This is a total solar eclipse in Antarctica on Nov. 23, 2003. This has to be one of the most surreal images I've ever seen. It was featured in an Astronomy Picture of the Day some years ago.
I've been trying find the answer to the question of when was the PREVIOUS total solar eclipse actually here in Washington, D.C., i.e. where totality crosses at least some part of the District of Columbia, and it turns out it was on June 28, 1451 -- i.e. in the pre-Columbian era and centuries before the city existed. Only some native American settlements and whatnot where here.
This date is a Julian calendar one -- i.e. before our Gregorian calendar was first developed in 1581 (it was adopted in France in 1582 but not in Great Britain and its colonies until 1752), so saying "June 28th, 1451" is a little tricky since that wouldn't exactly be the date (off by 7 to 8 days or so) from the date we would use today.
The NEXT one is listed as April 14, 2200, or nearly 749 years later, except the line of totality JUST MISSES the geographic region of D.C. (to the northwest) by about 5 miles.
Here is a 2005 article on Space.com listing the duration between eclipses for 25 world cities.
I don't believe these maps take into account continental drift, and 450 years ago the line would have to be shifted to the west by roughly 40 feet and 200 years hence would have to be shifted to the southeast by about 20 feet -- since North America is moving to the WNW by about an inch or so a year.
OK, so it's not that much but if you were right on the line of totality, it would be important.
In the far future -- hundreds of millions of years hence, long after human civilization is gone -- the Moon will have receded far enough from Earth (due to angular momentum exchange that also causes a tidal drag that gradually slows the planet's rotation on its axis) that there will only be annular (no more total) solar eclipses.
Speaking of the Julian - Gregorian calendar, Wikipedia has a good article about it here. It also lists (just above) when different countries adopted it.
To me the oddest fact of all is that because Russia did not adopt it until the Soviet era, actually in 1918 when Jan. 31, 1918 was followed by Feb. 14, 1918, while parts of Poland had adopted the new calendar almost immediately in 1582, this means that for 336 years, if anyone had crossed the border, they were crossing backward or forward anywhere from 10 to eventually 13 days in time. Confusing.
And when Alaska became part of the U.S. in 1867, there Oct. 6, 1867 was followed by Oct. 18, 1867 -- 11 days instead of 12 because the International Dateline was also shifted to the west.
Continuing with the sublime astronomy theme of this entry ...
This is a 6 minute YouTube clip "The Known Universe" of an animated movie produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) showing a trip from the Himalayas to the edge of the Observable Universe and back again, set to haunting music. It was featured in the Jan. 20, 2010 Astronomy Picture of the Day link here.
As a minor but important point, the 13.7 billion light years representing the age of the Universe is not the same as the distance to the edge of our "Hubble Volume" because of cosmic inflation.
Closer to home ...
The GFS model's recent runs have been suggesting a snow event for our region including D.C. proper for Friday.
Here18UTC 25 JAN 2010 GFS model run, 114 hour forecast, valid 18UTC, 30 Jan. 2010, previous 36-hour precipitation total (all snow). Yes, this is subject to 20 or so more runs between now and then.
OK, that's all for now, except I want to say that I found out that the awful woman for whom I have been doing so much contracting work in such a diligent manner has not been approving my invoices in anything near a timely manner, and it is only because the wonderful office manager has been taking the initiative to process them. This is no way to live. If that continues, I am going to let the head of the company know about this.
Dusk just before a rain squall as seen from the 5th floor of my apartment near the corner of 16th St., U St., and New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 5:30PM, Jan. 25, 2010
As it is, I really want this contracting job to end in the next few months. It is a lousy way to live. And always being so broke. It grinds the spirit down to deadness. Of course, I need actual employment, unless I just throw in the D.C. towel and head down to Florida to live in 40-year old failure loser-dom.
That's all for now. My next update won't be until Thursday or so.