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A bright light sight

Local astronomy club hosts viewing party of solar eclipse

Posted: May 21, 2012 2:55 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2012 2:55 a.m.

Candy Van Winkle puts special glasses to see the eclipse on her daughter Elze, 3, while Elze’s father, Jason Van Winkle, holds her.

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More than 200 people showed up at Central Park to see the biggest star around - the sun.

Shortly after 5 p.m., local stargazers gathered at the park's southwestern side in preparation of the moon's grand appearance over the sun in the eclipse.

This year's occurrence began at 5:24 p.m. Sunday and lasted two hours, ending at around 7:42 p.m.

More than a dozen telescopes - some gold-plated resembling a pirate's spyglass, others as fat as a garbage can - formed a line on the west side of the park's parking lot.

Jim Van Winkle had the biggest telescope of the lot with his Meade LX200.

"I'm making a movie," he said, laughing. "I've hooked the telescope up to my video camera, and I'm recording it.

"I'm going to call it," he said, pausing. "Solar Eclipse."

Van Winkle invited others to see the annular solar eclipse through two other devices he brought with him to the event.

An annular solar eclipse is a type of eclipse in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges.

By allowing the image of the sun to shine through inverted binoculars, eclipse lovers were able to watch a blue apple-sized image of the sun on a white board, slowly being overtaken by the shadow of the moon, looking like a bite taken out of a blue cookie.

"I've seen it happen on TV, but I wanted to see it here," said 11-year-old sixth-grader Cameron Karimi, of Golden Oak Community School.

He showed up at the park with his mother, Maria, and his older brother.

"I've always wanted to see this ever since I wanted to be an astronaut," said A.J. Karimi, of La Mesa Junior High School. "But, then I heard that astronauts suffer from bone disease so I was scared of that."

There were many harmless ways to have witnessed Sunday's eclipse.

Stargazers used special glasses, others held cards the size of drink coasters that had orange filters through which to observe the sun.

At least one young man was seen wearing a black welder's helmet.

Families arranged picnic blankets under the shade of trees, others set up blue folding chairs, waiting the show to begin.

"One of the amazing things to see, apparently, is the sun through the trees," Van Winkle said. "Apparently, instead of dots of sunshine, we'll be able to see crescents (of sunshine)."

The Local Group Astronomy Club of Santa Clarita Valley placed telescopes next to where basketballs were being bounced and pointed them at a section of the western sky to best observe the solar eclipse.

The group reminds everyone to "never look directly at the sun with any type of optical device, camera, binoculars or telescope. You will be blinded instantly and permanently."



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