Na­ture’s pin­hole cam­era

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - LIVING - Pam Bax­ter

On Aug. 21, mil­lions of peo­ple in the United States, in­clud­ing many of us here in the Delaware Val­ley, turned eyes sky­ward to watch our por­tion of the phe­nom­e­non of a to­tal so­lar eclipse.

The next evening, a bunch of us from work got to­gether with our fam­i­lies for ice cream. A lot of the con­ver­sa­tion was about the eclipse and what we’d ex­pe­ri­enced. Much of it was of course sim­i­lar since we were all about the same dis­tance from the path of to­tal­ity. But there were still dif­fer­ences.

I had done my best to wit­ness the event; even left the den­tist’s chair (who knew that I’d sched­uled my ap­point­ment for ex­actly the time of the eclipse!) to run out­side to catch a glimpse with my ap­proved eclipse-watch­ing glasses. What a dis­ap­point­ment! The clouds that had been light and feath­ery enough to let me see the first “bite” of the moon, were now dense and com­pletely oc­clud­ing the sun and moon event.

Else­where lo­cally, from West Ch­ester to Wilm­ing­ton, my friends had bet­ter luck. They shared their sto­ries to lots of head-nod­ding around the group: “Yeah, that’s what we saw, too.” It was fun to hear them com­par­ing notes about the pin-hole view­ers they’d made out of ce­real or cracker boxes. And some of us had friends or fam­ily who had made the trip into that nar­row band di­rectly un­der the moon’s shadow and who, like my son, texted in­cred­i­ble pho­tos as the event un­folded.

One story, how­ever, was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. “We were stand­ing out­side work, with our glasses on, look­ing up.” my friend Marie said. “And then this one woman gasped. ‘Look!” she said, point­ing down, not up. There on the pave­ment next to us were all these cres­cent-shaped marks.”

It turns out that if you wanted to be able to safely ob­serve the eclipse, you didn’t need spe­cial glasses, a box with a pin­hole in it, or a spe­cially set-up tele­scope. You just needed a tree! I had just read about this eclipse phe­nom­e­non a few days be­fore: dur­ing an eclipse, spaces be­tween over­lap­ping leaves func­tion like pin­holes in a piece of card­board and cast cres­cent-shaped im­ages on the ground or pave­ment. I felt a

little en­vi­ous of Marie. The pho­tos I’d seen on­line were beau­ti­ful and I wished I’d been able to see that my­self. (Plenty of trees in my yard!) Plus now I felt like I’d missed out on see­ing two eclipses!

In ad­di­tion to the “wow” fac­tor, the eclipse got me think­ing about the big forces at work in the uni­verse. Here on planet Earth, we usu­ally see just the small cy­cles: light and dark, rain or not rain, the cir­cle of the sea­sons. But there are far big­ger forces in mo­tion; plan­ets and stars spin­ning at dis­tances we can barely imag­ine. Some in­flu­ences are ob­vi­ous, like the sun, our own star which, at a dis­tance of nearly 93 mil­lion miles still pro­vides the power to run our weather; pro­vides the en­ergy that makes it pos­si­ble for us to sur­vive. Sur­pris­ingly, it only takes a few de­grees dif­fer­ence in tem­per­a­ture, one way or the other, for us to feel too much sun or the lack of it.

The count­less stars and moons, gal­ax­ies and plan­ets be­yond us are too far away to have any af­fect on us. Or are they? For me, the eclipse was a re­minder that there are forces at work all around us that we may never know.

If you’re in­ter­ested in the leafy eclipse im­ages, there are a host of web­sites that have ar­ti­cles and pho­tos posted. Here are a few. Ter­rific pho­tos: https://petapixel. com/2012/05/21/cres­centshaped-pro­jec­tions-throughtree-leaves-dur­ing-the-so­lare­clipse/ Good ar­ti­cle: http://www.news­works. org/in­dex.php/lo­cal/arts­cul­ture/106513-see-the-so­lar-eclipse-us­ing-na­turespin­hole-cam­era-tree-leaves

Im­ages cre­ated by us­ing other view­ing means:

https://www.the­guardian. com/science/gallery/2017/ aug/22/re­flected-glory-so­lare­clipse-shad­ows-in-pic­tures

PHOTO BY LIN­COLN BAX­TER, III

Photo of the Au­gust 21 eclipse, taken in South Carolina by the au­thor’s son.

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