Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Almost 2017

It has been a long time coming! When the 1970 TSE skimmed along the Eastern coast of the USA a small group went from the local astronomy club. They achieved success and the report they gave inspired my own family to make plans to see one.

Ted Pedas (talking) talking with my mother in 1972

We went, in 1972 and again in 1973, traveling with Ted Pedas and his Voyage to Darkness crew. It was, in a nutshell, a lot of fun, a grand experience, educational, and worth doing again. But not worth skipping school it turned out. In 1979 I did not go as I was in college and going would have interrupted school at a critical time. And that was the last time a total solar eclipse fell across the continental USA.
USA 2017 Eclipse Path - www.greatAmericanEclipse.com

The next one would not be until 2017 - and that is almost here!

I have been to numerous other total solar eclipses, 16 in fact. They really are something worth seeing again and again. My wife and kids have come along and enjoyed the experience too. We are a family of eclipse chasers!

This year we bring a new member along. A grandson named Finn. While less than a year old (born in November), he won't remember anything of the event, but he will have the bragging rights at sometime in the future! Why not start young?

Finn rocking to some serious music


Monday, 19 December 2016

Greatest Eclipse - a strange term

You may have noticed the term Greatest Eclipse appearing on some maps of the total solar eclipse path. Perhaps you already know what that means.

Recently, some questions came up related to this term in the SEML, an open discussion group of eclipse enthusiasts. My initial reaction was to try to define the terms being used [see previous blog entry] but after further consideration and some guidance from some great minds I am revising my feelings.

The term is meaningless for total solar eclipse chasers unless one wants to say they are at the best place for syzygy.

Syzygy is the alignment of three astronomical bodies such as the Sun, Earth, and Moon. During perfect syzygy an eclipse takes place.


So if you want to experience the greatest syzygy, then the Greatest Eclipse point is the place to be!

The term "greatest eclipse" indicates that the cone of the lunar shadow is closest to the center of the Earth. For a total solar eclipse this point is somewhat near the center of the central path. It all depends on the inclination of the Earth to the Ecliptic, latitude of the observer, and so on. Really, it is not the greatest point to see the eclipse, but it is normally a good one - if the sky is clear.

For a partial solar eclipse, the greatest eclipse point is where the maximum eclipse coverage will be seen. So for that context, a partial solar eclipse, the point makes sense. But it really does not hold much interest for total solar eclipses. Especially if compared to duration which is very important for some.



Seeing a total solar eclipse is not about the amount of time you see one. No matter how many minutes the total eclipse is predicted to last, it will seem like just a few seconds. There are those who have seen over two dozen eclipses that will tell you that every eclipse seems to last about 15 seconds. The key thing is to see it! It really is a surreal experience. Once you see one, you know, and then you might want to add more time by going to another and another. Some of us keep on going, we can never get enough! See the eclipse-chasers log. Only a few have reached over a half hour of total eclipse observing!


I often tell people that as an amateur astronomer I can stare at the Moon or Saturn or Jupiter for hours and not get bored with the view. They are amazing to behold themselves. A solar eclipse - well, I have seen just under one hour of totality so far. I've looked at Saturn longer than that in a single night! Truth is, once you see one, you want to see another one.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Greatest Eclipse and Longest Duration

There is a point of confusion for many interested in eclipses. The term "Greatest Eclipse" appears on many eclipse maps. So does that mean it is the greatest place to see the eclipse? Or maybe the longest duration point of the eclipse path? Or maybe something else?

The term "Greatest Eclipse" is, in my opinion, a poor choice of words to describe a geometric point, one that is calculated. But one is pressed to come up with a better term and thus we keep using it. And every eclipse we need to clarify just what that means. So here goes....

Just for clarity, we are only talking about total solar eclipses and not annular or partial, although the same term applies in both (see Types of Eclipses). I want to focus on totality only since that is the "big show". Annular and partial eclipses are nice, but they are not really spectacular like a total solar eclipse.

The greatest eclipse point is where the shadow of the moon (a cone shaped shadow) is nearest to the center of the Earth. It is a calculated point using the geometry of the eclipse. This point may just coincide with the longest duration and could even coincide with the best place to be for an eclipse - but that is not always the case.

The longest duration is a function of the elevation, angle of the Earth towards the Sun, lunar profile and so on. Many times the greatest duration is found near to the Greatest Eclipse point, maybe just a few kilometers off. The computation of the greatest eclipse point is direct, the computation of the greatest duration is iterative. That means we calculate a heap of points to find the longest duration.

For example, this summer's eclipse across the continental USA, note that the Greatest Eclipse (in green) is east of the Greatest Duration (magenta). Map courtesy of NASA.


So where exactly is the really greatest place to see the total solar eclipse? Where ever the sky is clear at the time of totality! Oh, and inside the narrow path as seen in the map above!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Eclipses from the Air and Sea

I recently updated the Eclipse-Chasers.Com web pages for the lists of intercepts in the air and at sea. If you know of any other eclipse flights and cruises, please let me know so I can add them in.

List of Eclipses seen from Aircraft

List of Eclipses seen from Ships

It is unlikely there will be many opportunities to catch the TSE 2017 event from the air or sea, but that remains to be seen. When mobility is important, these two options offer the best chances to get under clear sky (or above the clouds).

Saturday, 3 December 2016

AAS 2017 Eclipse Web site

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has put together a website related to the total solar eclipse in August 2017. A very well structured site for those looking to learn the basics and get good information going forward. It contains maps and articles from other websites with links for those wanting to know more. And you might even be able to apply for a small grant to help fund your solar eclipse chasing, that is if you have something science related to add. They won't pay you just to see it!

 eclipse.aas.org is Highly recommended!

Here is an announcement from Dr Richard Fienberg, press officer of the AAS. Just part of the press release. A link is provided for those wanting to know more.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has launched a new website, eclipse.aas.org, to help prepare the country for next year’s most anticipated celestial spectacle: the first total eclipse of the Sun to touch the US mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the AAS has also unveiled a program of small grants to fund educational activities aimed at engaging the public with the eclipse.
Several excellent solar-eclipse websites already exist thanks to the efforts of a handful of individual amateur and professional astronomers as well as NASA. “Rather than ‘reinvent the wheel,’” says Shadia Habbal, co-chair of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force, “eclipse.aas.org offers a modest amount of high-level information to get people started and then provides links to more detailed information on other sites. It’s a curated guide to the best and most reliable resources on solar eclipses in all media.”

The AAS has been hosting a set of conferences preparing for the eclipse. Local governments, police, community leaders, and others have been invited to the conferences to get information to help them prepare for the upcoming eclipse. These conferences have been highly successful in getting the word out in a correct way. One of the common requests at the conferences was to have a comprehensive web site and they have delivered. Great job folks!

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Eclipse in the USA,, safe?

Is it safe to go to the USA for the total solar eclipse next summer?

I am not sure how to respond to this question. It has come in from eclipse chasers located outside the USA and takes on several forms. The recent election, international news about riots, stories about crazy xenophobic harassments, and so on can be found on social media as well as the TV. For those outside the USA it all looks kind of scary.

In my own opinion I don't think anything has really changed. The news and social media has gotten stirred up because of the election (they make a lot of money when an election is going on and love to have you tuned in). Now that the excitement is over and there is an answer to who won, they should return to the normal dribble soon.

That means by August, everything should be back to the normal hustle and bustle that defines life in America. And weather permitting, it won't matter what your politics or religion, the eclipse will be amazing.


A Few Notes of Caution

Okay, so things will be fine. Things will be normal. Which means one should not be stupid in the wrong place. Being stupid in the wrong place will result in trouble, that is normal. The normal travel advisories for visitors should be heeded. Do not leave valuables unattended, be aware of your surroundings, do not violate local laws, avoid political assemblies, - in other words, show some common sense and find a place you can enjoy the eclipse.



Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Drones and Total Solar Eclipses

In the past few years there has been a minor revolution in digital photography platforms. Drones can hover and fly over the tops of trees with small cameras attached. The result is often a very interesting perspective of a landscape or group of people.



The thing with using a drone is that you need to be considerate of others. Some will welcome a video of themselves at the eclipse while others will say it is distracting and may even ask that you not fly it near them. Total Solar Eclipses are a great group gathering. Getting video before the eclipse will be good. The video after totality will be better!

Drone use at Past Eclipses

The 2016 Total Solar Eclipse did not cover a lot of land areas. The land covered was mostly Indonesia in areas where you could easily loose your drone. Some ideas were tossed about for drone photography from sea only to be discarded due to complexities of take of and recovery from a moving ship. In 2015 a Total Solar Eclipse went over cold arctic regions and drones were just not practical.


For 2017, the situation is quite different. The eclipse path covers many areas where drones can be flown and people who will fly them. As a result you can expect to see several drone videos of groups watching the eclipse posted to social media after the fact.


Above the Clouds

Except for very powerful drones only a light camera can be carried. And getting above clouds might present a real challenge (both in terms of altitude and legalities). The light cameras are almost always wide field showing a curved view at the edges. Dramatic landscape images can be made with these cameras. But it must be stated that they really are not suitable for imaging the eclipse itself.


Chase the Shadow

What drones are quite suitable for is imaging the approaching and retreating shadow of the Moon as it crosses the landscape. A fast exposure will be needed as the shadow will be moving very fast. And I do mean fast. It will be moving at a supersonic speed.

It would be of great interest to those of us involved in eclipse predictions and calculations to have those videos along very accurate position and timing details. While we can predict eclipse circumstances with a high degree of accuracy we continue to invent new improvements. Wide angle video showing the shadow movement and shape is desired.


Be Polite!

I cannot condone the use of a drone over a populace during totality. There is a very good chance the operator will be distracted by the eclipse itself. Many other observers will find the drone in bad taste during totality. They came to see the eclipse of the Sun by the Moon, not a drone! So avoid crowd images except from the rear.  Flying between the crowd and eclipse is bad.




Sunday, 16 October 2016

Are you going to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse too?

There has been a lot of talk amongst solar eclipse experts as to how many people might try to see the total solar eclipse in August 2017. Some of this concern has spilled over to civil groups such as local and state police, commerce, hoteliers, and even mass media is getting in on the story although at the time of this writing most USA media are greatly distracted with the election of a US president. FaceBook and other social media sites are saturating with eclipse related maps and information. As a result, the question is just how many people might try to see the event? It really is worth seeing but do note the popularity does cause some issues.

The Best Place?

Really, anyplace you can see the total solar eclipse is the best place. All along the central path of totality, if the Sun is clearly visible you are in for a treat. That said, a lot of places want you to think they are the "best place". So don't be fooled into thinking you need to be at some specific location otherwise you miss the best view and so on.

Contrary to that thinking is that the best place selection in advance is a good idea. Are you going for the best climate conditions (indicates possible weather success) or the longest duration of totality? Are you going for ease of access, a crazy party, circus show, or some other criteria. Advanced planning is good, but don't get obsessed with any given location is the venue is sold out or difficult to reach.

Any place you can see totality is the best place.

Central most line or near the edge?

The selection of near the central most part of the path (longest duration of totality) or near the edge is a personal taste matter although some use it as a way to double check lunar topology along the rim and validate other computations. If you study the maps at GreatAmericanEclipse you will see that maximum totality duration spreads out for a large area centered in Kentucky.

What is interesting to note is that one experiences more interesting diamond rings near the edges (or about 1/3rd of the way from the edge to the central most part of the path). By more interesting I mean that there may be longer beads/rings as the solar disk skirts the lunar rim. For an idea of what I am speaking about please visit the following web page by solar eclipse Xavier Jubier.

Planning the day

Because of the numbers expected, it is a good idea to plan your eclipse day accordingly. For example if you are staying at a location outside the path of totality the night before you will want to consider departure time, food options, destination and expected timing to arrive. Be flexible of course, the weather could be your enemy.

Are you bringing a large amount of camera equipment or people with you? If so, the planning is even more important. My favorite method is to simply set up in the parking lot or outdoor common area of the hotel or resort where we are staying. That way I can be up for sunrise to see the weather conditions and fret along with all the other chasers until totality finally reaches our location. I guess that is why the term chasers always seemed odd to me. We don't really chase as much as we wait. We might sometimes "chase" (dash seems better) to get to clear sky and again, wait.

So here is a basic list of things to consider.

  • Comfort facilities.
  • Comfort items (umbrella, food/snacks, beverages, ...)
  • Shaded area.
  • Chairs/benches/tables.
  • Optics (Binoculars, Camera, Tripod, Zoom lens, Telescope) - optional.
  • Vehicular access and parking.
  • Crowds, wildlife (human and otherwise), safety, entertainment.


There are others issues to consider, but these are the primary to get your started.

How many will be there?

Who can really predict at this time other than hotels. In some places hotels near the central most part of the eclipse path are sold out. That condition is spreading outward however it is important to note that these regions are not highly populated thus having limited hotel space availabilities.  There are still plenty of hotel rooms available in highly populated areas that fall under the path.

I know of several parties and gatherings where thousands are expected to show up, including a sports stadium. Will that be a great place to see an eclipse for you? With tens of thousands of seats, don't plan on any form of telescopes or optics. That said, you can get amazing images with camera-phones and small zoom cameras. The technology is absolutely incredible.

Or would you prefer a private location, camping under the stars cowboy style? Unless you have made some arrangements already or know someone, you might find that difficult to arrange.

If history is any guide the 2009 Total Solar Eclipse in China was well known in advance and passed over several populated areas. Throngs went to different viewing venues. The weather was not at all cooperative across large areas of the path, however it is estimated hundreds of thousands were able to see something.

Don't miss it! Plan now if you have not already!



Friday, 14 October 2016

What should you bring to a total solar eclipse?

I get asked this question frequently. What should one bring to a total solar eclipse? The answer is simple. If this is your first total solar eclipse, bring yourself and if you know how to use them, binoculars.
Choosing what to bring
And seriously, I do mean to only bring binoculars if you know how to use them. If you are a novice to such optics, don't bring anything but yourself (and vision correction glasses or contacts). You will be looking at something that is about twice or three times the size of the Full Moon. The actual object of interest, the solar corona, extends several times further but requires that you either use binoculars or have dark adapted your eyes.

Binoculars
If you own a pair of binoculars, try looking at the Moon when it is visible. Holding binoculars gets easier with practice so do not be discouraged if the first efforts are difficult. I have used small binoculars as well as big ones and found the view good with all. Currently I use 15x70 binoculars which are rather awkward and heavy (15 means 15x magnification and 70 denotes the size of the aperture). While better suited for a use on a tripod the view is fantastic and for a few minutes it is easy to hold them steady enough to enjoy the view. Of course, as an eclipse veteran, my hands do not shake as they once did due to the excitement of the moment. To get past that issue, consider image stabilized binoculars - they work great!

Dark Adapting
Dark adaptation before the total part of the eclipse is not easy. The Sun is out. Kind of hard to dark-adapt your eyes unless you use an eyepatch or red filtered goggles (after dark adapting in doors). While an eye patch may sound enticing, you might want to try it out for a bit before the eclipse is coming. I found them uncomfortable and not fully functional. Had I spent time before the eclipse day testing them out I would have had more success, but hey, who wants to walk around with an eye patch? I am clumsy enough.



Photographer?
For photography fans taking pictures of an eclipse is not difficult. See my web pages about eclipse photography. In those pages you will find some recommendations about equipment and styles. Of course this information is constantly updating, so please send me anything you have learned or tips you would like to see shared with others.

Astronomer?
Bring binoculars or a small telescope at best. Unless you are doing a recreation of the experiments to measure stellar defection caused by the gravitation of the Sun you really don't want a big telescope. The view through binoculars and small field scopes is more than amazing. Astronomers are encouraged strongly to see a total solar eclipse at least once. It might just change your ideas about how stars appear to the eye. My recommended telescope for eclipse chasing is the Questar 3.5". Very portable and amazing views. Plus if you are traveling to someplace different, it is a great field telescope for basic observing.

So what should you bring? Yourself, any required corrective lenses (and bring a spare), and binoculars. Beyond that, it is up to you but let me finish with this thought - those few minutes of totality will pass quickly. The less you have to do the better. Just sit back and enjoy the show!


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Photographing the Solar Eclipse? PRACTICE!

If you want to get some nice pictures of the Total Solar Eclipse, you need to practice. Sounds like a good idea, but how do you practice for something like that?!

Canon SX60HS 1350mm EFL handheld

There really isn't anything quite like a total solar eclipse. The experience of seeing one is quite special. You will experience an adrenaline rush and time will seem to fly by quickly. Two minutes may seem like plenty of time, but just wait until you see that corona shining up in the sky around a black hole where the Sun used to be shining. For myself, it was not until my fifth total solar eclipse that my hands were not shaking slightly as I ran a camera attached to a telescope. It is an exciting couple of minutes. My best advice to everyone is to just watch and enjoy it. Yet, like myself, many will want to image the eclipse.

What can you practice on? The Moon! Take pictures of the lunar phases, showing the whole moon with plenty of room around it. For the eclipse, the Moon will be the "black hole" in the middle. The corona around it will be the object of interest. So your images of the Moon should only take up half or less of the image frame.

1000mm Canon SX60HS camera, handheld
Taking pictures of the Moon is great practice and can be very rewarding. Try it during different times and phases, even in the day light.

Crescent phases can be very enlightening. The brightness of the lit portion is easy to over expose when trying to capture the Earthshine. Totality is much the same. To capture the outer corona you must over expose the inner corona. And to get the inner corona you will over expose the prominences. What you can practice during the lunar crescent phases is manipulating your camera settings in the dark and eventually without even looking. Most digital cameras tell you the settings as they are adjusted in the display however you might not want to look at that display too long. Learning how to manipulate everything without looking allows you to look at the eclipse.

Another great practice target is to take pictures of the sunset. This allows you to practice wider field views of extreme variable brightness.

Sunset over the sea
And if you really want to practice eclipse conditions, try capturing the Green Flash at sunset! This takes split second timing on your behalf. If you see it in the view finder, you did not get the image and that is very much like imaging beads and the chromosphere.

Green flash, zoomed in 1365mm EFL
The more you can practice with your camera and lens rig, the better you will be prepared for the eclipse event and the better chance you have of getting an image you can be proud to share with others.

Just remember, no image is like the real thing when it comes to total solar eclipses. It is an experience and even after you have experienced a couple, it is a lot of fun and amazing to see.

More photography tips at: https://www.eclipse-chasers.com/photo/Photo.shtml

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Best Place for the Total Solar Eclipse

A frequent question that is asked is where exactly is the best place to view the total solar eclipse. Seems like a simple question and one that deserves a simple answer. So here it is: The best place to observe a total solar is in the eclipse totality path, under clear sky, where you are comfortable being outside for several hours.

The three conditions vary from eclipse to eclipse and from person to person. Thus I will expand on them.

Eclipse Totality Path


Getting in to the eclipse totality path is a matter of planning ahead. Some eclipses can be very difficult to reach because you have to go to the North or South Pole. Some are easier like just down the road a bit. How do you know? By exploring eclipse maps for upcoming total solar eclipses. The path of totality is a narrow band about 100 miles thick that stretches across the planet. Many times this band crosses oceans and just a little land (the Earth surface is 3/4 water). Sometimes large swathes of a continent are crossed as is coming in 2017 for North America. The eclipse path stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.

The following web pages provide maps of totality paths.
https://www.eclipse-chasers.com/php/showSeveralEclipses.php
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html
http://www.eclipse-maps.com/Eclipse-Maps/Welcome.html
http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/SolarEclipsesGoogleMaps.html

For great maps of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
http://www.greatamericaneclipse.com
http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/maps.htm

Under Clear Sky

This is the hardest of the three conditions. The weather changes from day to day and sometimes multiple times in the course of a day for many locations. Finding a clear sky is never a guarantee of any eclipse expedition. Local weather information is often the best source for day to day changing conditions.

When planning an eclipse expedition the general idea is to look at climate. Climate studies highlight the weather of the past and can be used to guess at the future weather. Of course, it is a guess. When traveling great distances the climate study is very important but when journeying a short distance it may not be as important. More important is the ability to relocate quickly should the conditions arise.

My own best solution is to have a contingency plan in place. Checking local weather information in the days prior and then moving to where the sky will be clear makes it much easier to reach clear sky.

Here is a great link for weather/climate information as it pertains to Total Solar Eclipses:
http://eclipsophile.com

Where you are comfortable

A big variable based on the person. Some are comfortable being in nature, exposed to the elements, with only the supplies you carry. Some are more comfortable near a toilet and shelter from the hot sun or freezing wind. It depends greatly on the location and weather conditions at that time. In addition the presence or absence of people can make a difference in terms of comfort. I can tell you from experience it is very uncomfortable to set up a telescope and camera near a group of playful or dancing youth. That's just me though.

I like being in an open area with facilities and shade near. The parking lot of a hotel, an open meadow in a state park, or even a roadside rest stop make for a fine location. I am not as interested in the scenery as the eclipse so it does not have to be in an epic location. And really - seeing a total solar eclipse take place in a somewhat normal setting adds greatly to the surreal aspect of the experience.

Groups are not for everyone. Some prefer solitude or a small select gathering of just friends. I've heard some great stories from eclipse chasers who went this route. Most involve encounters with wild animals, maybe another blog entry at a later time....



Friday, 23 September 2016

Less than 11 months until the next TSE

Years ago it seemed like a far off thought. To see a total solar eclipse in the USA! Wow!

I have been to Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceana, on cruise ships, at road side rests, camp sites, hotel parking lots, and yes - even in a jet aircraft - and yet, the only USA solar eclipse I've ever seen that was almost total was in 1984. It was just about total, meaning that it was an annular from where I saw it. A very short annular as I remember it.

The 1970 eclipse fell on the same weekend as a rather large swimming competition and it was missed. I did see the partial phases, standing outside in the Ohio March weather in a Speedo, and got in trouble for my efforts. My first total solar eclipse was in 1972, so it was not too devastating at the time - just in retrospect. And at the next astronomy club meeting I heard the details from others who had driven to the eastern USA to see the total eclipse. They were excited. They were planning how to see the next one in 1972. I talked my father into joining. It wasn't hard, he was enthralled as well.



So here we are. Just 11 more months to wait until the total solar eclipse of August 2017! I am really excited about it. And I am not the only one. There are plenty of people planning to see it. So many that hotels and campsites are becoming harder to get. Costs are going up up up on some of the remaining stock. So should you panic and buy in?

Here's the situation. Many of the hotels have commitments from travel groups who have requested a lot of rooms. They want to sell you the rooms at a higher price and make money as the proverbial middle man. If you are just starting to search out a place to stay now, you are in for a ride in some places. The best thing to do now is wait until about a month or two before the event and then call every hotel looking for recently released group space at normal (maybe) pricing.

Some are looking outside the path with plans to drive in that day. While that may work very well, it is a bit of a gamble in my mind. Roads could get closed or blocked by traffic. Like minded people might fill it up like rush hour into a big city. Plan lots of time for the commute.

Just 11 more months. The anticipation is building up faster than any other solar eclipse I have done. Maybe it is the prospect of so many old and new friends finally seeing what I have been chasing for decades. We can just hope beyond hopes that the sky is clear all day across the USA that day!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Best Camera for Solar Eclipse Imaging is...

It is hard to count the number of times I have been asked the question, "which camera is best for photographing the eclipse?".  The simple answer is almost too simple for most to accept - the best camera is the one you know how to use best. Everyone expects an endorsement of a particular brand or type of camera system. Here is the thing, you can get a great picture with any camera. You just need to realize what it can do and how to do it.

The best thing is to start now! Months before the total solar eclipse you need to begin mastering your camera and lens setup. Practice! The practice subject is the Moon. Take a variety of exposures to see different details but more important to the solar eclipse imaging - to learn how to adjust the camera in the dark. During totality it will be kind of dark and you might have trouble reading the camera settings. You want to train yourself to where you can almost run the system with your eyes closed.

During the eclipse is not the time to learn how your camera works. You should be an expert at your own camera. Trying to jam in a bunch of tips and tricks from the experts at the last minute will result in frustration most of the time. If you just bought the camera and have not used it much, don't try to use it during totality.



The August 2017 TSE will last under three minutes at the longest points of duration. It will be more like two minutes for most observers. And it will seem like 15 seconds. Spending that precious time playing with a camera is not worth it. The experience alone is worth it.

Tip: Take pictures of the cool telescopes and long lenses with their owner/operators. Then trade email addresses to send them a copy in trade for one of their eclipse shots. This way you can get a great variety to show off to those that chose not to go to the eclipse.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Removing Filters for Second Contact Diamond Ring

This past week I have been asked by several people about when to remove the solar filter prior to second contact (C2). The desire is to catch an image of the diamond ring. That means you are removing the solar filter BEFORE the brightest part of the Sun has gone behind the Moon. This sounds dangerous and goes against all advice, so just how does one go about it.

First off: If this is your first total solar eclipse, don't bother with photographing C2. WATCH IT! You don't want to be boring behind the camera when the magic happens. You need to see it with your own eyes. Then use binoculars to take a look at the corona. You will regret not looking directly if you spend the entire eclipse watching through a view finder or video feed.

So let's say the remainder of this entry is for veterans. You know what C2 looks like and you'd like to get an image. Just when it is "safe" to remove the filter. Under a clear sky (no clouds in the way) I would say no more than 15 seconds before C2. And yet here is the rub - some predictions of eclipse timings can be off by that amount!

Why the error? A number of factors with most being your own. Starting with an accurate timer - got one? Using a short wave radio to get the time synch signals works best. It will be off slightly depending on propagation delay times. Internet time could be off slightly, same with the time on your cell phone. We are talking about getting the time to within 5 or fewer seconds for this to work best. About the best timing that is easy to get is from a GPS. But even then, make sure it is really accurate. A cheap GPS will not do the trick. A good GPS also helps in getting your location locked down.

So given a good location and good time, you can plan to remove the filter about 15-30 seconds before C2 is scheduled to appear.

Note that you may need to focus slightly. Some solar filters refract more than others. For this reason it may be advised to use a higher focal ratio as the depth of focus is greater. Note this is DEPTH of FOCUS, a technical term for astrophotographers. Click here for a great write up can be found about Depth of Focus and other related topics.

The hardest part is making sure the image is in the field. Using a DSLR with a video view finder (NOT a direct optical path), you can accomplish this quickly. If using a direct optical path you might be able to see the image projected onto the glass from the side. DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY!

Automation is best, when it works right. I have tried a number of methods with varying success and will explore that in a later blog or two. Getting the automation to start at the right time is best solved manually. So if you have an exposure sequence programmed, you can start it up about 5-10 seconds before C2 and get great results. Fast exposures are needed at C2 just like C3. Click here for an eclipse photography exposure calculator.

I've had some success with C2 images but find that watching it is still the real fun.
2008 TSE C2 from jet - double image caused by window of aircraft

Friday, 19 August 2016

One year out

Okay, we are just about one year out and it is a good time to check the weather in the area where you are planning to view the eclipse. I have added a few new links to the web page for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. These links take you to weather and atmosphere pages that will be useful in the days just before the eclipse.

One tool amateur astronomers use frequently is called the Clear Sky Chart. These charts predict the weather for a given observer location (normally an observatory or club dark site).  To use, select a location from the map at http://www.cleardarksky.com/cgi-bin/find_chart.py?keys=2017+Solar+Eclipse&title=Clear+Sky+Charts+along+the+2017+Eclipse+Path&disp=gmap that is closest to your planned observing site. When you first click a known point, the duration and name of the location is shown. Next click the name of the location to reveal the details.

In the chart, locate the time near the eclipse time. The squares indicate the conditions and blue is good while white is bad. You can hover over the squares to get more details.

The the predictive tool of the clear sky charts is legendary. Some will tell you it is right almost 100% of the time. Others will say it is a wild guess and has as much accuracy as flipping a coin. As far as I am concerned, it is another way to get more data as the eclipse day approaches!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Should know this week

We should know for certain if the wait paid off on the hotel. Many of the hotels contacted cannot take reservations until a year before you intend to stay. No matter how many rooms you try to book. I know this is the case at many good hotels along the central path.

So what do you do if you want a room?

Wait until one year before the eclipse to try and schedule!

And you might find more success calling just one day later since the computer system is what controls the ability of the operator to make your reservation. OR you book for a day or two earlier to get the room reserved.

In more saturated markets, the price hikes will not take place until all space is sold out and that could take a while.

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Several people have contacted me about camping along the central path. Go out there for a visit this year and you will find plenty of open space. But next year the situation could be quite different. There are reports of RV rentals already booked solid in some of the western states. This could crowd the highways and campgrounds a bit.

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There are some festivals going on in conjunction with the eclipse event. Temporary housing for eclipse chasers are being made available, at a cost, near these festivals. Some sound like they could be a really good time unless you want a quiet area to set up cameras and telescopes.

I will start listing festivals and such at the main eclipse-chasers web site for the 2017 eclipse. Event organizers are encouraged to get in touch.

Monday, 8 August 2016

It is decided, for TSE2017 we will be ...

After shopping several options, we found a nice hotel located on I-65 in southern Kentucky. This location is inside the central path and allows excellent access to various highways should the need arise.

We selected this location because of duration, ease of access from Ohio and points south for family and friends. So we reserved a number of rooms at this location and locked in the price before they start hiking them as seen at other locations with less availability. While the weather prospects are certainly not as great as those in Wyoming, the increased duration and more options to move into other climate zones quickly is attractive.

So you might see us in Nashville or Hopkinsville or up in the hills or anywhere along the interstate highway system. If you want to join in the fun, drop me an email and I can send you the details.

One thing to keep in mind is that I am 16 for 16 when chasing total solar eclipses. I have not been clouded out and I intend to keep it that way! So if the weather dictates we will be hitting the road early in the morning or late the night before to get to a better position. This is a major advantage of eclipse chasing in a country as large and well connected as the USA.

Clear sky!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Fixed a long time bug

As a programmer, I was told to never admit mistakes. It makes the entire world of computing seem vulnerable. Especially to those that don't understand the complex nuances of the task. The eclipse-chasers web site has been an on going, learn as I go, project since 1999 and contains millions of lines of code in the form of HTML, PHP, Javascript, and CSS files. When I go back and try to change something, it can be a real education as to what I did wrong and so on. Much of the code was created using reference books containing equations and so the comments all link back to those references. It can be laborious at times.

Fortunately, I am a rather good programmer and know a few tricks of the trade. For one, I use modular structures. Another is that without thinking much about it, I use Object Oriented Programming as a natural language. This makes working the code much easier and I can often correct or modify things quickly as a result.

But there has been one that has been bugging me. Several users have reported that when entering information for an annular eclipse it was logged as a total. All the input matched up with a total, but it was just not being saved correctly.

I have poured through that code carefully and could not find anything that would cause these problems. For years I searched and then, yesterday, the bug manifested itself clearly and I was able to correct it! I am pleased to report that annular eclipses should be recorded properly and not require webmaster intervention. I thought I had licked this problem last March, but I had missed a small module and now it is back in a proper way, no longer an orphaned child of a quick hack.

This has been a good week for fixing simple bugs. Just sent an update to Fred's eclipse-wise correcting a stupid omission on my behalf.

Keep adding your observations to the log and encourage others to do the same! And let me know if you find anything amiss.

Monday, 11 July 2016

TSE2017 Where you going?

At the recent CAS meeting I did a talk about the upcoming TSE next summer. The most frequent question, asked in many different ways, was: Where are you going to be?

While nothing is final at this time, I have been looking at several possible locations. All of these can be reached from central Ohio by car in a day or two. Here they are in the order I researched them.

First was Casper Wyoming. The chances of clear sky there is pretty good, in fact, it is about the best along the eclipse path you will find. Madras Oregon area is better, but Casper offers some other features such as a good road system heading along the central path towards the East. If the weather is bad in Madras, chances are it will be bad anywhere one can drive that morning. That is not the case in Casper. Bad weather in Casper does not mean bad weather towards the East, in fact it can be quite different as one leaves the mountains and heads in to the Great Plains.

The problem with Casper is one of extreme price gouging by the hotels. This is a grand opportunity for them and rates are running very high, if you can find a hotel. A friend who has relatives in the Cheyenne area said this happens around big rodeos too. So I guess you could say the eclipse is just another rodeo for them.

My second choice was Grand Island Nebraska. There really isn't much in terms of tourist things in Grand Island, mostly flat farmland, but the climate studies are very good (they get worse to the East) and a major highway runs just past Grand Island and remains in the central path for quite a distance to the East and West. I have not heard of any price gouging going on there, let me know if you have other information.

The third choice is the Nashville area. While climate studies are not as favorable as the locations further West, they are not bad and the eclipse cooling effect may play into favor. Lines of hills and the rivers tend to draw weather up and over Nashville or to the South. This location is looking pretty good and we are waiting to get some price quotes. From Columbus, Nashville is a six hour drive.

Nashville area totality map - courtesy of Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.Com

Assuming we can get good hotel rates in the Nashville area, we are leaning that direction. Want to come along? Maybe we can get group space?

Let me know your thoughts and plans!



Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Columbus Astronomical Society - Eclipse presentation

On Saturday 9 July I will be speaking at Perkins Observatory which hosts the Columbus Astronomical Society (Ohio). The topic - eclipses of course!

Meetings are open to visitors so if you are in the area on the 9th of July, come on up. Meeting starts at 8pm. For directions to Perkins Observatory, see the web site. Your GPS may not get you there since it sits in a forested area in the middle of a golf course.

Perkins Observatory is a cool place to visit any time. Public programs and special presentations are listed on the website. Perkins Observatory has a great history. Big Ear radio telescope, the 69" telescope, and much more used to be deeply involved in astronomical research. When the 69" was moved to darker and better sky out west it was replaced with a 30" that is still used for teaching and basic research. Visitors can also enjoy a museum of astronomy that has an impressive collection of model rockets on display. The director, Tom Burns, is a rocket enthusiast. He is also a great guy to meet if you get the chance.

Some years ago I was president of the society and it is an excellent group of astronomy enthusiasts. I am really looking forward to the presentation and renewing some long time friendships. Since moving to the West Indies I have not been an active member so it will fun to check things out.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Where can you get Eclipse Nuts?

There are only a few places you can purchase your own copy of Eclipse Nuts.

First is online, at an eStore set up by the print-on-demand company CreateSpace. Click here for the Eclipse Nuts ordering page. They are US$20 each plus shipping. You will have to set up an account at Create Space and many of you already have one if you ordered Fred Espenak's book(s) about the eclipses. (Fred is the one that turned me on to the web site print-on-demand.)

Second, the store at GreatAmericanEclipse.Com will have copies for sale. You can order a copy in conjunction with the great eclipse stuff they have for sale (maps, shirts, hats, pins, books, posters, and a lot more).

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I'd like to mention that the cartooning has not stopped. I am still creating more and there will be another Eclipse Nuts coming soon. Drawing is a lot of fun if you don't worry about the technical details....

Up the entire night before, all set up, completely wired, red filters on glasses, everything charged - ahh, eclipse chasing!


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Eclipse Nuts - announcement

It is done! My first real "self published" book about eclipses.

And this book is unique. It is unlike any other eclipse book you may have seen before. This is a book of eclipse cartoons poking fun at eclipse chasing and astronomers.

At the most recent TSE in Indonesia a group of eclipse chasing experts were talking about self publishing. As a former author of computer programming books and a long time magazine contributing editor I was very intrigued and joined the conversation. The industry has evolved a lot since the days when I wrote books and at the prodding of two of my friends I started to put together a set of my cartoons (doodles) to be self-published.

The result is Eclipse Nuts.
The cover of Eclipse Nuts - available now from Create Space (an Amazon company).


I like drawing doodles. When inspired by something that strikes a funny nerve in me, I act it out in a doodle.  I have a strange sense of humor. Sometimes I do what I heard or saw directly but most of the time the doodles are an extension of my bizarre way of seeing things. Things like extreme eclipse chasers strapping rockets to themselves do not really exist except in the imagination.

So here is where you can go to buy a copy of the book. 

The e-store and Amazon.Com are the only places you can purchase a copy. They are printed on demand. When you place an order, the machines go to work and produce a brand new copy of the book. It is then sent to you arriving in just a few days.

Over 100 cartoons are included in the book for only US$20 (plus shipping). That is better than 5 cartoons to the dollar that you can enjoy over and over again. I like to use them to answer those standard questions I hear all the time. Somehow a cartoon gets the point across best in many cases. I also use them when doing eclipse lectures to spice up powerpoint presentations.

Once I had a prototype of the book ready, Fred Espenak gave it a look and immediately suggested the name "Eclipse Nuts". It took all of a few seconds for me to like it and that is how the name was born. Originally I had a longer name like "Eclipse Chasers are funny people" however you have to admit, Eclipse Nuts sums it up better.

By the way, I am still creating newer cartoons all the time. If enough copies of this book sell, I will produce another one. The creative juices are not empty. Especially when it comes to my favorite hobby of astronomy and eclipses.

Clear sky!


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Book of doodles coming soon

I just uploaded a book (102 pages) of cartoons/doodles related to eclipses and astronomy to a web site called CreateSpace where they print on demand. That is, if you give them a little money, they will print a copy and send it to you plus they will share a bit of that money with me. Saves printing a bunch and trying to sell them door to door. The Internet is really a wonderful place. Plus only really interested people will demand a copy, that's a couple hundred at best I figure. It was all in good fun at the urging of Fred Espenak and Michael Zeiler, two eclipse chasing experts that are frequent targets of my silly doodles.

Many of the doodles have appeared in various lectures by myself and other chasers. Some were requested and others just came to me as funny ideas. At the Solar Eclipse Conference in 2014 a lot of the doodles were used to introduce the various speakers and topics. Expert eclipse chasers appreciated the humorous look at their hobby or vocation.

When the book is ready for demanding I will post a link at the main www.eclipse-chasers.com web site as well as a note here in the blog. In the mean time, get ready to get to totality in August 2017!


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Transit of Mercury - 2016 - a rare and boring solar system event

Maybe boring is too strong a word. Or maybe I just undersold the event to local friends. No one showed up to take a look except the gardener (and that was the first time he'd ever looked through a telescope). Oh well, I got to hog the eyepiece the entire time! Using my 8" SkyQuest (from Orion) and a full aperture solar filter, I watched for a little over an hour.

Is a Transit of Mercury worth travel to see? Maybe for some, but not for me.

Holding my iPhone to the eyepiece I snapped a couple images. The first shows the full disk of the Sun. Mercury is the tiny dot at the 1:20 position (12:00 is up) about half way from the center to the edge. There are several sunspot groups visible too. This is the view through the 40mm eyepiece.


Amazed by the success of holding the phone/camera to the eyepiece I upped the magnification by putting a 10mm eyepiece in. Mercury is on the top and a sunspot group is visible towards the bottom. 


Below is the set up area. I am in the lower left of the image with my telescope. While it looks windy, it is not too bad. The prevailing winds have blown the palms to look like it is always windy.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Is that Mercury?

The upcoming transit of Mercury (9th of May) falls at a great time. It can be seen, at least partially, across much of Asia, Europe, Africa, North & South America. Sorry Australia, you miss out on this one.

For details, see: http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2016.html

Like a partial solar eclipse, observing the transit requires looking at the Sun. Looking at the Sun is a dangerous  activity without the proper equipment. If you don't have a proven solar observing system in place, then seek out someone that does to see the transit.

So what makes up a proven solar observing system?
McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory

How about Solar (Eclipse) Glasses? - Not good enough. You will need magnification to see the Mercury transit.

Mercury is very small. Even at the closest point it is only 1/150th of the size of the Sun. That is too small to see. The human eye can resolve about 1-2 arc minutes at best (ref.). The Sun ends up being about half a degree (30 arc minutes, 1800 arc seconds) in size up in the sky. Mercury is a mere 12 arc seconds.

You will need a telescope.

Please remember, solar glasses are NOT TO BE USED WITH A TELESCOPE.

Solar filter on a telescope?
Might be good enough, with some magnification. You will need about 50x to see the dot clearly. Higher magnification reveals a small disk. And it can be easily mistaken for a sun spot.

My favorite method of observing a transit is to use a projection set up. Any telescope, carefully monitored, can be used to produce a clear image of the solar disk. Practice is always recommended and be careful. Having the telescope pointed at the Sun is potentially dangerous and should be done in short intervals to avoid heating the optics or tube too much. Use extreme caution.

Transit of Venus projection

The transit is a rare event. Only a dozen or so times per century can one see Mercury go across the Sun. If you have a proven solar observing system or know someone who does, try to catch on the 9th of May. In Jamaica it will be taking place shortly after sunrise. We normally have clear sky in the morning so I hope to get a few images. They will be posted to this blog of course!


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Transit of Mercury 2016 May 9

On the 9th of May (this year) there will be a rather rare event. The planet Mercury will transit the face of the Sun. This does not happen every time Mercury passes between the Earth and Sun. The distances and sizes are very large.

Mercury, even when closest to Earth, is a mere 11 arc seconds in size. For comparison, the Sun is half a degree (30 minutes or 1800 seconds) in size. In addition, the inclination of Mercury's orbit is 7 degrees meaning that it misses the solar disk by up to 14 times the size of the Sun. (More Mercury facts available at: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/mercuryfact.html

After this transit of Mercuy, the next one will be in 2019 then we wait until 2032. There are only 14 transits of Mercury this century. Here is a list of Mercury transits.

Okay, so a transit of Mercury is rare. But is it spectacular? Well, to be honest, no it isn't. You need a telescope to see it. And at that, a safe solar telescope with either a good solar filter or set up for projection. The picture below is one taken through a small telescope. Mercury is the little dot (shadow) on the edge of the Sun on the bottom right of image.

Mercury Transit - Questar prime focus

Thus I cannot say it is worth getting too worked up about unless, like me, you marvel at the ability of science to predict such things and our ability to see it. These are things that only came about in the past couple centuries. People have not been watching Mercury transit the Sun for many generations and you could end up being the first ever in your family to have seen one. If you have the right gear, then by all means get set up for it (if clear and you are on the right side of the Earth - check the transit visibility map here) and share the experience with others. For real geeks, here is an online Mercury transit calculator with great details from your (or a specific) location.

For us, the transit will be visible in the morning hours which works out best. We have the clearest sky in the morning and should be able to see the entire transit. The problem will be clouds over the hills to the East of us, if any.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

New Website of Note, EclipseWise

There is a great new website containing eclipse summary information for centuries of eclipses by retired NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak named EclipseWise. Click here to visit.

Fred Espenak used to maintain the primary and very popular website for NASA's eclipse prediction service and now has taken it private, so to speak. Books and more are for sale there to help support his effort (passion).

Just this past week I was updating some of the Javascript utilities for his webpage. A new utility will be presented soon to list cities able to view an eclipse event. The cities are presented in geographic groups and you can add you own city to the list for display (private entries are not saved, at this time).

For those that do not know Fred Espenak, he is a long time guru in the eclipse chasing game. He has seen well over an hour of totality. His presentations about eclipses and his experiences are in high demand and well attended. And he has written some excellent books about eclipses and eclipse chasing that you can find at his web site. One of his earliest publications was a detailed set of tables and maps for eclipses up to the year 2035 that has served as my travel guide since the late 1970s. More recently he produced a canon of eclipses spanning a millennium. That tradition continues although now he has teamed up with others to create awesome books for each major eclipse. Click here to see the 2017 eclipse book, highly recommended!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

More web page work, plans for 2017

I added a link from the summary page for upcoming eclipses to the larger map format instead of just the local circumstances. The larger map provides an option for locating an eclipse position by name in addition to coordinates or picking it on the Google Map.

2017 Eclipse Track - bigger map
Another change to the eclipse-chasers web site is the color of the timing for totality duration in the eclipse chaser summary. The color is changed for each five minutes of totality duration seen. At one minute of time the colors go bold as well. If you don't like the color scheme, please let me know. I selected the colors kind of at random and based on how well they showed up against a white screen. Your input is always appreciated.

***2017 Update***
We have been researching options for the 2017 eclipse, as I am sure many others are doing as well. There are numerous resources on the Internet and it can be quite overwhelming to read all the ideas and plans people have been making in anticipation of the eclipse. Although I do find it even more amazing that a lot of people still do not know about the eclipse! Even those living right in the central path of the shadow.

Last week I thought we had a solution in Casper Wyoming but it turned out the hotel had the wrong year for the reservation. We cancelled that opportunity and began an earnest search for another option. Some of the hotels indicated they will not take reservations until one year in advance. I suppose they know they will get a flood of phone calls.

So where are we going? That is a good question. We are still giving serious thought to Wyoming if a place can be found to sleep the night before on the central path. Our second choices vary quite a bit from Nebraska all the way to South Carolina. The reasons vary just as much from good transportation options and accommodations to friends and family located near or in the main shadow path. The thought process continues forward but so far there is nothing concrete in the planning.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Website updates March 2016

After a long series of flights and airport time I am slowly adapting to time back on this side of the world again. Not that it matters too much, it is just that things are easier to deal with in the daylight when people are at work and so on.

Some updates to the website took place over the past week. Here is a summary.

References - I found several dead links in the references and added a new one. Fred Espenak has created a new site called EclipseWise and it is a cool set of tools for eclipse predictions.

TSE2016 Reports and Images - A summary report, images, and links to other reports are now posted. If you know of a link that should be added, please let me know and I will do it.

Who saw the TSE2016? - Map and list of eclipse chasers who were in the path of the shadow in March 2016.

Cartoons about Eclipse Chasing by Aircraft - A new cartoon lampooning the possible problems of too many eFlights.

Cartoons about Eclipse Chasing by Ship - a new cartoon about the management of eclipse cruises.

I am sure there will be more coming soon.

By the way, during the eclipse of March 9/8 2016 an interesting glitch occurred for those wanting to post results right away. You couldn't. Sorry about that. The reason is kind of amusing, albeit a bit nerdy technical. You see the server for this web site is located in the Eastern Time Zone of the USA. As the eclipse finished and loggers attempted to add data, the system said it was not the right date and that eclipse was not available. This situation lasted for a day and then the eclipse was available. Okay, not that critical, but I will fix it before the next event. Sheesh, that date line thing got my sleep screwed up as well as the eclipse-chasers server programs.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Canon Powershot SX60HS 65x Solar Eclipse results

The most recent TSE in Indonesia was a long travel and to cut space I did something I've never done before. I did NOT bring a tripod. But I still took pictures. Using a Canon Powershot 65x hand held was a gamble and most of the shots did not turn out well - as expected. BUT some came out great and I can say I am pleased.

To use the camera for totality I did not just rely on the standard camera settings. I turned off the automatic flash. This is important. I ignored the request from the camera to raise the flash. Another thing I did was go to the fixed aperture setting mode. I could use the dial to change exposures and the lens would remain at the fastest possible focal ratio (focal length over objective size) - wide open. I also set the ISO/ASA to 100. A bit slower than recommended by most photographers however I found it produced cleaner images with the Canon. The last major thing I did was manual focus. Setting manual focus (at infinity) using the dial was not really the best and the focus is a tad soft in my mind, but not bad as seen by the results.

So lets start with the mistakes. I started WAY TOO EARLY. When I looked through the view finder about 15-10 seconds before second contact I could see the corona! The following pic would have been unthinkable in the days of film. But the electronics survived.

1/2000s about 5 seconds before C2, note corona visible.
To get the corona at this stage in the eclipse move the brighter part to the edge or off the frame. Hand held was not easy to hold in position between the movement of the ship and the general excitement of a total solar eclipse.

A bit earlier I snapped an image. About 10 seconds before 2nd contact. This is not recommended at al and could have resulted in a blown camera. I was amazed the camera handled the brightness but look at all the internal reflections!

1/2000s about 10 seconds before C2, corona and internal reflections.
I kept on snapping images right into totality. The results are a lot better than I expected.

1/1250s about 5 seconds into totality.


1/800s - Adding more exposure time reveals corona but over exposes the prominences.

Corona structure revealed about 1/500 second.
Longest exposure I got hand held - 1/125s
So I am quite pleased with the results of the camera. Hand held, no tripod. Amazing. Highly recommended, even to beginners. Just remember to turn the flash off.

I won't do that again. Next time I bring a tripod because next time it will be on land and not a moving platform. Next time it is the "Great American Eclipse". Oh yeah baby!

Yes, we saw it!

First off, let me apologize by saying Internet access from a cruise ship is expensive and horribly slow.  That is why I did not add any updates since Singapore. Downloading email and responding to just a few reminded me of the 1200 Baud days. For those of you not used to such terms, just think about typing a character on the keyboard and taking a breath or two before it appears on the screen. Kind of hard to do.

Well, as the title says, we saw it! The eclipse was fantastic. A bent streamer about a rolling wave prominence [with helmut] dominated the view near 2nd contact. Nearer to third contact was another, more classic helmut formation in the corona. I used 15x70 binoculars to view the corona and it was amazing as always.

The hand held camera experiment was a success. The image in the viewfinder when the lens was fully extended (1365mm effective) showed corona 5 seconds before 2nd contact with no filter. The camera had difficulty focusing until the last big of photosphere went away. Using manual exposure with fixed aperture (wide open) the exposure range was from 1/2000 to 1/8 of a second.

I will post more pictures soon with some analysis. After flying east from Singapore to Japan to Los Angeles to Ohio things are still in disarray. I am jotting down this blog as a test of the iPad. It will not upload images, fail!

Here is an image I posted to my website eclipse-chasers.

https://www.eclipse-chasers.com/php/pictureShow.php?dir=../tseData/tse2016/pics/&name=BillKramer1001





Monday, 29 February 2016

Weather in Indonesia

Many thanks to Jay Anderson who posted this link for weather images anybody can understand! The following link will take you to a page for weather around Indonesia with easy to follow instructions and graphics. http://www.weather-forecast.com/maps/Indonesia

As of this morning things are looking very good for the eclipse of March 9th. Of course, weather is what you get and we have a week to wait that out.

From Singapore, the weather is classically tropical. Clouds can be seen up in the sky at all times of day, fast moving, some with a drop or two of rain, however one can say it has been sunny most of the time. In other words, the weather is a tad chaotic and the situation is beautiful. There are no major storm fronts coming our way and even if a stray cloud occludes the eclipse for a few seconds, it will not be a show stopper!

Clear sky for the eclipse is what everyone wants. But I am willing to settle for a mostly clear day with fast moving clouds too.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Eclipse Chasers from around the world

Eclipse chasers from all over are converging on Indonesia and other points near/along the path of the March 9th total solar eclipse path. We are going to be on board the Volendam cruise ship leaving Singapore and have arrived ahead of the departure to make sure we are on board in plenty of time! The ship is departing Tuesday and so we have some time for a little sight seeing.

Singapore is near the equator and enjoys hot tropical weather year round. This means lots of rain and humidity as well as some very warm temperatures. Plants love it and the city is surrounded by lush gardens full of beautiful trees and flowers.
A great way to view Singapore is from a cable car suspended hundreds of meters above.
Singapore is also a shipping hub in Asia hosting a very large array of ships and containers from all over the world.