home plate to first base and beyond. When the moon finally rose high enough for the San Francsico Giants fans to see, they broke out in mass applause! Giants beat the Mets, too!