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Astronomy

Here's another short story! I got to see 2 unique astronomical phenomena in the short span of a few weeks! On August 8, 2024, there was the rare occurrence of the moon passing directly between Earth and the Sun, causing a solar eclipse. And on May 10, 2024 there was something normally you can only see in the arctic. Aurora borealis, at this time of year, in this part of the country, localized entirely within my apartment! Well, that last part is false. But I still got to see it.

Solar Eclipse

I was in Berkeley that day, so I could go to the eclipse watch party at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Sometime in the morning, a coworker and I headed up the hill and caught a ride from yet another coworker, which was awesome, so we didn't have to walk the whole way. When we got to the museum, we found out that it was free for lab employees that day. You could purchase a pair of eclipse glasses if you didn't have one, but luckily I had a pair from the prior eclipse in October, 2023.

The set up was awesome, everyone was outside in the main grassy/patio area of the museum where volunteers had brought out telescopes and pinhole devices for us to watch the progress of the eclipse. My colleague and I took a look through all the telescopes and then sat in the grass, watching through our glasses. In Berkeley, the Sun was about 30% covered by the Moon. Unfortunately, that meant no total darkness. In fact, the brightness didn't even change. I would not have otherwise known that an eclipse was going on.

After about an hour or 2, my colleague and I walked back down the hill to our lab building and the day continued as normal. No goats were sacrificed that day to appease the sun god.

Aurora Borealis

I was at a friend's house playing board games on May 10, 2024. On my way home around midnight, I noticed that the sky had a faint red glow. It totally didn't register in my brain - I thought that it was just twilight from the sun going down. It wasn't until after I was already home and in bed that I opened up my phone and saw some posts about an aurora borealis. Then it clicked! I remembered hearing about it earlier that it may be possible to see it from the bay area. I guess subconsciously I just didn't believe that.

I went outside in my pajamas and took another look. There was no way the sky should be red at this time of night. I pulled out my phone again and took a picture of the night sky. My phone captured it perfectly! It was so weird to not see much with my maked eye, but perfectly through the phone screen. It was purplish red, and a tiny bit of blue (which may have just been an artifact from the phone's camera.) Either way, it was super cool to witness and I was so surprised I could actually see it from my apartment!