Solar eclipse photos!

May 20

Written by:
5/20/2012 8:37 PM  RssIcon

All week long, the weather was supposed to be potential thunderstorms for today.  Early in the week it said 20%.  Not bad, that means 80% chance of clear, right?  By Friday, that was up to 30%.  Meh.  On Saturday, it was 50%.  Uh-oh.  And Saturday?  60%  Gah!  But Sunday rolled around, and it was sunny most of the day.  That is... up until 6:00, when it got cloudy.

AHHHH!!!

But wait!  Something incredible happened.  Or should I say... my telescope cleared the clouds, just enough... again.

How?  Well, I don't know HOW, exactly.  But it has cleared the clouds for two outreach events, AND there were no clouds for three nights after I got it.  Trust me when I say that latter thing NEVER happens for amateur astronomers.  "New to you" equipment is a guarantee of cloudy weather for a week.

So I got to the field where I have a low western horizon around 7:00 p.m., with two scopes in the car (including the "cloud clearing" one).  I was meeting with my friend Dave, who happens to be our local weather expert, having set up a website that is specific to our little town south of Chicago.  We talked for a while, mostly looking at the thunderstorms to our west, and to the east.  But there was this persistent little "glow" of read towards the north-northeast, just where the Sun was hiding behind the clouds.  At 7:22pm, the Moon was supposed to make first contact with the Sun from our location.  Sunset was to be at about 8:08.  7:22 came and went, and we talked for a bit.

After checking his smartphone to ensure we had no danger or serious precipitation, I set up the magic telescope.  I focused on a distant tower, and had the filter at the ready.  The glow in the sky was getting brighter to the north-northeast.  Mind you, this is looking BELOW the storm clouds.  Here's how that looked in a picture I took at 7:39.

Just a little cloudy, eh?  It was worse to the south (left).  And it looked similar behind us, as there were storms that way.  But check out that LITTLE tiny clearing between the horizon and the lowest clouds.  We had hope!  And it was a good thing too - we had almost left a few minutes earlier.  And just 10 minutes or so later, this is what greeted us:

The clouds were getting higher, and there was some thing happening that was likely to let us see SOMETHING.  What, we didn't yet know.  But we were even more hopeful now.  Mind you, this is WAY up from 15 to 20 minutes earlier, when my weatherman friend was giving us a "Zero percent chance" of success.  See?  There is something about this telescope!

And by 7:55, I caught this photo of the eclipse in the scope.  We saw the clouds parting as the Sun was dropping towards the horizon, and what do you know?  A HUGE chunk of the Sun had been "bitten" by the Moon.  Here is one of only two shot I managed to get right before the Sun got too low - and too dim - to be seen through the solar filtered telescope:

Less than 5 minutes later, the Sun was partway behind another low, distant cloud.  And I managed to snap this really lucky shot at 7:59 pm (last picture, below).  It was the last good picture I got of this eclipse.  Note the "bite" the Moon had taken out of the (overexposed) Sun in the photo.  

I didn't see a lot of this eclipse but I saw more than the last two eclipses that occurred near where I was living (and that was nothing for them!).  So I'm happy and grateful I got to see just a little bit of this one.  Thanks for reading about my eclipse adventure, and my amazing little scope. 

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.