John E. Branch Jr.'s Reviews > The Under-Standing Of Eclipses

The Under-Standing Of Eclipses by Guy Ottewell
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's review
Apr 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science-technology
I own a copy

In 1991, I became an eclipse tourist. From my home at the time in Dallas, Texas, I traveled with a friend to the Pacific coast of Mexico to witness a total solar eclipse. The publisher's web page for this book calls that one "supreme" and a "truly great event." The reason is partly because in some locations it began almost exactly at noon--thus with the sun directly overhead--and mainly because it lasted for some six and a half minutes. Not very long, you may think, to justify a trip taking a few days and covering more than a thousand miles each way. But compared to other eclipses, that one was rare: most don't last that long. And seeing a shadow racing across the ocean, then watching the world go dark at high noon, was something special.

A number of peculiarities combine to make eclipses possible, and there are a handful of solar-eclipse types. This book, which I obtained shortly before that 1991 event, explains all of them and gives many illustrations. The latter are particularly useful for anyone not accustomed to visualizing three-dimensional geometry in their head, which includes me and, I imagine, most of us. You can find some of the same information elsewhere, but the careful organization and the graphics here make this a very appealing way to learn.

Oh yes: why the odd spelling in the title? (There should be a hyphen in "Under-Standing.") Because standing under an eclipse is basically how we all view one.

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