Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse from space: Dupage satellite loop

Based on Dupage Nexlab GOES 16
Always marry a meteorologist.
In our house, a great deal of time and attention goes to watching weather loops of one sort or another.   They impact our life, dictating everything from the timing of dinner to the course of a vacation.  They are IMPORTANT, and also beautiful.
Recently a fantastic improvement in the quality of these loops was shown to me, as more modern technology, data processing and satellites come online.  Although I'd watched weather service satellite loops for years, I never dreamed of some of the views I've been seeing recently.  When I first saw them I was like a little kid.  "Look, this is what God sees!"  Any one of them I could watch for hours, taking in all the details.  Words fail me:  the tops of clouds in motion are sublime.

And then came the Eclipse.

It was interesting enough to view the darkening of Oregon and Washington -- how the ink-stain spread out swiftly, killing the clouds.  (It took them a while to grow back.)  The black shadow-band swept across, and such a view was surely enough for a lifetime.  But then my husband told me about a ghost.  "Have you seen the white patch?  In the middle of the black!!  You gotta see this!"

After it was all over (I spent my Eclipse on the back deck, holding a pinhole card, and in my neighbor's front drive, borrowing dark glasses and chatting), we went back to the Internet and dug up the relevant frames, aware that within 24 hours the lovely product would be unavailable.  The warnings were all over:  This product is experimental, it is undergoing testing.  Well it wasn't the only thing undergoing testing.  I really struggled to save it, and had to call in the resident meteorologist, Dr Young from Penn State.  Who just happens to be my husband.

This track was seen on the College of Dupage's experimental NEXLAB GOES 16 satellite page, the day of the eclipse.  Dupage Nexlab  We fiddled and downloaded, cropped and saved, and in the end had an animated gif of nearly 35MB.  As of now I can't get it smaller (or slower).  Across the country, from one end to the other, tracing that fabled path, ran a white circular ghost the size of South Carolina.  In the middle of the darkest hour, a white artifact bloomed forth, for all the world a moon shadow in photographic negative.  ("Shadow of the Moon,"  I started singing, from Blackmore's Night album.)  It gave me the eeriest feeling.  A white raggedy ball was wheeling along in the blackest center of the eclipse, a bouncing alien bunny of a cottontail, both terrifying and freeing.

Naturally I asked, "What's causing this?!"  And he explained it was what the sensors had been programmed to do when they detected less than nothing:  no light at all, "below black" on the scale of responses.  You can see it as the edge of night if you follow the daylight on the original loop -- or any day's loop for that matter.   That white patch was, indeed, human-caused...  after a fashion.
Okay, that explains it.  But it doesn't explain the amazing thrill I get when I watch it.  Nothing less than divine artisanry made this.

Eclipse from space: Dupage satellite loop 
(give it time to load)

When you marry a meteorologist you get a front-row seat on some of the most beautiful, amazing, incredible sights you never dreamed existed.  You have to be ready at any moment to drop everything and look up, to pass into a trance of awareness of wonder, to be amazed and thrilled and awed, only deeper, at these gifts we have been given.   I have seen the green flash, fire rainbows, heliocentric rainbows, ice pillars, ice volcanoes, auroras and iridescent clouds...  without ever taking a class in meteorology.  All I had to do was look up, be ready to look.
               "And every common bush's afire with God,
                 but only he who sees takes off his shoes."
                                          Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

I am so very grateful. 

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