Ring of Fire

2012 is an interesting year. The end of the Mayan calendar seems to be heralding in a string of interesting and rare astronomical circumstances. One of the most visible was the annular eclipse, when the moon passed between us and the sun.

Even more coincidentally I happened to be in Albuquerque, one of the few places where the so called ‘Ring of Fire’ could be viewed. I didn’t have a solar filter so I set my shutter speed to 1/4000 and my aperture to f/29 (the smallest I could) and prayed that the light would be limited enough to not burn my sensor. (I was fairly confident of this — silicon sensors and concentrated PV panels are basically the same thing, with some fundamental differences in their usage.)

There’s some diffraction from the small aperture.

When I look at the picture I can’t help but think about the immensity of what is going on. On a hot day here, in Albuquerque, it is over a hundred degrees. The sun beats down relentlessly. Solar panels that are working at less than 15% efficiency are used to power buildings. And yet the earth is such a small part of the total radiation space that our sun emits that we are receiving only an almost immeasurable percentage of it’s total. So much energy, distance, matter, space.

And then the moon stands between us, casting its shadow over us and we all look up, our eyes shielded, and all we can see is the sun.

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