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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/13

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THE COMING TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.

to Farragut's flagship, the Hartford, with Captain Yates. In earlier days Admiral Dewey commanded this ship, and the expedition was fitted out while he was in charge of the Bureau of Equipment at Washington. The same fine courtesy that has become so well known to his countrymen was at that time extended to all the members of the expedition.

The cloudiness along the track of the eclipse in the Southern States on the 28th of May, 1900, is evidently a matter of much importance not only for all astronomers, but for non-professional spectators. If it could be foretold, with the same precision as the astronomical data give the time and the place of the occurrence of the eclipse, that the day itself will be fair or cloudy, or that certain portions of the track will be clear while others will be obscured, it would be of great benefit. The cost of these scientific expeditions is very great, since it is necessary to transport many heavy and delicate pieces of apparatus into the field, including telescopes, spectroscopes, polariscopes, and photographic cameras, and set them up in exact position for the day of observation. The expedition to Cape Ledo, West Africa, in 1889, carried out a large amount of material, prepared it for work during the totality, and then entirely lost the sun during the critical moments by a temporary obscuring of the sky through local cloud formations. There had been some clouds at the station during the forenoons for several days preceding the eclipse, but the sky was usually clear and very favorable during the middle of the afternoons. The totality came on at three o'clock, and photographs of the sun were taken at first contact about 1.30 p.m.; clouds thickened, however, and totality was entirely lost, while the sun came out again for the last contact at 4.30 p.m. This was a very trying experience, and of course could not have been avoided by any possible precautions. Some astronomers have thought that the advance of the moon's shadow is accompanied by a fall in temperature, and that cloudiness is more likely to be produced from this cause.

Soon after the West African eclipse Professor Todd, of Amherst College, proposed that more systematic observations be made for the probable state of the sky along eclipse tracks, with the view of at least selecting stations having the most favorable local conditions. The method was tried in Chili, April, 15, 1893, and in Japan, August 8, 1896, with some success. Heretofore the available meteorological records, which were originally taken for other general purposes, had been consulted, and some idea formed of the prevailing tendency to cloudy conditions. In accordance with the improved method, the United States Weather Bureau has been conducting special observations on the cloudiness occurring