Monday May 21st: The Eclipse and a tiny bit of Nagoya

Just to start off with, the last post I still hated writing about and I’m not particularly in a great mood for this, that and I’m feeling the pinch of time, having a few hours left today and tomorrow to hypothetically catch up. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, this is going to be a shorter than usual post, and if you want a way more awesome article about the eclipse that almost had my pictures in it, look no further than a friend’s article on astrobites. If you want pictures waaaaaay better than mine, head over to In Focus.

(Hey look, I found the “Read More” button!)

For whatever reason, I thought the eclipse was an hour earlier than it was, so I got up early, hopped on the train at 5AM, and arrived at Ueno Park by 5:30 AM. Turns out it wasn’t going to hit totality until about 7:32AM rather than 6:32, oops. Well, at least I was far too early, no real harm in that direction.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival at Ueno Park was that the Starbucks doesn’t open until 7AM. Fat load of good that does me. The one time I actually think, “Hey, Starbucks would be good,” and they’re not open.

I was quite afraid having woken up to see total cloud cover, but by the time I got to Ueno it was only heavy cloud cover with occasional holes for the sun to poke through. Thankfully the wind was quite fast up in the cloud layers.


Sunrise in Ueno Park.

The second thing I noticed, beyond the improved weather, was that the fountain being built when I had first been there nearly a month prior, was now finished. I had hoped I might get a neat shot of the eclipse off the water, but the amount of light, the scattering of the clouds, and the ripples in the water pretty much meant I was only ever going to just get normal pretty pictures.


Pretty, but no eclipse.

Realizing my mistake in timing I found a bench and read a bit on my magic book. It always amuses me reading Douglas Adams on an e-reader.

I started watching the time, but as I had failed to find eclipse glasses anywhere (other people didn’t seem to have trouble) my first indication of annular ‘totality’ occurring was the collective “Ooooo.” Prepped with my unapproved “filter” and an f-stop of 36 I ventured the camera up towards the sun, and what do you know? It was an eclipse. I hadn’t even noticed.

The moon was only 94% the apparent size of the sun meaning quite a bit of light still made it, I think the author of the article above was saying something like only a factor of two decrease in light. Combined with the logarithmic function of the eyes, and the cloud cover causing massive ambient scattering, there was no perceptive difference during the eclipse. Birds kept chirping along. Quite odd.


Yep, it sure was an eclipse.

Most of the pictures, you will notice have the sun not dead center. The reasons are two fold. First off, I’m a lazy sod and didn’t crop them. Second, not having glasses, the only way I could see it was through the camera, and it was much safer to have the sun in a corner so that if I had an accident, I was only looking at the sun with my peripheral vision. I wasn’t kidding in the title of my previous post where in I quoted “looking at the trap,” because it did happen about three times.


A few are centered though.

I was able to observe for about 10 minutes, from 7:33 AM to 7:43 AM UTC+9. After which too much of the sun was poking through and no amount of make shift darkening material, f-stops, and cloud cover were going to change the fact that I was looking at the surface of a fucking nuclear furnace.


The last picture I could dare take.

After that, I started wondering around looking at the crowd. I saw that someone brought a telescope all setup for safely looking at the sun. He invited me over to look through. At the moment I was looking, the the moon had just uncovered the first of three visible sunspots, which was pretty cool and I wish I could have grabbed a picture of that.

We got to talking, and it turned out that Leonid Zotov is a physicist, has a doctorate and was in China for the last few months (more detail), but was over in Japan for a conference that just so happened to be during an eclipse and in a city that would have one of the best views of it. Oh, physicists.

Yes, okay. I’ll go back to school soonish, maybe then I’ll stop complaining about it. Hey, then I can be the creepy disillusioned guy in class who is older than the grad student filling in for the professor. That will be fun. Also another Fit. I miss that car. Okay universe? You can stop throwing these things in my face.

We hung out while for the rest of the eclipse, we even attempted to talk with some locals. He tried getting across the idea of the sun spots, which was a bit tricky, but I think eventually they got what he was trying to point out.

Sadly I had to leave so that I could pack up and be out of the hostel by 11. The person running it was incredibly nice, but I didn’t want to assume any slack in case it wasn’t there. We did exchange cards and photos via email though. I never imagined it would take me 9 days to get this post up.


I’m the one without the PhD.

I got back to the hostel with enough time to make a quick post about it, get packed up and hop the shinkansen down to Nagoya. Here I was splurging a bit, since I went from a hostel where in I couldn’t raise my torso to a 45 degree angle without smacking my head on the bed above me, to a private hotel room. Sure I paid more per night (about $55) than I paid for the three in Tokyo, but it was so worth it.

Very comfortable bed, multiple pillows, slippers, air conditioning, private bathroom, fancy shower (with temperature nob), fast internet (wired in the room, wireless in the lobby). Hell they even had a fancy coffee machine for the free coffee. The kind that jets out the coffee aerated enough to make a bit of foam. Were I not so lazy and without artistic abilities, I could have made pretty designs as it poured.

I decided to try and look around a bit, although by then it was dark. I utterly failed to locate a supermarket, though I did find one the next day, as it was built right into the Japan Rail Station in Nara.


Sadly, just a parking lot. Got excited for nothing.

One thought on “Monday May 21st: The Eclipse and a tiny bit of Nagoya

  1. INCREDIBLE shots, Seanbon! Fun story: so my dad was a photographer when he lived in Kansas City. He managed to take a fantastic time-lapse set of an eclipse back in the day. Although, now that I think of it, I suppose it might have only been a lunar one, but that’s beside the point. Anyway he told me he developed the prints and put him in his desk to be sent to the local paper. Later he found out his partner stole the prints and got credit (and probably a hefty sum at the time) for the publication. Still it was a lot of fun for him to go out and do it.

    And yes, you will go back to school and get another Fit. Oh lulzy physicists. Things will work out for you, I know it. 🙂

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