Hi, I’m Jay Ryan. Thanks for visiting our family’s eclipse website. I’ve been involved in astronomy popularization and education since 1995. Some people know me as an Astronomical Cartoonist. My specialty is creating illustrated depictions of the phenomena of the Sun, Moon, stars and planets… things that everyone can see in the sky, right from their own own backyards.
Astronomy is a visual subject. We perceive the celestial bodies with our eyes. It’s long been my opinion that this visual subject is best-understood through visual media. Yet for some inexplicable reason, the overwhelming majority of educational and popular works in astronomy are text-based, using visuals only sparingly, or just for decoration. I believe this is one reason why astronomy is so poorly understood and appreciated in today’s society. Well, I’ve spent the last few decades trying to fix that!
In the mid-90s, I distributed an educational astronomy comic strip called Starman which was published in the newsletters of over 150 astronomy clubs and planetariums around the USA. From 1997 through 2001, I created an educational comic strip called SkyWise which was published each month in Sky & Telescope magazine. (Some samples of SkyWise are appended below.) During this period, I also created a 32-page educational astronomy comic book called CYCLES: An Illustrated Introduction to Astronomy and Time, which has been used as a supplement in high school and college classrooms for nearly 20 years.
In 2002, I “retired” from astronomical cartooning and involvement with mainstream astronomy to spend more time with our young children. Since then, I’ve been involved in promoting astronomy in the homeschool community, helping families to learn the constellations and understand the cycles of the Sun, Moon and planets.
About This Website: With the 2017 American Total Solar Eclipse coming up, I decided to come out of “retirement” to help spread the word! You see, I’ve literally been looking forward to this eclipse my entire life!
As a child in the 1960s, I was an enthusiastic follower of the Apollo Moon missions. I loved every aspect of space, including astronomy. I was an eight-year-old boy standing in the sunlight at my home on Saturday, March 7, 1970. We were unable to travel to the Carolinas that day to see the last significant Total Solar Eclipse of the 20th century over the USA. But I could not figure out how to work my little shoebox camera, and did not observe the partial phase of the eclipse, even though it was a rare sunny day in March. In my disappointment, I’ll never forget how the TV news reporters joked about it that night…
“If you missed today’s total eclipse of the Sun, you’ll have another chance…. in the year 2017!”
The year 2017 sounded infinitely far away to me as an eight-year-old boy in 1970! It was the Nixon administration, the era of the Brady Bunch and the Jackson 5! The Beatles had not yet broken up, and the Apollo 13 disaster and the Kent State shootings happened later that spring. The 21st century was still widely regarded as the futuristic era of flying cars and vacations on Mars!
Well, time flies, and the nearly-half-century spanning 1970 and 2017 has just about FINALLY elapsed! In the years since, I had a few close brushes with total solar eclipses. There turned out to be another American eclipse in 1979 over the Pacific Northwest, the last one of the century. I never even heard about it until years later! My cousin and I made a last-minute plan to see the big 1991 eclipse in Mexico. But we learned that unprepared eclipse wannabees like us were being turned away at the border by the Mexican authorities. For the February, 1998 eclipse, I was offered a gig as an astronomy presenter aboard a Caribbean cruise ship, but had to decline due to the imminent birth of our son.
Now that 2017 is finally here, my objective is to not only see this eclipse with my family and friends, but to make sure that as many others as possible also get their chance! Especially the eight-year-old kids of 2017, who will have a lifetime ahead of American eclipses!
So let’s all help spread the word and make sure that EVERY AMERICAN knows about this eclipse! Hope you find this website informative and motivational.
Clear skies, jay
(Originally appeared in the February, 1998 Sky & Telescope)
On February 26, 1998, the people of Earth observed the Moon passing in front of the Sun, casting the Moon’s shadow over the Earth’s surface in a Total Eclipse of the Sun. This total eclipse is the second-last one of the 20th century, and the last one visible in the Americas until 2017.
(Originally appeared in the November, 2001 Sky & Telescope)
Since the Sun is not a “point source,” partial shadows can be seen as the “fuzzy edges” around full shadows, on the ground and in space.
(Originally appeared in the August, 2000 Sky & Telescope)
There are certain fundamental truths of observing the celestial sky… a “Murphy’s Law” of astronomy! Since the cartoonist is a “human cloud magnet,” he has so much experience with these truths that he named them after himself.
(I always consider this my enduring contribution to amateur astronomy!)