Posted by pauld | Filed under Total Solar Eclipse: Live from China
Passing busses and trucks on a Chinese highway, the modern silk road, reminds me of the speed of the shadow of the moon during an eclipse.
There is a lot of traffic on two-lane Chinese highways, including many slow trucks. I was surprised to find that the highways are actually three lanes; traffic in both directions passes by blowing a horn then pulling out and driving down the yellow line. I’m glad we have a professional driver!
I notice that when a truck is going 30 miles per hour and we are passing it at 45 miles per hour it appears, when we look at the truck, that we are moving past it at 15 miles per hour, the difference in the speeds.
The moon orbits the earth at a speed approximately 2000 miles per hour. The shadow of the moon travels along with the moon at the same speed. But the shadow falls upon the surface of the earth which is also moving. At the equator the earth rotates one 24,000 mile circumference in one 24-hour day so the surface moves along at 1000 miles per hour. The surface of the earth and the orbit of the moon travel in the same direction, so just like our bus the shadow of the moon during an eclipse moves across the surface at a relative velocity of about 1000 miles per hour.
As we stand on the desert waiting for the shadow of the moon to create a total solar eclipse at our position it is exciting to realize that it is traveling toward us at a thousand miles per hour, much faster than the jet aircraft that brought us to China. Luckily a direct hit by a thousand mile per hour shadow doesn’t hurt; in fact, being hit by a total solar eclipse is a wonderful thing!
This explains why the shadow of the moon will take its first bite out of the bottom of the setting sun. The sun appears to move toward the west because the earth surface is rotating toward the east; the moon is also moving toward the east faster so it overtakes and passes the sun in the sky.
Note about the length of totality: Even at a thousand miles per hour it still will take 2 minutes for the 30-mile diameter shadow of the moon to cross over me, and that is why this eclipse will last only 2 minutes.
Posted by robs | Filed under Total Solar Eclipse: Live from China
Not surprisingly you can get a Coke (but not Diet) even out here in Urumqi. But was surprising to me at first was the ready made physics lesson right on the side of the can. I ordered a Coke at the cool, jazz oasis of Ensun Coffee next to a gaming room with 200 Chinese kids individually deep into World of War. Instead of talking about calories the label listed 180 kj or kilo joules. In fact the food labels here are all in SI units (meters, kilograms etc) the system that scientists (and almost everybody in the world uses except the US). It was a great reminder that calories is actually a measure of energy with a precise meaning in scientific terms. 1 calorie = 4.18400 joules. (The sun provides 1,000,000,000 times more energy to the earth in the hour it takes to drink the Coke.)