I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been traveling. And I bet you can guess what I was going to see! We loaded up the kids and my telescopes, met my in-laws, and took off on a road trip across South Dakota and into Wyoming, with the ultimate aim of basking briefly in the shadow of the Moon. I’m finally back, so I’m gonna share my pictures with you! Here’s sort of a filmstrip of the eclipse, as seen from the pleasant little town of Glenrock, Wyoming:
The Sun, before eclipse, as seen through my Orion SpaceProbe 130ST, and shot through the 25mm eyepiece with a cellphone. Remember: if using a telescope to view the Sun, never look through it unless it has a full-aperture solar filter on. That’s a filter that goes over the big open end, not the eyepiece. Put a filter on the eyepiece, and you’ll just burn a hole right through it.
And here’s a similar shot by my husband’s cellphone, through the 25mm eyepiece of my Skywatcher 8 collapsible Dobsonian. (Yes, I know I brought a couple of Newtonians to look at the Sun — they’re not the best suited for the job. But they were great for looking at stars that evening, and they did do a pretty good job of working for us at the eclipse!)
First contact (well, shortly thereafter) through the SpaceProbe 130ST. 130 refers to the 130mm aperture (it’s a Newtonian) and ST refers to the fact that it’s got a short tube (which makes it more portable and improves the field of view — these pictures have all been cropped).
Same view through the 8 inch collapsible Dob. The filter on that one is a different type, so we get a yellower Sun.
Now, if you don’t have a filter but have an inexpensive refractor (or a pair of binoculars), you can use them for projection. I’m using a Galileoscope here — and as it happens, this is basically how Galileo used his telescope to discover sunspots. Many solar telescopes still use this method, including the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, because it removes none of the wavelengths of light that they may wish to study.
The Moon is advancing towards those nice sunspots in the middle….
The eclipse shades are pointing out something interesting we noticed. I hung a makeshift cardboard shade around the little refractor telescope so we’d be able to see the projected image more clearly, and there was a tiny hole in it, which was projecting a little crescent Sun of its own — but in the opposite direction to that produced by the refractor’s lenses.
By now, it was getting really easy to see the eclipsing Sun even with unaided (but properly filtered!) eyeballs.
Getting thinner — that last sunspot group won’t be visible for much longer!
Here I’m holding the box for my big telescope’s solar filter perhaps a bit too close to the telescope; it’s remarkable how bright the projected image gets as it gets closer. You wouldn’t want to put your eye there.
Another fun thing you can do with the projection method — hold the crescent Sun in the palm of your hand! Also, you might notice how the background is looking kind of odd. Washed out a bit, as if it were evening. But the shadows are short. By this time, it was considerably cooler and darker, and the insects were coming out to feed, thinking it was close to sunset.
That crescent is razor thin now! I’ve set the box on the ground to get the crescent stretched as far across it as I could. The ground is even darker now.
Meanwhile, I had my Nikon Coolpix mounted piggyback on my 130mm Newtonian. That one’s got an equatorial mount, making it much easier to track the Sun. It’s wearing its own little solar filter at this point, and zoomed in to the max. To avoid hand-shake, I took time-delay shots.
The horns of the crescent retreat surprisingly rapidly at this point.
I’ve cropped in a bit more here; the Sun’s photosphere is barely visible.
And, filters off!!!! My Nikon had the best field of view of all the magnified instruments, so this is the one that was able to catch the outermost parts of the corona. Down and to the left, that’s Regulus, a bright winter star that was plainly visible during the eclipse.
Here’s the view from the 130mm telescope; you can make out a bit more detail. It looked much better with the naked eye; it’s tough to get the cell phone cameras to get the right exposure for this.
And here’s with the 8 incher. There’s quite a bit of detail in the polar regions of the Sun, where you can make out streamers in the corona.
And the diamond ring appears! This heralds the end of totality, as the photosphere peeps over the Moon’s limb. At the right, you can just make out a solar prominence. We’d gotten a much better look earlier from another stargazer’s awesome h-alpha setup.
And with that, it’s time to put the filters back on.
About this time, excited eclipse viewers noticed an extra treat high above — the thin clouds that had started to gather were hosting a sun halo.
Little tip: never try to take eclipse pictures with a handheld camera, especially AFTER totality, when you’re still shaking from the adrenalin. 😉
And this is the last shot I got. Some folks stuck around for fourth contact, but my father-in-law had an excellent pot roast and a bottle of wine ready to celebrate by this time, so this was the end for me. End of a day I will never forget.