Let's now move to an area that is important to ALL eclipse enthusiasts - whether this is your first eclipse, or you're a veteran of 20 totals:
Yeah, I'll be adding more maps, and more tables, and details about the eclipse-related predictions in the coming year or so. I just added some new maps, I think a month or so ago, that give a better view of where the highways are in the United States - we use Google Maps to generate some maps with the eclipse path on them. Those will be helpful to the general public in figuring out which highway runs into the eclipse path, how to get from point A to point B, that sort of information.
He does exquisite maps, beautiful maps. They're really works of art, the maps that he generates.
Yeah, he's using a combination of the software that Xavier Jubier has developed, along with my Besselian elements.
I'm glad you mentioned Xavier. His work, of course, is rendered in the wonderful Google Interactive maps site that he hosts. This site is second to none in the world, for those who want to see eclipse calculations rendered within a marvelous mapmaking tour de force - Google Earth! But in this segment, I'd like to focus on individual, static maps that people can not only refer to for information, but can actually hang on their walls as art - or keep forever, as a souvenir of this great eclipse event we're all about to share! And for that, we need to talk to the world's pre-eminent mapmaker, Michael Zeiler of GreatAmericanEclipse.com
Well, the eclipse-maps site is to share my passion for eclipse maps, and I've always been interested in maps as artifacts or as documents of our culture. If a picture tells a thousand words, a map tells a million words. A map tells so many stories - stories of exploration, stories of science, stories of history. And eclipses happen at a very specific point, at a very specific time. So eclipse maps are remarkable because they combine space and time. And they are maps for only one specific date. An eclipse map is not a general type of map, it's a map that's really only good for one single day, ever. So, why we spend so much time to make these eclipse maps, is because it's such a remarkable event, that you want to communicate to other people how to get to this one place on this one date, to see the most remarkable sight you can see on Earth.
I wrote a book on this subject about five years ago. My specialty is how to model every type of phenomena on the world. And by that, I mean, I write books about how to model streets, how to model rivers, how to model parcel lots, county boundaries, the surface of the Earth, with terrain, and things such as rainfall around the world.
I've made the maps in the same way that somebody would make a topographic map, with contour lines on it. And normally, when you see contour lines on a map, the contour lines represent an elevation of a mountain. Except, instead of the elevation shown by the countours, it's how long the eclipse lasts. The lines that show the eclipse times for the four contacts of an eclipse - I call those "isochrons". The lines that show the duration of the eclipse, I call those "isodurations". I can draw the contour lines very precisely, and you can see quite a bit of jaggedness around those lines, and those lines are due to the influence of the irregularities along the limb of the Moon as it eclipses the Sun. The Moon, of course, has mountains and valleys, and the valleys are the ones that mainly influence the duration of the eclipse. Because at the beginning or end of totality, the Sun first appears or disappears through a particular valley, and if it's a deep valley then it'll disappear later or reappear earlier. And so, the maps that I make take all of that into account. And I can make maps like that, because my time with Bill Kramer and Xavier Jubier has done the heavy lifting of making the calculations of exactly when the valleys of the Moon start or end the eclipse. I use roughly a hundred million points to model a full eclipse. So there's a hundred million coordinates, with x- y- and time values. I put that into a surface model, and then I draw the contours from there.
In 2009, I was preparing to go to the solar eclipse in the Pacific Ocean. I had relied upon the wonderful maps by Fred Espenak, and I was also very much aware of the amazing maps that Xavier Jubier had done. I had used both of those maps, and I had the interest of knowing where I would be at all times on the cruise - or at least, during the eclipse. I looked at Fred Espenak's maps, but didn't have a grid of latitude and longitude values. On land, that's not so big of an issue, but at sea, you don't have landmarks. So to know where you are at sea, you need a GPS receiver, and I wanted an eclipse map that showed the latitude and longitude lines. I couldn't find one, so I decided to make my own. So I brought a large map, and taped it on the wall of the ship. And there was a lot of interest on the ship in this map, because it showed the track of the eclipse, [and] it also showed the track of the ship. So people were very interested in that, and I got a lot of feedback on that first eclipse map that I made. So about a year afterward, I launched my website eclipse-maps.com, and I started featuring both historic eclipse maps from my personal collection, as well as new maps that I had started making for future eclipses.
And we are all so glad that you did! I would encourage everyone to visit your sites and check out the wonderful work you're doing to help bring eclipse mapping to the public. I can't say I understand the techniques, but as always, I'm very glad there's someone out there doing it! Bravo, Michael!
Let's move on now, to a subject that will interest so many - eclipse photography! Stay tuned…!