exploratorium eclipse dispatches
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click for live webcast June 21 2001  
Satellite Dish

This filter lets through only a deep red light from the spectral line of hydrogen, emitted by hydrogen atoms heated to 10,000 degrees Celcius in the chromosphere of the sun. The hydrogen alpha filter will let us see more of the deep, detailed structures of the sun, such prominences and solar flares. during the partial phases of the eclipse. Once the telescopes are set up, we all take a look, and we're excited to see that there are many solar prominences and a huge sunspot group. If we get clear weather tomorrow, the views should be spectacular!

The Day Before

This is the hardest day. We spend all morning running cable and positioning cameras, checking the composition of the scene on the monitors-- these choices will determine what the world will see when we go live tomorrow, so we need to get them right.

The telescope guys are tinkering endlessly with their instruments, trying to get them aligned to the invisible point in the sky known as the south pole of the celestial sphere. Once aligned, these three motorized telescopes will automatically track the sun. We have a wide angle telescope with a solar filter to show the entire sun; during totality, we'll remove the filter to show the entire corona and maybe even the planet Jupiter nearby. We have two higher-magnification telescopes: one will let us show close-up details of the corona around the edge of the sun; the second one has a special hydrogen alpha filter.

Aaron Rosen

Aaron Rosen, Magnetic Image

The satellite engineers are the only relaxed ones here-- they stayed up until 1 a.m. last night tuning their big white dish to hit the satellite out over the Atlantic Ocean, and now they're basking in the sun, just like the hippos across the river.

Meanwhile, there's the small issue of the script to consider. We've run a couple of rehearsals, and we're in trouble: the show feels stiff, and we keep messing up the cues for all the animations and video segments. Plus, the show's hosts have no way to see the video segments, which they're supposed to be narrating! We bicker with each other in the hot sun-- we have less than 24 hours until showtime, and the pressure is getting serious! Finally we have an inspired idea. One of the crew brought a tiny digital video camera for their own personal use, and this camera has a tiny LCD screen-- we'll just run a video cable to the camera, and then the hosts can hold camera in their hand and watch the video, narrating with ease. The timing problem we can fix by having the hosts call for the videos and animations they want to use, exactly when they want them. We try one last rehearsal as the sun goes down and the mosquitoes start to whine around our ears. And it works!



Eclipse 2001

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