Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Solar eclipse and not aurora borealis!

Lately, we've had some pretty spectacular spacey-weather! Most notably, we had some amazing auroras last week. The sky was packed with it. Auroras happen when solar winds i.e. charged particles collide with our atmosphere. The energy is absorbed by air molecules, exciting them, elevating electrons into higher orbits. When the electrons return to lower orbits, or ground state (This happens quite quickly), they may release stored energy as photons.

In non-physical terms, the atmosphere is like a plant. Plants eat light and convert it into another form of energy, carbohydrates. The atmosphere eats solar wind (Yes, the sun is giant fan.), and converts it into greenish light. And that's called aurora borealis, or nordic lights.

And I didn't photograph it. I was so regretful when I woke up to a Facebook feed full of beautiful auroras. Note to self; Do more interesting stuff.

We also had a solar eclipse! That I did photograph, kind of!

My camera can't handle things that bright, and I don't have any welder's filters to dim with. So I built a pinhole chamber- To put my head in!

This is the solar eclipse, as seen through my pinhole-chamber/camera. It quite accurately describes the shape of the sun as seen from the earth. Due to an admittedly crude execution, my pinhole camera doesn't take any clearer pictures than this.

Pinhole cameras are really simple. It's a dark box with a small hole in one side. Light passes through the hole, projecting a picture of what's outside onto the back wall. The image is flipped both horizontally and vertically... So it's rotated 180 degrees, in other words. That happens because light only travels in a straight line (From outside the box, through the hole, onto the wall. Left becomes right.) It may not sound super intuitive, but I promise it's entirely logical.

Here's me, maybe naked, in the kitchen. I added some red graphics to better showcase what's happening inside the box.

The top of my head and my eyes are actually inside the box, and I'm looking at the back wall of the pinhole camera. The light enters the box through a hole in the wall of the box, behind my head. I taped a shirt onto the box behind me, to filter out some of the light entering from my head-hole.

Plenty interesting! Welder's glass may be a better way to view a solar eclipse, but I didn't have any. I like DIY solutions, it makes it interesting.

When I got bored of my box, I went to the kitchen to grab some food. That's when I realized my entire apartment was a pinhole camera. It has a few more holes than my box, but that just makes it interesting.

Similarly to how the shape of the sun was projected onto the box wall, all the light entering my apartment was shaped like the sun. Normally, it's round, and shadows and light look perfectly regular. But not during a solar eclipse.

 These flecks of light would normally be round. They came in from holes in my window blinds.

I made this with a piece of paper that I stuck holes into, which I held over another paper with a drawing on. Pinhole-camera-effect!

This one's really interesting. You can't make that kind of shadow on a regular day! The two flecks of light inside my hand would normally be round, the shape of the sun on a regular day, but that day the light coming from the sun made an entirely different shape.

It may be hard to visualize why the shadow and light actually make that shape. It's hard to explain. I'm not a teacher. I'm not good at explaining this in a simple way.

Imagine poking lots of uncooked spaghetti through a small hole in a sheet of paper. If you organize them so that the ends of the spaghetti make a line on one side, the spaghetti-ends will draw a line on the other side of the paper also. But imagine you organize them into a <- shape. What you'll see is that other the other side of the paper, the shape has been flipped over to make a ->.

The spaghetti sticks are the rays of light coming from the visible part of the sun, a forming C shape during a solar eclipse. The rays retain their shape when they pass through the pinhole, but flip. If this actually helped someone visualize it, wowza!

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