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Old August 21st, 2017, 08:05 AM
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Eclipse August 20th, 2017

This article is related to a current event in the United States: the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017.

An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer. This alignment of three celestial objects is known as a syzygy.[1] Apart from syzygy, the term eclipse is also used when a spacecraft reaches a position where it can observe two celestial bodies so aligned. An eclipse is the result of either an occultation (completely hidden) or a transit (partially hidden).

The term eclipse is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon's shadow crosses the Earth's surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow. However, it can also refer to such events beyond the Earth–Moon system: for example, a planet moving into the shadow cast by one of its moons, a moon passing into the shadow cast by its host planet, or a moon passing into the shadow of another moon. A binary star system can also produce eclipses if the plane of the orbit of its constituent stars intersects the observer's position.

For the special cases of solar and lunar eclipses, these only happen during an "eclipse season", the two times of each year when the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun crosses with the plane of the Moon's orbit around the Earth. The type of solar eclipse that happens during each season (whether total, annular, hybrid, or partial) depends on apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon (which is a function of the elliptical distance in the Earth from the Sun and the Moon from the Earth, respectively, as seen from the Earth's surface). If the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, and the Moon's orbit around the Earth were both in the same plane with each other, then eclipses would happen each and every month. There would be a lunar eclipse at every full moon, and a solar eclipse at every new moon. And if both orbits were perfectly circular, the each solar eclipse would be the same type every month. It is because of the non-planar and non-circular differences that eclipses are not a common event. Lunar eclipses can be viewed from the entire nightside half of the Earth. But solar eclipses, particularly a total eclipse, as occurring at any one particular point on the Earth's surface, is a rare event that can span many decades from one to the next.

Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States. This eclipse will only be visible in other countries as a partial eclipse.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent diameter is larger than the sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometers wide.

The last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was during the June 8, 1918 eclipse, and not since the February 1979 eclipse has a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States. The path of totality will touch 14 states (although a partial eclipse will be visible in all fifty states), and 16% of the area of the United States. The event will begin on the Oregon coast as a partial eclipse at 9:06 a.m. PDT on August 21, and will end later that day as a partial eclipse along the South Carolina coast at about 4:06 p.m. EDT.

There are expected to be logistical problems with the influx of visitors, especially for smaller communities. There have also been problems with counterfeit eclipse glasses being sold.

Future total solar eclipses will cross the United States in April 2024 (12 states) and August 2045 (10 states), and annular solar eclipses—meaning the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun—will occur in October 2023 (9 states) and June 2048 (9 states).

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How to View a Solar Eclipse Without Damaging Your Eyes
By Calla Cofield, Space.com Senior Writer | August 19, 2017 11:48am ET

Editor's note: This story was originally posted on Feb. 2 and was updated on Aug. 19 with new resource links for eye safety during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

We're just days away from the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21 and it's a good time for a refresher course on how to safely observe the event. Your parents probably told you to NEVER look directly at the sun with your naked eye. In fact, you've probably been told that by lots of reputable sources (including our own Space.com). But according to NASA and four other science and medical organizations, it's OK to look at a total solar eclipse with the naked eye — but only when the face of the sun is totally obscured by the moon.

A total solar eclipse happens when the central disk of the sun is completely covered by the moon. Many people have probably seen a partial solar eclipse, in which the disk of the moon appears to take a bite out of the sun's disk, but never fully obscures it. But total solar eclipses are a much rarer sight. And on Monday, a total solar eclipse will cross the continental U.S. from coast to coast.

A joint statement from NASA and the four other organizations says that with the right information, skywatchers can safely view the total solar eclipse in its full glory with the naked eye.

Anyone in the United States on Aug. 21, 2017, will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse (weather permitting, of course). But only those people in what's known as the "path of totality" will see a total solar eclipse. For the Aug. 21 eclipse, the path of totality is about 70 miles wide (112 kilometers), and extends from Oregon to South Carolina. Depending on where observers are located, the sun may be completely obscured by the moon for up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

"During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the sun's bright face … day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona (the sun's outer atmosphere)," according to NASA's Eclipse website. "Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is truly one of nature's most awesome sights."

But in order to see this awesome natural sight, skywatchers need to know how to view the eclipse safely. In an effort to inform the public on this topic, an information guide on safe viewing has been written up and released by NASA, along with the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Optometry and the National Science Foundation.

Eye protection for looking at the sun

Looking directly at the sun without eye protection can cause serious eye damage or blindness. But there are ways to safely observe the sun. During a partial solar eclipse, people often use pinhole cameras to watch the progress of the moon across the sun's surface (pinhole cameras are easy to make at home). This is an "indirect" way of observing the sun, because the viewer sees only a projection of the sun and the moon.

To view the sun directly (and safely), use "solar-viewing glasses" or "eclipse glasses" or "personal solar filters" (these are all names for the same thing), according to the safety recommendations from NASA. The "lenses" of solar-viewing glasses are made from special-purpose solar filters that are hundreds of thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, according to Rick Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society (AAS). These glasses are so dark that the face of the sun should be the only thing visible through them, Fienberg said. Solar-viewing glasses can be used to view a solar eclipse, or to look for sunspots on the sun's surface.

But beware! NASA and the AAS recommend that solar-viewing or eclipse glasses meet the current international standard: ISO 12312-2. Some older solar-viewing glasses may meet previous standards for eye protection, but not the new international standard, Fienberg said.

"Manufacturers that meet this standard include Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics and Thousand Oaks Optical," according to the information sheet on safe eclipse viewing. (Click any of the company links to find out how to purchase eclipse glasses). "Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun."

Fienberg said some manufacturers are making solar-viewing glasses with plastic frames, rather than the traditional paper frames. While these may look like regular sunglasses, do not be mistaken. Sunglasses are never a substitute for solar-viewing glasses. Fienberg said some people may even try to view the sun through two or three pairs of sunglasses in an attempt to replicate the protective power of real solar-viewing glasses; however, even multiple pairs of sunglasses will not protect your eyes from sun damage.

Telescopes, cameras, binoculars and other optical devices need their own solar filters. Solar-viewing glasses are not a substitute for a proper solar filter on magnification devices. Never view the disk of the sun through a telescope, binoculars or camera without a proper solar filter. Solar-viewing glasses are not powerful enough to protect your eyes from magnified sunlight. Even if you are wearing solar-viewing glasses, viewing the disk of the sun through a magnification device will result in serious eye damage if the device is not equipped with a proper solar filter, according to the viewing safety sheet.

"The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury," according to the safety recommendations. "Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device."

Fienberg said there is no need for skywatchers to use a telescope during the eclipse, but a pair of binoculars can be helpful during totality. But, as per the recommendations, do not attempt to look at the disk of the sun through binoculars, even with solar-viewing glasses.

The safety sheet offers these tips regarding solar filters/eclipse glasses/solar viewers:

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Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.

Safety during totality

Now that you have some general information about how to view the sun safely, here are NASA and the AAS's recommendations for how to safely view the total solar eclipse with the naked eye. Again, these tips come from NASA's safety information sheet here.

Viewers who are looking at the eclipse with solar-viewing glasses will be able to see when the sun's face is completely obscured by the moon (because, once again, the only light that can penetrate these solar-viewing glasses is the light from the sun's disk). Viewers will be able to observe the moon creep slowly over the sun's disk and eventually cover the sun entirely.

In the moments before totality, viewers looking through their solar-viewing glasses will see a crescent of light from the sun growing thinner and thinner as the moon progresses over its face. In the last few seconds just before the disk of the sun is entirely covered by the moon, the crescent will break up into a series of small dots of light that look like beads on a string (typically there are about three to eight such dots, according to Fienberg). These are called Baily's beads (after Francis Baily, the British astronomer who discovered them). Once the last bead disappears, the face of the sun has been covered by the moon, and totality has begun. [Solar Eclipses: An Observer's Guide (Infographic)]

"If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun's bright face," according to the official safety information sheet.

The safety information sheet also recommends that viewers be aware of another drastic change that takes place during a total solar eclipse: light levels drop dramatically, as if the world has suddenly been plunged into dusk. This is one indicator that totality has begun, and it is safe to take off your eclipse glasses.

When should you put your glasses back on? The official recommendations from the agencies suggest that viewers put their solar-viewing glasses back on before any part of the sun's disk becomes visible again.

"Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases," the information sheet said.

In order to anticipate when the disk of the sun will reappear, viewers should first be aware of about how long the total eclipse should last where they are standing — the total eclipse will last, at most, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The nearer that viewers are to the edge of the path of totality, the shorter the total eclipse will be. Viewers who want to observe the total solar eclipse with the naked eye should try to move closer to the center of the path, so there is ample time to observe the eclipse safely.

Fienberg said that viewers should be aware of the moon moving across the surface of the sun during totality. The side of the sun that was the last to disappear behind the moon will be opposite to the side that is first to reappear. On the side of the moon where the sun will reappear first, viewers should look out for the "reddish hue" of the chromosphere, the layer of the sun's atmosphere that is closest to its surface. The sun will begin to reappear just as it disappeared — first as dots of light. If a dot of sunlight appears on the edge of the moon, it means totality is complete.

Baily's beads and diamond rings

The AAS and NASA are expecting huge crowds to flock to the path of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse, including more experienced eclipse watchers. These seasoned observers may start shouting "Baily's beads!" when the spots of light appear at the edge of the moon. As the eclipse nears totality, people may also shout "Diamond ring!" Fienberg explains that when only one "bead" is still visible at the edge of the moon just before totality, it will glow like a diamond, and the red corona of the sun will create a circular band of light. Together, they will look like a diamond ring.

Experienced observers may decide to look at the eclipse with the naked eye just before the sun is completely covered by the moon, when the diamond ring appears.

"If you're in a group you'll hear people start screaming 'Diamond ring! Diamond ring! Filters off!'" Fienberg said. "If you're paying strict attention to the recommendation that you should not look at the sun without a filter, when any part of the bright face is still visible, you'll wonder if all those people are going blind, but they're not. The reason they're not is because it only lasts a second or so, and then it's gone and you see the corona, and its dark and its spectacular and beautiful."

While you may see some people removing their solar-viewing glasses before the eclipse reaches totality, this is not recommended by the official eclipse-viewing guide from NASA and the AAS.

What you'll see during a total solar eclipse

While Fienberg is adamant about eclipse-viewing safety, he is equally insistent that skywatchers should view the total solar eclipse with the naked eye, because the experience is like nothing else on Earth.

The sun's atmosphere "is always there but we can't see it," Fienberg said. "Satellites in orbit that block out the bright disk of the sun can see it, but from ground, we don't see it except during totality. And it is just magnificently beautiful. It's awesome in the truest sense of the word. It just makes your jaw drop. The first time you see it you just can't believe how beautiful it is. And it brings tears to people's eyes."

The sun's atmosphere isn't a uniform haze like the Earth's atmosphere, Fienberg said. It's "a tangle of streamers and jets and loops and twists and all kinds of stuff because its controlled entirely by the sun's magnetic field, which is very tangled and twisted."

The chromosphere, the atmosphere closest to the sun's surface, "is an unbelievably beautiful, pure magenta-red color. If the chromosphere is active and there are eruptions going on on the edge of the sun, you'll see prominences — they look like flames or jets of this really beautiful hot-pink magenta gas that are extending out beyond the silhouette of the moon," he said.

None of these features will be visible to viewers wearing eclipse glasses.

Fienberg is an eclipse chaser; he has traveled all over the world to see total solar eclipses. On his very first eclipse-viewing trip, before seeing the event, he met a man who hosted a music radio show in the city where Fienberg lives. The radio host was an eclipse chaser, and Fienberg said he'd never heard the host talk about astronomy on his show.

"I'm not interested in astronomy," the man told Fienberg. "I'm interested in beauty."

"That that told me right then on my first trip, this isn't just about astronomy," Fienberg said. "This is about beauty. This about being out in nature and being one with the universe — I mean it sounds silly! But you really feel like you're just part of it all and you're privileged to be able to see such a beautiful thing."

The unified message from Fienberg, NASA, the AAS and many other sources regarding the upcoming eclipse: Observe safely, and get to the path of totality on Aug. 21, 2017!

Personally in the 1960's we were told the safest way to view an eclipse was via a pinhole projector.

pinhole projector

Putting together a pinhole projector is about as easy as it gets, and while it doesn’t quite have the same “wow factor” as looking directly at the partially blocked Sun, it’ll still let you safely view what’s happening without potentially going blind.

There are many ways to make a pinhole projector, but you really just need two things: something with a pinhole in it, and something to project the image on.

If you’re in a rush or on a budget, just take two stiff pieces of paper (paper plates or card stock tend to work well, but even regular printer paper should do the job) and poke a pinhole in one with a pin. If you’re really in a pinch, you can even make a pinhole projector by just curling your fingers to only let a pinprick of light through.

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Click on this link to put your zip code in to see the best time for viewing the eclipse.

What time is the eclipse?

The point of greatest duration is where totality lasts the longest along the very center of the path of totality. The greatest duration during the Aug. 21 eclipse is 2 minutes, 40.2 seconds near Makanda, Illinois. Carbondale, Illinois, is the closest large town and will experience 2 minutes, 37 seconds of totality.

The Faroe Islands experienced a total solar eclipse in 2015.

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Ahead of Monday's eclipse in the US, here are four tips from the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, which experienced one in 2015.

- Pete


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Old August 21st, 2017, 09:33 AM
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bdraper bdraper is offline
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Excellent write-up Pete, thanks for the information

I live in White House, TN, it is a fairly small town roughly 15 miles south of the Tennessee-Kentucky boarder. The town is normally home to some 12,000 residents, however that started to change drastically this past weekend, when flocks of people started to roll in on Saturday and Sunday. Since White House is located right off interstate 65, and highway 31 splits the town, we are expected to see our small town swell to, well the early counts said 30,000 to 40,000 now they are up over 100,000 and beyond. Nashville is expecting 500,000 to 1,000,000 visitors. I am not sure anyone really knows... What I do know is all of our local hotels are full, since we are right off the interstate, we have 5 hotels sprinkled in close proximity. The parking lots to these hotels have cars from New York, California, Texas, etc... I hope the weather cooperates, it is beautiful right now, hope it holds. We have a saying about the weather in Tennessee, if you do not like the weather right now, wait a few minutes, it is probably going to change.

Since I work in Nashville, I decided to take a vacation day to hopefully stay out of the epic traffic that will most likely occur on some of our interstates. My home is actually not to far from the center line and will be viewing the event from my back yard with family and friends. I hope your viewing opportunities are great and hope you are able to view the event with family and friends.

Good luck everyone.
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Old August 21st, 2017, 02:32 PM
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It peak here in about 12 minutes. I'm ready!
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Old August 21st, 2017, 02:41 PM
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Saw eclipse (partial near Chicago) here in the Midwest just fine even with the clouds a few minutes ago.

Wondrous sight!
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Old August 21st, 2017, 02:49 PM
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well, we're past peak now. The sun looked like a crescent moon but that's about it. Outside, it was only a tiny bit darker here. HOWEVER, NH will be in the path for a total eclipse with the next one (2024). I just need to hang on to my glasses!
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Old August 21st, 2017, 03:11 PM
Kerat Kerat is offline
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My wife and are are visiting New Orleans. We got to see the eclipse here 75% of total. It was pretty cool.

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Old August 21st, 2017, 05:19 PM
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Eclipse was about 70-75% here as well. Made a pinhole viewer from a box that worked amazingly well. On the other hand, even the light coming through the spaces between the leaves of a tree worked as a projector!
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Old August 21st, 2017, 06:38 PM
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It pretty much rained here in the Twin Cities. Heck, I have seen thunderstorms make it darker than what we got.

Cool natural phenomenon though!
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Old August 21st, 2017, 08:04 PM
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A very clear sky in White House, not a cloud to be seen, Nashville had a few clouds that parted just before the big event...

We took a few pictures

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Captured this picture of the Eclipse from News Channel 5 South Skycam
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Captured this picture of the approaching darkness from News Channel 5 North Skycam
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We had a great time watching the eclipse, it was a quite hot here. The temperature is was hovering around 98 with a heat index of over 100.

I hope your experience was a great one.
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Old August 21st, 2017, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Uncle Michael View Post
Eclipse was about 70-75% here as well. Made a pinhole viewer from a box that worked amazingly well. On the other hand, even the light coming through the spaces between the leaves of a tree worked as a projector!

That's the coolest thing I've seen all week! I would have never thought of that. I was working under trees all day! Tree camera obscura.

Here in MA it just got a bit darker (and cooler!) but with a different sort of ambiance than is normally associated with cloud cover. I have shade 5 lenses for my goggles that that I use for plasma and multi-gas cutting which I put on to glance from time to time up toward the luminous orb but it was rather uneventful. I looked into getting shade 14 lenses for my goggles but they are few and far between. Not sure why you need shade 14. It's odd because shade 5 is rated for looking at things hotter than the surface of the sun. And I'm not talking about my friend Violet for once when using that saying. Last time we had a solar eclipse of some sort (1992?) I looked through a CD. It was a little too dim but I could make it out well enough.
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Old August 21st, 2017, 10:31 PM
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Well that eclipse was neat, weird, and spectacular all at the same time. The wife and I drove up to the east side of Savage Gulf, TN this morning as this was in the total eclipse area. Did a waterfall hike and came back to the parking lot with our reclining lawn chairs and enjoyed the full eclipse. I found the darkness as intriguing if not more so than the total eclipse. It got so dark that the street lights came on. Funny story, as we were laying back in our chair a car pulled into the spot next to use and 5 twenty somethings jumped out. After talking we found out they just arrived from Chicago where they left this morning and were heading back just after the eclipse. Talk about a road trip.
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Old August 21st, 2017, 11:46 PM
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Flew to Missouri dead center of path of totality, perfectly clear skies. Awesome! Crickets started chirping. Temperatur dropped at least 10 degrees. Sunset like skies all around, 360 degrees. Truly a beautiful sight.
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Old August 22nd, 2017, 01:23 AM
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Old August 22nd, 2017, 07:41 AM
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It was the second time in my life I had seen an eclipse. Amazing stuff even watching the partial eclipse here via a cloudy sky.

Personally here made a small shadow box held up with little alligator hands. (from electronics bench).

First time was in the early 1960's.

The grade school class project was to make little shadow boxes.

@Billy ...favorite fishing spot / place in the 1970's was Bull Shoals Lake. I could fish for hours and never see anybody else on the lake back then.

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