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Solar gift for Christmas

The Union StaffThe moon blots out part of the sun on Christmas Day 2001.
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Editor’s Note: On Christmas Day 2001, Grass Valley astronomy buff Paul Bacon got an extra gift. Here is his story.

I awoke with a start just before the alarm clock sounded. I woke Linda and then walked into the living room and turned on the lights of the Christmas tree. It was a beautiful sight, and of course, all those presents. But we were to receive a special gift this morning, and it was not to be found under the tree.



Our special gift was to come from the heavens – a partial eclipse of the sun. It was necessary for us to travel to see it.

We drove to a spot near Wolf Mountain that offers a clear, unobstructed view to the east. Low, thin clouds hung above the mountains and were the first to be touched by the rays of the sun, turning them orange and red. I took a couple of photos and then attached my camera to one of the telescopes.




The sun slowly rose above the mountains, chasing away the pre-dawn light and replacing it with daylight. We could no longer look with our unprotected eyes toward the east. Along with the rising sun was the rising moon. For a brief time their paths would cross, the moon in front of the sun. We on earth saw a portion of the mighty sun blocked from our view.

My telescopes were fitted with special filters that allowed us to directly view the sun without damaging our eyes, and we watched with wonder as the moon slowly took a bigger bite out of the sun.

All too soon, the predestined rendezvous of these two heavenly bodies ended; the sun was once again whole; the moon went about its silent journey around the earth.


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