Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Partial Phase Eclipse with Sunspots

With the adrenaline rush of racing 11 miles south at the last minute with Beau Hartweg to see totality through relatively clear skies, after we returned to Camp Drake, base of operations for Project Stratoclipse, I almost didn't have the presence of mind to take advantage of the fact that the clouds had finally cleared and take any shots of the partial phase of the eclipse. I guess it felt like since I'd missed the first half and totality to clouds, shooting any close-up shots was anti-climatic.

And then I remembered the sunspots. The show was almost over by the time I was set up again but I did manage to get a few decent shots before the end. The first shot is from about 6 minutes before the end of the eclipse and the second one is from less than a minute before the end (4th contact or C4). Note that in the second one there is another group of sunspots visible that were covered by the moon in the first one.

Pretty cool! Can't wait for 2024!

For anyone interested, these were shot with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon 80-400mm lens on a (roughly) polar-aligned equatorial mount. The shots were taken through a home-made Baader film solar filter.

About 6 minutes before end of eclipse (C4), one sunspot group. 

Less than a minute left before C4, second set of sunspots now visible.

Total Eclipse Time Lapse

This is a first pass attempt at creating a time lapse video of the eclipse using wide-angle shots taken in Marshall, Missouri.

The entire first half of the eclipse was obscured by clouds with the sun just peeking through at totality. Ironically, for most of the end of the eclipse (starting about 15 minutes after totality ended) the Sun was shining against a clear, blue sky.

Notice the umbra moving in from the right and then moving off to the left. In mid-totality, notice how distinctive the Sun's corona is, even as small as the Sun is in the overall image.

Not entirely satisfied with this, yet, but sharing while I continue to work on a "final" version. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Cloudy Totality

Cloudy Totality

Due to the clouds, I didn't get the close-up shots of the sun that I'd prepared for, instead making a last minute dash 10 miles south for a spot with clear enough skies that we could at least see totality. While I'm disappointed in not capturing that view of the eclipse,  the experience of seeing totality with my own eyes was pretty incredible!

However, I did get a sequence of wide-angle shots for a time lapse. The first half is nothing but clouds and from about 15 minutes after totality until the end of the eclipse the sun was sitting in clear skies but the sequence still shows the movement of the umbra across the field of view and, as you can see in this shot from roughly the middle of totality, there is enough detail to be able to see the corona around the sun.

Still working on completing the time lapse... will post when it's complete.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Waiting Patiently for Eclipse

We arrived at base camp for Project Stratoclipse, a farm in Marshall, Missouri, on Thursday evening and have been busy preparing for Monday's big event ever since. I am still refining my technique for capturing the eclipse but in the mean time I'm taking a break from the sun and reviewing some of the other images I've captured in the past few days.

Most of these have very little editing, just some basic tweaks to brightness and color, so later on (i.e., after the eclipse) I'll go through all my shots in detail and post (or repost) the best once after I've had time to take a closer look at them and do some fine tuning.

What's amazing is how much less light pollution there is here than at home. Marshall's not a large town but it's also not that far from places like Kansas City, Springfield, etc. so I was a little surprised at how dark the skies are... it has a Bortle Scale of 4 compared to 8 for home (Mesquite, Texas). That's a huge difference!

Enjoy! We're less than 48 hours from the eclipse!

Sunset the first night. This is a high dynamic range (HDR) image
created by combining 3 images taken at different exposures.

Same tractor, this time with Milky Way instead of the Sun. 

Last night we got hit by a thunderstorm but it was pretty mild.
However, after it rolled by us it really exploded with activity.
We watched it carry on like this for a half-hour or more. 

The storm was still going on but had moved far enough to the
south-east for our skies to clear, allowing me to capture both the
distant storm and the Milky Way. 

A similar view of the storm in the distance with the Milky Way
rising above farm equipment. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Eclipse Adventure: Project Stratoclipse

On August 21st, 2017, I'll be staring up into the sky to experience the wonder of a total solar eclipse. Along with almost 20 million of the rest of you (based on stats from GreatAmericanEclipse.com).

In my case, the goal is to experience the eclipse but also to capture it. But more on that in a later post. As it turns out, I know someone else who has plans to capture the eclipse and they are literally "out of this world"!

This Thursday, I leave for Marshall, Missouri, with Beau Hartweg. We will be part of a group camping on a farm south of Marshall from then through Tuesday, all in the name of science. Beau is pursuing a doctoral degree with a focus on science education and is also a planetarium educator. He is also one of the principles, along with Jake Vaught, of a project called Project Stratoclipse. Rather than describe the project myself, here's how Jake and Beau describe it on the project Google Plus profile page:


Elevating the "Great American Eclipse" to the stratosphere and beyond.

Project Stratoclipse will send multiple HD video cameras on a weather balloon into the upper stratosphere to capture the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of Aug. 21st 2017. Launched from the eclipse path centerline in Marshall, Missouri, the launch vehicle will be timed to reach near-space altitudes as the eclipse passes overhead. The creators of Project Stratoclipse, Jake Vaught and Beau Hartweg, will provide the world with a truly unique look into a truly remarkable American event. Stay tuned!

If all goes according to plan, the video captured will be live-streamed over YouTube. Please go subscribe now so that you get notified when video is posted! Plus, we need your help! There have to be at least 100 people subscribed for YouTube to allow the project to stream the eclipse live. We're up to about 77 so you'll be helping make it happen when you add your subscription!