A record of the total solar eclipse

These are some of the pictures I took during the eclipse trip.

Venus, in the morning of Sunday, August 20th, the day before the total eclipse of the sun. This is unrelated to the eclipse, but the Morning Star is always a treat. Note how it's bright enough to be the only star in the sky visible on a cell phone camera, and rivals some terrestrial lights in magnitude.

Moonrise, in the morning of the day before the eclipse. Note how thin it is, with the illuminated side directed towards the ground, where the sun has yet to rise. That sliver of light coming around the edge shows that the moon and the sun are still slightly misaligned. But on August 21st, around 10am, everything will have moved just enough for the moon to completely cover the sun.

This image was taken with a cell phone through a viewfinder scope, so it's upside down.

Sunrise, still on the day before the eclipse. At this point both Venus and the crescent moon are impossible to see, having been overwhelmed by the daylight.

John Day, where we chose to watch the eclipse, is a small city - it apparently has only one traffic light. The size is one of the main reasons that I chose this city - I didn't want to deal with the crowds and traffic in western Oregon.

I looked for a church on Yelp where I could attend their Sunday service, but there were no reviews for any of them. So, we basically ended up choosing one them randomly. The Sunday service at the John Day Church of the Nazarene was about how we should practice being good, and they joked about how this applies even if you're stuck behind a 6-car "eclipse traffic jam" at the stop light. It was a good service - I've add a Yelp review for them, the first review for any church in John Day.

That pointy rock in the John Day Fossil Beds is called "sheep rock" - but I don't see it. Maybe I'm not squinting hard enough, or maybe it'll go "baaa" when I get close to it?

Finally, the morning of Monday, August 21st - the day of the eclipse. Weather: perfect.

I used a telescope to project the sun's image into a darkened box. This is the result - the sun appears as a circle several inches in diameter - much larger than it appears through the solar eclipse glasses. You know you're looking at the actual image of the sun, because you can see individual sunspots. In addition, many people can look into the box together. Here, the moon is taking the first bite out of the sun, from the lower left. In the sky, the moon actually came in from the top, but the telescope projection setup flips the image.

Do NOT try this at home: I'm a professional jerry-rigger.

In case you can't tell what's going on, I'm looking into a telescope pointed at the sun (a big no-no), protected only by a solar eclipse glasses taped to the front with masking tape. Yes, it has the potential to be dangerous - but it did work, and I was able to get a fairly good, direct view of the sun. In the end though, the projection method won out as being easier to see, more safe, and a crowd-drawer.

The eclipse proceeds more and more...

A quick pinhole camera demonstration. Note the crescent-shaped sun projections through the gaps in my fingers.

A full view of the telescope projection setup. The eclipse nears totality!

We got lucky with the sunspots at the edge of the sun - they allow us to focus the sun's image up until the very end. We're almost there!

Totality. The sky is dark enough that some stars are visible.

Why, hello there, Venus. Fancy seeing you again, and so near the zenith at 10:22am! I guess I was wrong when I said earlier that you're unrelated to the eclipse! 

These are terrible photos, and a cellphone camera does a terrible job of capturing light and dark. But it does give you a sense of how dark it got during totality. If I had to put it in words, I'd say that the darkness is comparable to mid-to-deep twilight. It's not midnight dark, and you can see the sunrise/sunset effect all around you, but it's dark enough that you can't really make things out easily on the ground.

I do not have a good picture of the sun during totality. For some things, you just had to be there.

And it's over - the sun comes out of the other end and the daylight is back. You see the crescent sun immediately after totality, and about an hour later, in the last minutes, the moon only covers a tiny portion in the upper left.

Logistically, the trip went as well as I could have possibly expected. There were rumors of gas shortages, and crowds and traffic jams to rival a zombie apocalypse. But we encountered no gas shortages and only the barest minimum of traffic. A shout-out to the cities of Burns and John Day - they were well prepared and they've done everything I could reasonably expect of them to accommodate their visitors.

I often get asked, "what was it like?" I have a threefold answer.

1. The eclipse was the greatest natural spectacle that I have ever seen, by far. I do not expect it to be surpassed for the rest of my life.

2. You know the double rainbow guy? Everyone watching the eclipse was basically like that for the whole two minutes of totality.

3. There is a certain degree of understanding and maturity required to appreciate a total solar eclipse. In fact, I think kids shouldn't see a total solar eclipse. A ten-year-old shouldn't say things like "I don't expect to see anything better for the rest of my life", nor should their first view of the Grand Canyon be diminished by a comparison to a total solar eclipse. But then again, there's that "once-in-a-lifetime" aspect, so it's hard to be definitive.

You may next want to read:
Reflections on the upcoming solar eclipse
Miracles: their definition, properties, and purpose
Another post, from the table of contents

Reflections on the upcoming solar eclipse

I'm releasing this post a few days earlier than usual, as I'll be on the road trip for this eclipse at the regularly scheduled posting time. Also, this post has been cross-posted on my church's blog.

God will do something great and marvelous on August 21, 2017: there will be a total eclipse of the sun over the United States, going clear across the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. A group of us from Tribe church will be travelling to Oregon to see it.

I first learned about eclipses as a child in South Korea. I learned that you'd have to wait hundreds of years to see a total solar eclipse, if you waited at a single spot on earth. So I despaired of ever seeing one - for South Korea is a small country and I didn't think I'd get to leave it, let alone dare dream of ever living in America.

And yet, by the grace of God, through the working of his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, here I am in America. Seriously, the events surrounding my family's immigration here were miracles - my parents can talk for hours about it. And now that I'm here, I get to witness this eclipse, which some in the past may have called another miracle.

But the two types of miracles that I mentioned above are quite different. I think that people have interesting perceptions about that word, "miracle", tied in with their perceptions about God.

Many of us have the idea that a miracle is something that God does for us to demonstrate that he loves us. He may miraculously give us a new job, or heal us of our sickness, match us with our husband or wife, or bring us over to America. And of course, God does work in all those ways. Through these events we learn that God cares for us in an intimate, immediate, personal way.

But a eclipse is not really like that. It's not a "miracle" in that sense. A number of you know people who couldn't travel to see the eclipse because it was happening on the first day of school. Some others had other similarly important engagements. Wouldn't it be nice if all these schedules could be worked around, so that all these people could see the eclipse?

Well, no - it wouldn't be nice. The eclipse doesn't care about your schedules. The nature - and indeed, the very attraction and beauty - of celestial events is that none of our earthly finagling here below can influence them one whit. It is distant and impersonal. So what does a "miracle" like this eclipse teach us about God?

It shows us his grandeur. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. That very immutable, adamantine quality of the eclipse says that God is beyond anything that humans can control, and reminds us that he's the creator and sustainer of the whole universe.

Some may say that this solar eclipse is not a miracle, because it's been explained by science. But this is a shallow thought. Look up to to the heavens and see: who created all these? The very logic and elegance of science which explains celestial mechanics is but an aspect of God's character: it is he who brings out the starry hosts one by one.  Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. And as our sciences advance, they will only become better testimonies to that power and strength.

So you see, the miracle in this eclipse is not just about this one event. It's not just this one spectacle, as neat as it may be. It teaches us something about God. It allows us to say, "this is how the Creator made the universe. This is what he's like."

So we have two types of miracles: the intimate, personal kind, like the answering of a prayer, and the grand, immutable kind, like this eclipse. I think many people have a perception of God which is unbalanced towards one of these kinds of miracles. They tend to think of him mainly (or merely) as an intimate confidant and friend, or merely as the impersonal, immutable Creator of the universe. This is not a bad thing, per se. We must all start somewhere, and we can't learn multiple things about God all at once.

But it is a joy to begin to understand and harmonize your different perceptions of God; to realize that the same God whom you prayed to as a child and comforted you in your grief is also the God who directs the heavenly bodies to cause this eclipse. It's like finding out that your lover is also the sovereign of a mighty empire, or learning that the richest person in the world wants to be your buddy. These are not different beings: the Lord our God is One. In Christ Jesus dwells the fullness of the Creator, and he calls us his friends.

And in this way, I hope that this eclipse is still a miracle for you. I hope that through it, God reveals to you a little bit more of what he's like. And I pray that you come to that intimate, personal knowledge of the ultimate, immutable, timeless One.

You may next want to read:
Miracles: their definition, properties, and purpose
How is God related to all other fields of study?
Another post, from the table of contents

Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (edit 17)

I'm continuing to work on editing Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection.

Things are edited down to the section heading "Anatomy of a human testimony: how to stack multiple testimonies together"

Next week we'll take a short break from this long editing process - I'll be discussing the upcoming Solar eclipse.

You may next want to read:
Isn't the universe too big to have humans as its purpose?
The lifetime of evil (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (edit 16)

I'm continuing to work on editing Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection.

I changed some things in the section titled "Video of a lottery winner". I also shifted around a few things on when to mention the Bayes factor estimation based on historical records. Things are edited down to the section heading "revisiting our initial calculation/ conclusion".

You may next want to read:
Christians, read your Bibles
How to make a fractal
Another post, from the table of contents