A solar eclipse is coming up in just a few weeks, and although with its path of totality near the southern tip of South America means that not many people will be able to see it first-hand, there is an opportunity to get involved with it even at an extreme distance. PhD candidate [Kristina] and the organization HamSCI are trying to learn a little bit more about the effects of an eclipse on radio communications, and all that is required to help is a receiver capable of listening in the 10 MHz range during the time of the eclipse.
It’s well-known that certain radio waves can propagate further depending on the time of day due to changes in many factors such as the state of the ionosphere and the amount of solar activity. What is not known is specifically how the paths can vary over the course of the day. During the eclipse the sun’s interference is minimized, and its impact can be more directly measured in a more controlled experiment. By tuning into particular time stations and recording data during the eclipse, it’s possible to see how exactly the eclipse impacts propagation of these signals. [Kristina] hopes to take all of the data gathered during the event to observe the doppler effect that is expected to occur.
The project requires a large amount of volunteers to listen in to the time stations during the eclipse (even if it is not visible to them) and there are only a few more days before this eclipse happens. If you have the required hardware, which is essentially just a receiver capable of receiving upper-sideband signals in 10 MHz range, it may be worthwhile to give this a shot. If not, there may be some time to cobble together an SDR that can listen in (even an RTL-SDR set up for 10 MHz will work) provided you can use it to record the required samples. It’s definitely a time that ham radio could embrace the hacker community.
Our friends at [The Thought Emporium] have been bringing us delightful projects but not all of them warrant a full-fledged video. What does anyone with a bevy of small but worthy projects do? They put them all together like so many mismatched LEGO blocks. Grab Bag #1 is the start of a semi-monthly video series which presents the smaller projects happening behind the scenes of [The Thought Emporium]’s usual video presentations.
Solar eclipse? There are two because the first was only enough to whet [The Thought Emporium]’s appetite. Ionic lifters? Learn about the favorite transformer around the shop and see what happens when high voltage wires get too close. TEA lasers? Use that transformer to make a legitimate laser with stuff around your house. Bismuth casting? Pet supply stores may have what you need to step up your casting game and it’s a total hack. Failures? We got them too.
The Game Boy got its camera accessory back in 1998 when CCD-based cameras with poor resolution were just becoming widely available to the public. This camera can capture 128×112 pixel images in the four value grey scale for which the handheld is so loved.
Having taken part in eclipse mania ourselves we can tell you that unless you did some serious research and prep for photographing the thing, this makes as much sense as pulling out your smartphone did. We posit that it certainly produced a more pleasing result.
[jhx] says this is more a weird halo effect of the shot than it is a quality image of totality. At this resolution, the moon-covered Sun should be very few pixels in size, right? But fidelity is for photographers, this is for hackers. Getting the digital image off of the Game Boy camera involved using an Interact Mega Memory cartridge on a Game Boy Pocket to transfer it over, then using a USB 64M cartridge to copy from the Mega Memory and ultimately to a computer.
Foam core, dollar tree foam board, Adams foam board, or whatever we’re calling a thin sheet of foam sandwiched between two pieces of poster board, is an invaluable hacker’s tool. Everyone should have a few sheets on hand, and not just because each sheet is a dollar each at any Dollar Store. [Eric] has been working on a technique to create compound curves in foam board, and the results look great. It’s a true three-dimensional plane with weird curves, and certainly has applications for something.
The Apollo Lunar Module is the first, and only manned space-only spacecraft ever made. The design of this spacecraft isn’t constrained by trivialities like ‘atmosphere’, and the design didn’t need ‘bulkheads thicker than a stack of paper towels’. It is a beautiful ship, and now a company wants to produce a gorgeous 1/32 scale model of the LEM. The goal is $25k, which is quite high for the real space modeling market, but if this GoFundMe campaign succeeds, this will be one of the finest real space models ever created. It’ll also match the scale of the 1/32 Revell CSM.
There’s a complete solar eclipse happening across the United States tomorrow. Many schools should have started classes by then, but they’re calling tomorrow a snow day. Everyone who is traveling to see the eclipse is probably already where they’re going to be, and there are clouds on the horizon. Literal clouds. Everyone is watching the weather channel to see what the cloud cover will be tomorrow. Some people don’t have to worry: [Dan] is building a high-altitude balloon to get 100,000 feet above any clouds. There’s a 360° camera onboard, and the resulting video will be awesome. At least one person in Charleston will be renting a plane; I question the wisdom of renting a 172 over a Piper or Cirrus or another low-wing plane, but whatever. If you’re working on a project that will look at the eclipse from above the clouds, leave a note in the comments. For those of you looking at clouds tomorrow, Hackaday is doing another eclipse meet up on the Pacific coast of Mexico on April 8, 2024.
[Dan Julio] let us know about an exciting project that he and his team are working on at the Solid State Depot Makerspace in Boulder: the Solar Eclipse High Altitude Balloon. Weighing in at 1 kg and bristling with a variety of cameras, the balloon aims to catch whatever images are able to be had during the solar eclipse. The balloon’s position should be trackable on the web during its flight, and some downloaded images should be available as well. Links for all of that are available from the project’s page.
High altitude balloons are getting more common as a platform for gathering data and doing experiments; an embedded data recorder for balloons was even an entry for the 2016 Hackaday Prize.
If all goes well and the balloon is able to be recovered, better images and video will follow. If not, then at least a post-mortem of what the team thinks went wrong will be posted. Launch time in Wyoming is approximately 10:40 am Mountain Time (UTC -07:00) Mountain Daylight Time (UTC -06:00) on Aug 21 2017, so set your alarm!
What do you do if you don’t trust cheap eclipse-watching glasses from the internet? What about if everyone’s sold out? Well, if you want to watch the eclipse and you have an auto-darkening welding helmet, you can do what [daniel_reetz] did and hack something together with a remote and your welding helmet to let you see the eclipse without blinding yourself.
Essentially, the hack tricks the helmet’s sensors into thinking it’s very bright. [Daniel_reetz] accomplishes this by gluing a remote with an infrared LED to the side of the helmet and covering it with a 50mm plastic lid. There are two sensors on [daniel_reetz]’s helmet, so he covers the other one with aluminum tape. What this means is that when he presses a button on the remote, the lid-covered sensor thinks it’s very bright out and since the other sensor is covered, it darkens the lens of the mask.
I’m sure some of our readers could come up with a more sophisticated method that would allow you to do something other with your hand than press the remote buttons, but this is a quick and easy hack that’ll get you able to take a quick look at the eclipse – assuming you have a welding mask capable of shading to level 13 or 14. If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the eclipse, check out the safety guide from NASA just to make sure your eyes are safe. For another method of viewing the eclipse, check out this wearable pinhole camera. For another welding mask hack, check out this augmented reality mask.
In less than a month, on August 21, 2017, the Moon will cast its shadow upon the Earth, a relative pinprick at only 60 miles across. The shadow will begin in the Pacific Ocean off North America, make landfall south of Portland, Oregon, and rake diagonally across the United States. Charging southeastward at about 2000 miles an hour, the path of totality will touch 12 states before racing off into the Atlantic Ocean around Charleston, South Carolina.
Those are the dry facts of the eclipse, the wheres and the whens of an event that hasn’t been visible to a majority of the US population in 47 years. But beyond the science and the natural wonder of the celestial alignment lies a simple question: Where will you be when the sun goes away?
An Eclipse from a Volcano
For me, the answer is simple: I’ll be smack dab in the middle of totality on top of an extinct volcano in eastern Idaho. To see an eclipse is pretty cool; to watch the mechanics of the heavens work above you while standing in a unique geological feature will be far cooler.
It will take me eight hours to drive to Menan Buttes with my family from our home in the Panhandle; Idaho is an enormous state. We’ll be camping on private land outside the southern butte, probably in pretty rustic conditions and without a lot of rough camping experience. OK, none. But I don’t care because I want to see totality, and the 92% totality we’d see if we stayed home just won’t cut it.
While most people will likely have their eyes cast heavenward with their cheap cardboard and plastic eclipse glasses or shade 14 welding lens when the big moment arrives, my eyes will be locked on the ground to the west of our vantage point. Menan Butte stands about 500′ above the flat, featureless Snake River plain, and I intend to watch the moon’s shadow racing across the planet toward us. That’s the draw for me, and I hope I get to see it.
That’s not to say I won’t look skyward once the shadow is upon us, gazing in wide wonder at the incandescent dance of our sun’s atmosphere against the suddenly dark sky. I’ll bask in the unnatural twilight, listen to the gasps and cheers of my fellow watchers, and feel the sudden temperature drop, which should be quite marked in the east Idaho drylands. We’ll have about two minutes of totality before the shadow races east toward the vast majority of the US population, and I plan to enjoy every second of it.
Hackaday Eclipse Meetups
Aside from just watching the eclipse, there’s plenty else to do. Hackaday.io members across the country are hosting Hackaday Eclipse Meetups, where like minded folks can mix and mingle before the eclipse. If you know where you’ll be to watch the eclipse — like an extinct volcano, for instance — and you don’t mind sharing the experience with some of your fellow enthusiasts, be sure to post a meetup on the Eclipse Meetups page. Make your event page and we’ll send you some eclipse glasses with the Jolly Wrencher on the side of them for you and your guests.
Have you started thinking of what you’re going to bring with you to the viewing? There are a lot of eclipse projects, from pinhole cameras to watch the eclipse safely, to the Ham operators who will be taking advantage of localized ionospheric changes to make long-distance contacts. Those of us with telescopes might want to build a low-cost solar filter. Someone will likely be trying to prove General Relativity somewhere along the path of totality, and we’d love to see the rig for that. And there will no doubt be petabytes of photographs and videos taken with everything ranging from smartphones to professional cinematic cameras. We’d love to hear what you’re planning and see your setups. And even if you’ve got something cool that’s not eclipse related, bring it along. It’s always a good time to talk shop for hackers.