Jon remains in the Kepler 16 system to catch a total eclipse in daylight
Having decided to remain a little longer in Kepler 16b’s home system we are set to witness a quite incredible phenomena. As the light of the two parent stars begins to create a daytime glow of rose and gold blends, there appears a growing ‘bite’ at the four o’clock position on the fiery edge of Kepler 16A. I’m hoping with all the anticipation I can muster that this is going to progress into a total stellar eclipse!
After 37 minutes it appears to be going that way. At first the bite from the side of the star is similar to the Apple logo. Now, as more of Kepler 16A is obscured, the image is resembling the sickle of the old Soviet flag.
Kepler 16A is a K class star whose light has a subtly different shade to what we’re familiar with from the Sun: it shines with a sense of sodium street lighting, giving an intriguing contrast to the partial phases of eclipses we’re used to on Earth. Another fascinating difference with this Keplerian eclipse is how Kepler 16B, the other star in the system, is still shining like normal. As Kepler 16A becomes increasingly obscured, there is a far smaller temperature drop and dimming of the daylight.
In the utility store of my ship, the Perihelion, for some reason I can’t quite recall, there is a colander. As I hold it up between the two stars, the pinhole effect of the colander’s holes shows numerous crescents from the partially eclipsed Kepler 16A and full discs from Kepler 16B. It’s very pleasing to build up my collection of observations of differences between this alien eclipse and those we know from Sun and Moon alignments.
Eclipses are always very tense affairs. Factors entirely beyond our control such as cruelly uncooperative weather have the potential to scupper the experience. Here though, on the surface of our Mars-sized moon around gas giant Kepler 16b, the view is pristinely clear. An alien totality is mere moments away. Quickly I glance round to this moon’s opposite horizon and, with the eclipse behind me, the vision of gas giant Kepler 16b hangs in the alien sky as if observing the spectacle for itself.
As the final slithers of light become blocked, there are no effects similar to Bailey’s Beads or a diamond ring. Perhaps the object causing the eclipse is smooth and uncratered or has a very dense atmosphere. The eventual totality is staggering to behold and creates a scene unlike anything we could witness on Earth. The younger star’s outer corona shimmers at greater speed than that of our Sun and has a more fulsome ‘golden hour’ glow. And for a total eclipse to be happening in the light of day, as Kepler 16B shines on, is rather bizarre: an eclipse scene with an eerie beauty all of its own.