Frequenly Asked Questions
Please also read the Help File. If after reading the FAQ's and the Help File you still have questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dreaded iPhone "real switch" Mute Switch
There have been a few users (luckily not many) that are findind that the app is not playing the app sounds, but their phone is playing other things like music. They can't figure it out and wonder if it is a problem with the app. In each case the user was unaware of that VERY small (tiny) physical mute swtich on the side/edge of the upper left side of the phone. It's really small! When the user put this switch to ON, the app plays sounds fine. This mute swtich is rather odd, it mutes some things but not others and I can't figure out how it chooses what to block or what to play. Anyway, if you are not getting sound from the app look for this swtich and turn it on.
As far as programming, the app has not control over the playing of sounds. The playing of sounds is controlled by the device, you have to be sure that the device is allowing the sounds to be played.
Another thing to always check is that in your list of apps, under Solar Eclipse Timer and under Notifications, everything is turned on.
The only audio selection in the app is the selection on the Settings Screen to Mute the movie soundtrack.
First Demo Program
Use the 1st demo to hear all of the announcements that Solar Eclipse Timer will play.
Explanation: The best way to use this demo program is as follows: Set you phone's screen lock time to 30 seconds. Put your phone down and let it go to lock. In about 2 minutes you will hear a custom ring tone, see a banner and hear an announcement that says "eclipse event open app". This process is designed to teach you how your phone and the app will behave on eclipse day when you phone goes to lock. Take 61 minutes and go through the entire demo and listen to all of the announcements.
The app is designed to prevent your phone from going to sleep/lock during totality. Three minutes before totality, during totality and for 5 minutes after totality the app will force your phone to stay awake.
Furthermore, all of the times in this demo are adjustable. You can make the contact times what ever you want as long as they are times in the immediate future
Eclipse Time Period During The Day Now
You can test contact times in advance of eclipse day on the main timer screen during the day in the range of time when the actual eclipse will be occurring, except between C3 and C4. Solar Eclipse TimerTM will think it is eclipse day and behave as such and play announcements. Solar Eclipse Timer is NOT date specific. When there are 4 contact times loaded at the appropriate time of day, it thinks the eclipse is occurring.
NOTE: IMPORTANT! If you are lucky enough to live in the path and you are testing Solar Eclipse Timer during the time of day when the eclipse would be occurring, you CANNOT geolocate and test and see the totality duration during the time period between C3 and C4. Because the app thinks totality is OVER! The sequencer is still running in the background and it thinks it's eclipse day and it thinks totaltiy has finished.
But once the C4 time has past the sequencer is finished and you can test again. The app is designed this way to make sure it will work during eclipse time when it is in the path.
How To Delete Eclipse Data Files That Are No Longer Needed?
In Apple iOS on the file line that you want to delete, swipe the line to the left, a Delete button will appear on the right.
In Android open the file that you want to delete, scoll to the very end of the file, there is a DELETE button located there.
Final Version Numnbers For The Eclipse?
Make sure to download the final version number for Solar Eclipse Timer before the eclipse! The final version numbers are:
Android Version 1.15
Apple iOS Version 1.9 Build 1
You can check your version number by tapping on the Info/About icon (i) on the top banner. On the bottom of the About screen will be your version number. Get the latest version!
I was able to clarify and improve some things in the app based on the great comments and questions I have received from Solar Eclipse Timer users. Thank you!
NOTE! Remember, the contact time calculation is extremely accurate based on your loaction coordinates. However, small timing errors for 2nd contact and 3rd contact are introduced by device processing time for your display and variations in the shadow width in certain geographic areas due to the lunar limb profile. Always have solar glasses ON if the sky is still bright! Protect your eyes! The glasses off and glasses on statements are related to the contact time calculation and although they are sequenced to be safe, use common sense, because all timing variations on all devices and in all geographic areas cannot be accounted for.
Is Cell Phone Data Service Needed?
No, it does not require an active data service to work. The formula for calculating the contact times is in the app. No internet connection is required. So the app only needs your coordinates in the decimal format. So, your phone has to at least be able to geo-locate to get your position. Under normal circumstances phones use mechanisms like triangulating off of cell towers, or WiFi or assisted GPS to geo-locate.
It is difficult for me to know how well all makes and models of phones will work when they are FORCED to use their GPS receiver for GPS satellite data alone, but I have no reason to believe that modern phones can't do it. A safe thing to do would be to bring a handheld GPS receiver if you know anyone who has one of those, since they are designed to use the satellites only. Because you can always enter your coordinates manually if you can get them from the handheld GPS.
This is one of the reasons I released my FREE companion app Solar Eclipse Timer GPS Converter. This app has ONE function, to take coordinate data in the Degrees, Minutes and Seconds (DMS) format and convert it to the decimal (DD) format so you can enter data into Solar Eclipse Timer. This is for the emergency situation where a phone is not picking up the raw GPS satellite data. There maybe a chance you can get coordinate information from the navigation system in your car. This coordinate information maybe in the DMS format, GPS converter with convert the format for you. So, have this app on your phone as a safety, it's free.
Finally, if you know you observing location exactly print out the coordinates, in decimal format and bring them with you so you can enter them manually.
Everyday Eclipse Day?
YES, everyday is eclipse day for the Solar Eclipse Timer app! Remember, that app is NOT date specific. It does NOT have an ON/OFF swtich. If you load eclipse times that are appropriate for the time of day, it thinks it's eclipse day! It is "armed' or enabled if it is loaded with appropirate times during the time of day that the eclipse would be occuring.
For people who live in the path, if you are testing the app and you geolocate during the time of day when the eclipse would be happening on August 21st, you have started the notification system.
It is designed like this so that folks don't miss anythig on eclipse day. They get to the path, tap once to geoloacte, tap again to load the times and it is "game on." No room for error, nothing to turn on or enable. Remember, there are going to be people who will decide at the last moment to go to this eclipse and download the app on Sunday or even Monday morning, they are not going to have time to practice with the app and learn the fine details. They have to be able to tap twice and be timing!
If you ever have notifications that are playing that you want to stop, open the app, go to the Settings screen, tap on the 1st demo program, tap the STOP button in the top banner.
Remember, the notification programming in this app is CRUCIAL because phones will be going to Sleep/Lock all over the country. The notification system is loaded deeper into the operating system at a level that is lower than were the app runs. This is so the notification system can wake up your phone and tell you to open the app. So it maybe annoying until you learn the app and a learn how to shut off the notifications, but it is a very important design feature of the app.
UTC - Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time is used by astronomers and scientists because it is not related to time zones and does not change with daylight saving time. It is the time at the prime meridian, longitude 0.0. Time zones around the world are then an offset from UTC. For our puposes, a basic understanding of UTC is needed because the formulas to calculate the contact times of the eclipse will produce the contact times in UTC. All of the Google interactive maps will show the time in UTC.
In Solar Eclipse Timer the first set of contact times you see on the GPS Data screen are presented in UTC. This created some confusion with some users so in that latest versions there is a sentence located on the GPS screen that explains this. I put UTC here on purpose so you could easily compare your contact times on the app to the contact times you would see on the Google interactive maps. This is important, you can't have an eclipse app and NOT display the UTC time somewhere. The conversion to your local Time Zone happens when you tap to load those times into the timers. The app looks at the Time Zone set in your phone and does the conversion at that point. You MUST HAVE 4 CONTACT TIMES to load, because the app needs C2 and C3 times to run. In the new versions I also put a sentence on GPS screen explaining this.
The offset from UTC for this eclipse is: Eastern -4 hr, Central -5 hr, Mountain -6hr, Pacific -7 hr.
Lunar Limb Profile and It's Affect On the Shadow
The edge of the Moon is not smooth, it has mountains and valleys. As this uneven edge covers the Sun at the final moment before totality begins (C2) and the final moment as totality ends (C3) a mountain may make the shadow duration last a little longer at certain places along the path. Or, a valley may make the shadow duration be a little shorter at certain places along the path. The maximum variation can be about 3 seconds, but this is only at very specific places along the path. The effect of the lunar limb can now be included in the calcuated time for the duraiton of totaltiy. The Google Interative Map by Xavier Jubier presents this variation if you want to use it to be more accurate with you C2 and C3 time. The times are presented with an accuracy into the tenths of a second.
In Solar Eclipse Timer, if you want to make the adjustment for the lunar limb profile for your observing loaction, you can use the ADJUST buttons on the main timer screen to add or subtract some time. However, you can only make the adjusment in increments of a whole second.
Accuracy of the Time in Cell Phones
This is actually a question that I have asked myself, researched and found that the answer is complicated. The cell phone industry has been improving their time stamp and timing protocols/standards continually. I have spoken personally to a sales engineer for a company that provides the very expensive timing devices to the cell phone industry. The present technology at the level of the carrier's infrasturcture is extremely precise in synchronizing with GPS time, to the level of milliseconds. The present technology at the level of the cell phone towers is extremely precise in broadcasting that sychronized time to your phone.
I have tested multiple phones side by side with a syncronized atomic clock and a handheld GPS device. The phones have always been within 1 second of the atomic clock and the handheld GPS. Sometimes they can be 1 second fast, or 1 second slow. The variation is mostly due to the delay that gets caused to display the time on the LCD screen. The internal time at the level of the phones operating system is actually much more accruate. The displayed time can also vary some as you open and close apps and even open and close the Solar Eclipse Timer app. The displayed time can actually improve and update as the phone has more time to triangulate cell towers.
This is why is is my recommendation, on eclipse day, to turn off or disable all apps on your phone that are not essential. You want to free up system resources so your processor can update the LCD display as rapidly as possible.
For more in-depth reading on this subject look up Precision Time Protocol IG.8275.2
Using the Phone's Camera
If you use your phone camera during the eclipse, the camera becomes the "app" in the foreground of the operating system. Therefore, Solar Eclipse Timer gets pushed to the background. The operating system in phones has "rules" for how apps use the system resources and for basically all apps, the one that is running in the background will be limited in it's interaction with the user. This is the design of the operating systems of phones. So, if you open your camera Solar Eclipse Timer is prevented from playing the announcements.
However, Solar Eclipse Timer is still running in the background and the sequencer is still timing the eclipse for you. So when you re-open Solar Eclipse Timer it picks up where it should be. Also, when Solar Eclipse Timer is in the background the notification protocols still work and you will get the banner notification that an eclipse event is about to occur. The operating system rules allow the notification protocols to break through the app theat is in the foreground.
Note: During the eclipse It is NOT recommended that you use the camera in the device that is timing the eclipse. It is NOT recomended that you continually open and close apps in the devce that is timing the eclipse. In fact, as outlined in the Help File, I suggest that you turn off or disable all other apps that maybe running in the background to free up system resources and the processor.
The two practice sessions in Solar Eclipse Timer load eclipse event notifications into the operating system. Exiting the app does not clear them. To clear them do this: Open the app, go to the Settings Screen, tap the 1st demo program, tap OK in the pop up dialogue box, tap the square STOP icon in the top banner, that will clear the notifications.
Explanation: Eclipse event notifications are loaded at a level in the operating system that is lower than where the app runs. The app is designed like this. It's because the notifications have to wake the phone from Sleep/Lock to remind you to unlock the phone and open the app so you do not miss important eclipse events. Therefore, when using one of the demo programs, if you are not going to complete the session you must stop the demo by using the STOP button in the upper banner BEFORE you exit and then close the app. Simply exiting the app does not clear the notifications.
Furthermore, if you live in the path of totality and you are testing the app with real coordinates at the time of day when the eclipse is going to occur, you will get notifications. The app will think it is eclipse day because it is not linked to the calendar day!
This instruction for using the STOP icon is in the 1st paragraph on the Settings Screen and in the Help File.
Partial Solar Eclipses
No, the app is not designed to time partial solar eclipses because it must be able to calculate 2nd contact and 3rd contact, (totality) to play all of the announcements. Therefore, Solar Eclipse Timer is only useful for observers in the path of totality seeing a full total solar eclipse.
Explanation: Precise timing for 1st contact and 4th contact is not necessary because these are mathematical points in time when nothing important photographically occurs. These two contact times and be timed effectively with your watch.
Precise timing, where Solar Eclipse Timer is crucial, is for 2nd Contact and 3rd Contact and these only occur when you are in the path of totality seeing a total solar eclipse.
For the August 2017 eclipse, the entire country experiences a partial eclipse. So if you are out of the path and use the app to geolocate the app will find the C1 and C4 time. But you do not get an option to load the times into the main timers because Solar Eclipse Timer must have a C2 and C3 time for function properly.
However, you can go the GPS Screen and manually enter latitude and longitude coordinates that are in the path of totality and then the app with calculated 4 contact times and you can load them into the main timers.
Practice Eclipse Movie Times
No, the C2 and C3 times are entered to be synchronized with the 120-second totality. This is not adjustable because it must fit the edited movie.
Explanation: This demo program is designed to allow you to have an eclipse movie synchronized to the timer functions so you can practice your observation and photography plan with the excitement of an eclipse movie playing.
Updates For Future Eclipses
Absolutely! As soon as this eclipse is over I will be working on the next version. At that point I will add the data sets (elements) that are needed for the formula to calculate the contact times for upcoming eclipses. I am not sure how many I will add, but probably up through 2024.
I also have plans for new features.