Before I retired from NASA in 2009, I published a dozen special bulletins on upcoming solar eclipses as well as several other canons and catalogs of eclipses. I had a small but adequate budget for these publications as well as a great technical editor and page layout specialist. Goddard also had special contracts with companies to print these books very economically. I would typically order 2000 copies of each publication and store them in boxes stacked in my cramped office.
After retiring, I wondered how I could continue publishing eclipse bulletins (with meteorologist Jay Anderson’s essential contribution on eclipse weather) and other publications without the financial backing of NASA. I certainly didn’t want to lay out a big investment in pre-ordering hundreds of books which I would need to warehouse, not to mention handling orders, stuffing envelopes and dragging them to the post office for mailing.
Fortunately, print-on-demand (POD) services have become very popular in the last few years. You submit a finished manuscript in PDF format to the POD service. They print and mail the book as each order comes in. This seemed like the perfect solution for me – no up-front money, no pre-orders of books to store, package and mail. But how well does POD work? How quickly are the books printed and shipped? How good is the quality of the books and is the cost reasonable? I needed to test this process from start to finish. After a lot of research on-line about POD services, I decided to use CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon.
When Jean Meeus and I published the Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses and its companion volume the Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses there was no plan to produce future canons. But in the years that followed, I found I was using the 1000–year period encompassing the present era of these two publications far more often than the rest. I began thinking how convenient it would be to have a subset of the Canon and Catalog in a single smaller volume.
The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses.
This was the start of what ultimately became the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses 1501 to 2500 and a test case for the entire print-on-demand process. As the design of the book took shape, new features were developed to distinguish it from the Five Millennium Canon. Most notably, the maps would be larger with 12 per page instead of 20. This increase in map size makes it easier to discern regions of eclipse visibility and, in addition, more curves of constant eclipse magnitude (25%, 50%, and 75%, instead of only 50%) can be included. Larger maps also allow the addition of more data including Delta T and the lunar node of the eclipse.
This sample map from the Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses shows the much anticipated total solar eclipse of 2017 through the United States. (Click to enlarge)
I also decided to use the Jet Propulsion Lab’s DE406 — a computer ephemeris used for calculating high precision coordinates of the Sun and the Moon for thousands of years into the past and future. This is the basic foundation of any eclipse predictions and I wanted to compare the results to the NASA canons that used an older ephemeris for computing celestial coordinates.
I began writing the narrative and explanatory sections of the book in mid-2013 while simultaneously working on the software to generate the improved maps.The very same arguments for publishing a new solar eclipse canon were equally applicable to a complementary volume on lunar eclipses. So I found myself working on the manuscript of the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses 1501 to 2500 at the same time.
The cover of the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses.
The 1000-year period of the new solar eclipse canon includes 2,389 eclipses and there are individual maps for each one. Lunar eclipses occur slightly more frequently, so the new lunar eclipse canon covers 2,424 eclipses with a map and diagram for each. The two books include a tabular catalogs that lists the most essential parameters to characterize each eclipse.
In the spring of 2014, Patrick Poitevin pressed me for a title and abstract for a presentation I was giving at the 2014 International Solar Eclipse Conference in October. So I submitted an abstract about the two new eclipse canons. Nothing motivates me as much as a concrete deadline!
Now I had to get serious about finishing the manuscripts, finalizing the mapping software, generating 400 pages of maps, and doing the page layout for the two books. I also had to learn the ins-and-outs of ISBN numbers, designing book covers, and submitting the assembled manuscripts to CreateSpace. In the final stages of these projects, I realized that I could also publish a slightly more costly color edition of each, so I had four manuscripts with which to negotiate the approval process with CreateSpace.
A sample figure from the Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses shows the upcoming total lunar eclipse of October 8. (Click to enlarge)
By mid-July, I was holding the proofs of all four books in my hands. I was delighted with the quality of the books – better that any of my NASA publications. And the turn-around time from placing an order on-line to receiving a hard copy in the mail is less than 5 business days.
I’m so pleased with the process that I already have a list of several other book projects including a NASA-style eclipse bulletin for the total solar eclipse of 2017, which passes through the USA.
If you’re interested in learning more about the new eclipse canons or even ordering a copy, just visit these links:
Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses
Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses – Color Edition
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses – Color Edition
You can also download a sample page of eclipse maps from each book at:
Thousand Year Canon of Solar Eclipses – sample map page
Thousand Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses – sample map page
Finally, eclipse chaser Michael Zeiler (www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com ) has written a very nice review at:
First Impressions on the New Canon of Solar Eclipses
Now it’s time to begin work on my next book…
– Fred Espenak