Astronomical Two-Fer

Science Fans, we have a double treat coming up, over the next few weeks.

First, a full eclipse of the sun will track across the Pacific and the western USA on May 20.

The details are clearly shown on a NASA website, here.

The folks at NASA do many things well. (Just not, designing efficient and economical rockets, but I digress.)  Gunny, you will note that the full shadow will clip the southwestern corner of your good state.  Driving from Las Vegas, we will reach the shadowed zone at the “Moapa Valley”, a pleasant farming community along the I-15.

The second event is a ‘transit of Venus’, the second in a pair of such events, near sundown on June 5 (for the western USA).  This will be visible over major portions of the planet.

The first transit of this pair was in 2004.  Transits of Venus then will not recur for over a century.

Here is another website, with details of the transit.

For either event, of course, caution is necessary – good filters or reflective projection.  The Sun can blind you.

Science Marches On!


41 Responses to Astronomical Two-Fer

  1. Pornstar says:

    Thanks Kevin, looking very forward to it. Will you be so good as to give us a reminder just before the events take place? Thanks.

  2. KevinNevada says:


    perhaps, depends on the company whom I view it with. :-)

    A shout out to Boris’ paramour: will this event draw you eastwards? The full shadow will miss much of California, passing north and east of Sacramento.

  3. Expat says:

    Just finishing a biography of Catherine the Great. She dispatched teams across Russia in the 18th century to observe the transits. Part of the first big international scientific collaboration that including the French, British and others across the globe.

  4. gunnison says:

    Oh man, what a great heads-up
    I’ve never yet seen a full eclipse (of the sun that is—the moon, yes).
    That’s worth a special trip—not a big travel distance for us at all.

    Let me know your plans, here in the comments or via email. Who knows what mischief we might cook up.

  5. KevinNevada says:


    I can tell you right now, we will be in Mesquite NV on the state line. There are several decent hotels there, catering to the gamblin’ sort of Mormons. (It is the southern version of the bustling action in West Wendover . . . . but again, I digress.)

    The Casablanca is the best one.

    You can reach the full shadow in southern Utah. But if the spirit moves you onwards to Mesquite, let me know.

  6. gunnison says:

    On the map you link to, is the full eclipse anywhere between the blue lines (more or less)— is that what’s going on?
    We’re moving our schedules around as I speak — we’re thinking a camping trip for a couple three days maybe.

  7. KevinNevada says:


    the blue lines are the edge of the shadow, but every spot will have its own extent of full shadowing, and the nearer to the red line you are, the longer that will be. It will only be a few minutes, even at that red line.

    But still, an experience not to be missed and it’s a great time of year for a short road trip.

    You can click on any spot on the map, and a table will pop up that gives you plenty of data including the time of full shadowing for that spot. It is a wonderful site. All times are “UT”, e.g. Greenwich Mean with no “daylight savings”.

    The Casablanca resort has these spa/getaway packages that throw in golf, or a massage for a flat rate with the room. It is designed as a getaway from the bothers of Las Vegas, or the boring life of South Utah.

    The second event, the transit of Venus will be fully visible from anywhere in the USA.

  8. Bluthner says:

    Gambling Mormons, Mesquite, camping, darkness at noon, Venus…

    Wish I could join you guys. If only it wasn’t halfway round the planet.

  9. NatashaFatale says:


    Well, it’s considerate of NASA to schedule it on a weekend. I suppose I could always hop over to Lubbock; should be safe enough to view it through a plate of brisket.

    But, really, does anything that happens outside of southern California really, you know, matter?

  10. KevinNevada says:


    I could ask it the other way around: is anything in So. California real?



    Virgin Atlantic flies daily 747’s nonstop from Heathrow into McCarren, e.g. Las Vegas, USA.

    And for the record, we are 1/3 of the way around the planet, eight time zones not 12 from GMT to the Pacific zone here in sunny Nevada.

  11. Di-Ohso says:

    When my dad died in August 1999, we arranged the funeral for the 11th, and didn’t realise the commital would be exactly at the height of an eclipse. Things had been so upsetting, astral events were the last thing on my mind…
    For peace and quiet, I had to put the funeral back an hour because my sister didn’t like the idea of it. Instead, I was walking around my garden picking a bunch of flowers for him because that’s what he’d asked for.
    It felt very weird…Everything silent, still, and in a weird sort of twilight.
    He’d have loved it….

  12. Expat says:

    And this on the topic from the Dirty Digger’s WSJ

    On June 5 and 6 (depending on where you live), we are likely to be the last people now living on Earth to witness a transit of Venus. If it is a clear day, we will be able to watch the brightest star of the night march for a few short hours as a small black dot across the fiery disc of the sun.

    Amid the global Seven Years War, hundreds of astronomers from the belligerent nations joined together to plan expeditions to see the transit from India, the Arctic Circle, Siberia, Tahiti, Newfoundland, Baja California and many other places—at a time when a letter posted in Philadelphia took two to three months to reach London.

    Another French astronomer, Jean-Baptiste Chappe d’Auteroche, faced freezing temperatures and deep snows when he traveled from Paris to Siberia for the first transit. Eight years later, in Baja California, he measured the second transit from a typhus–infested Jesuit mission. Delirious with fever, he died hours after recording his final data.

    Everywhere across the globe astronomers were encountering dangers and obstacles. Britain’s Royal Society threatened Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon—later famed for the Mason-Dixon Line—with court martial for mutiny when they refused, after a bloody French attack, to continue on their way to Sumatra to record the transit. They resumed their journey but, unbeknown to the Royal Society, observed the transit in Cape Town.

    Benjamin Franklin masterminded the colonists’ effort from London, commissioning telescopes and other instruments for his friends at Harvard University and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. On the day of the transit, the Pennsylvanian astronomer David Rittenhouse became so overexcited that he fainted, missing the beginning of the most important scientific event of his life. In Hudson Bay, one observer endured such cold that brandy froze in his glass, while a Swedish astronomer faced armed Russian rebels in a border conflict in Lapland. Russia’s Catherine the Great dispatched eight expeditions across her vast empire.

    So playing the slots on the way through McCarran off a Virgin 747 should seem like a doddle in comparison :)

  13. NatashaFatale says:


    If you wanted to you’d find a way. Why, the last time we had one of these, I had to fly my Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see it.

  14. KevinNevada says:


    my dear wife asserts that given the usual sound of the casinos and in the airport, the official Nevada state bird is the Ding-Ding Bird . . . . it makes a distinctive call at all hours, is heard and celebrated everywhere. :-)

    I checked the times using that popup feature in the map.

    In Mesquite, NV the event will begin at 17:23 local (PDT), or 0:23 Zulu, reach totality about 18:35 for a duration of three minutes, fifteen seconds, then gradually end about 19:38 PDT (02:38 Zulu).

    Gunny, if you go to the SW corner of Colorado, you will be just inside the northern edge and will experience a much shorter totality, perhaps less than a minute, but will still see about 1-1/2 hours of eclipse.

    Or, you can journey to the Land of the Ding Ding Bird.

  15. gunnison says:

    Looks like Mrs.g has her heart set on Santa Fe, where she has never been.

    I lobbied for the Nevada border, and even assured her that a quick twenty carefully gambled would more than pay for the trip and probably buy her a new car to boot, to which she replied that she likes the car we’ve got and anyway there’s a hotel near Santa Fe that is also a casino (must be on the Rez, I’d guess) and that they take dogs and we wouldn’t have to drive across the desert.

    Outmaneuvered by the fucking google, goddamit.
    We might keep an eye on the weather forecast too, though, closer to the time, and if N Mexico looks to be socked in we might re-adjust.

    Checking again I see that the eclipse is on the 21st, not the 20th as in the article itself, at least here in the US. That’s right isn’t it? No wait, it’s that fucking Zulu time again. Shit.
    OK, it’s late afternoon on the 20th.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Apologies – muddling eclipses and transits :)

  17. Expat says:

    That was me on my Nook – i haven’t set the default yet.

  18. Cochise says:

    OR…For those of you travel challenged…

    Install a dimmer switch in the dining room for an ecliptical experience every evening after sundown.

    The next time you get dirt in your eye stare at the sun and call the dark spot you see Venus.

    People fascinated by politics and shadows and willing to travel for either. Now there’s a head scratcher. Even Google’s mystified.

  19. gunnison says:


    People fascinated by politics and shadows and willing to travel for either. Now there’s a head scratcher.

    Well hell, I was going to call to see if you felt like a trip to Santa Fe, but I guess you’re not impressed.

  20. NatashaFatale says:


    Sure you don’t want to try Lubbock with me? I think it’s just the place to pick up a little cash by offering to turn the sun back on for a price…

  21. Cochise says:

    Well hell, I was going to call to see if you felt like a trip to Santa Fe, but I guess you’re not impressed.

    Ya know, after 45+ yrs. of going at the speed of light I seem to have hit a waning phase. If the planets want to see me they’re gonna have to come by here.

  22. Tommydog says:

    There is a nice little bar & restaurant on the NE corner of the plaza in Santa Fe where you can sit upstairs on the deck and listen to the music. The band was good when we were there last year. Weather might still be iffy though, but they’ll put heaters out. The Georgia O’Keefe museum is worth a look-see. Mass at the St Francis Basilica is worth attending just for the choir. It was built by Archbishop Jean Lamy, the inspiration for the Edna Ferber novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” If you drive through Taos on the way down, Kit Carson’s house is also kind of neat; the lady who is the docent gave an interesting spiel, but otherwise I didn’t see what all the fuss is about with Taos.

    I can remember back in the early ’80s there were still Indians sitting on blankets around the plaza selling turquoise jewelry. They are moved off to another part of town. Santa Fe reminds me now of Carmel. There’s a hat shop where cowboy hats sell for $500.

    But hey, a trip to Santa Fe; get some good meals, catch a few tunes, and watch a cool shadow. Makes sense to me.

  23. Tommydog says:

    Oh, jeez. what was I thinking?. The Willa Cather novel

  24. gunnison says:


    I think it’s just the place to pick up a little cash by offering to turn the sun back on for a price…

    Now that is tempting, even though I’ve been to Lubbock no end of times and would rather have a root canal than do it again.

  25. KevinNevada says:


    well, your good wife has excellent taste. New Mexico is fantastic, also a much finer choice than Lubbock. In Santa Fe, you will be near the north edge of the shadow zone, the center passes over Albuquerque. Tommydog is right about the prices, central Santa Fe is overpriced-artsy central.

    I checked the details for the central plaza and this eclipse. Yes, it occurs on the evening of the 20th. The local times are Zulu -6 for MDT timing:

    Begin of eclipse, 0.28 Zulu, local time 18:28,

    Total annularity at 1:35 Zulu, local time 19:35, duration 3 minutes 34 seconds, and

    End of eclipse at 2:35 Zulu, local time 20:35.

    Given the nature of that part of Santa Fe, the bars will be crowded. The timing is perfect.

    For us, Mesquite NV is the nearest good choice, with the new job I cannot take a road trip for a while. It is close enough that we can be home that evening.

    Cochise: bah humbug to you, too. We will post pics. :-)

  26. Expat says:

    This is beginning to sound like a pitch for a road movie.

    Aging American hippies and Vietnam war protesters meet on-line and arrange a trip to witness and celabrate a total solar eclipse. Follow their hillarious journeys, japes and mishaps as they converge from around the globe on Lubbock TX to meet with an enthusiastic young scientist, view the big event and rekindle their hope for the future of mankind.

    Working title – Last of the Summer Weed :)

  27. Expat says:

    Starring – Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins with Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts, Cher and a lovable Australian sheep dog in supporting roles.

  28. Tommydog says:

    Shame Jackie Gleason’s not around to play Lubbuck’s sheriff.

  29. Bluthner says:

    End of the first act: the sun goes out and then… does not come back when all the science says it’s supposed to do.

    Our heroes have to find out why, and get the lights back on before earth turns into a giant snowball.

    Turns out it was just a bunch of teen-aged aliens joyriding in their daddy’s spaceship, blocking the sun for fun, just to watch the little earthlings panic.

    Kev saves the day, by figuring out where their home planet is, and getting a message back to the local sherriff (there) who WILL be played by Jackie Gleason (cgi).

  30. Tommydog says:

    All jokes about Lubbuck aside, there is actually the “Lunar Burn” music festival coinciding with the eclipse in Susanville, CA (about an hour north of Reno), which is right on the path.

  31. KevinNevada says:


    trust the Burners to do something right about this event.

  32. Squirrel says:

    Not really the place, I know, but ppl might be interested in the Leveson Inquiry. . .

    (I’ve just been watching Sky News, which has been broadcasting email after email to its boss by the dozen for hours. . .Rather different to Fox and Congressional Committees. . .The QC questioning James Murdoch today was brilliant: cool, sceptical, and putting his finger instantly on awkward sentence after awkward sentence among thousands of words . . .and dropping not just one minister but the PM and Clegg right in the shit.)

  33. Pornstar says:

    Squirrel –

    I’m obsessed with the phone hacking case. I see from a cursory that your Mr. Cnut got dropped right in it. Sorry i didn’t see that questioning – the committee questioning was a farce.

  34. MadameMax says:

    Guess I’ll have to miss the fun. No time for a road trip and I don’t do the airplane thing. I’ll wait for the movie.

    (Speaking of aging hippies and movies, I’m in the movie “Hair.” Somewhere in that massive crowd at the Reflecting Pool. ‘Course we were all young then…)

  35. Expat says:

    Turns out it was just a bunch of teen-aged aliens joyriding in their daddy’s spaceship, blocking the sun for fun, just to watch the little earthlings panic.

    Now you are being silly

  36. Expat says:

    Didn’t Kevin just say that he had returned from a conference that was more than Power Point engineering?

    Exciting stuff. I bet they laughed at the investors in the Hudson Bay, Virginia and East India companies too.

  37. Expat says:

    We won’t mention the Darien Company – although the subsequent Acts of Union weren’t all bad.

  38. KevinNevada says:


    thanks for that link! I got one comment in, before the “404” problem recurred.

    A string of very dumb comments there, the whiners of Islington is out in force as usual on CiF.


    Yes, I just spent a great weekend hanging with people who are building our hopeful future, one rocket test burn at a time. Even the engineers in a Boeing back office are getting into the act, now they are freed from the Old Way of Doing Things. The Centaur is being redesigned, using insights and tech ideas from the Prius auto.

    Last week, Chip Reid of CBS News, a fan of Old NASA, stated as a “fact” that “no American will fly into space on a US rocket for at least five years“. That is utter bullshit.

    Two years. Max.

    That rocket will have a US flag painted on, with pride, but will not be owned by NASA.

  39. Expat says:

    ….the whiners of Islington….

    LoL :)

    I remember a t-shirt once that said Help Stop Global Whining.

    We have some exciting times ahead Kevin.

    Excelsior! – ex-whiners welcome.

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