Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 Total Solar Eclipse - First to Cross Mainland USA Since 1979

It may seem hard to believe but solar eclipses are technically fairly common, at least one a year, many times two in a year. What makes them seem rare though has to do with the relatively small portion of the Earth over which they pass; for any given spot on the globe, solar eclipses are rare. For example, there hasn't been a solar eclipse crossing America since 1991, hasn't been one crossing any part of the contiguous United States since 1979 and there hasn't been a solar eclipse cross the entire continent since 1918.

On August 21st of this year, all three of those dates reset: a solar eclipse will cross from Oregon to South Carolina. Anyone along the centerline of the track will get to observe (weather permitting) the glory of a total eclipse. Everyone else in the country will see a partial eclipse (less of one the further from the centerline you are).

The last time I saw a solar eclipse was an annular eclipse in 2012 viewed from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The image included here is from my post on that event. For the 2017 total eclipse, I'm planning to observe from the centerline. More on that in future posts. In the meantime, here are a few links for more information on the event.

NASA 2017 Eclipse Site Site
Alan Dyer's Tips for the Solar Eclipse

Friday, August 12, 2016

2016 Perseids

Named for the constellation from which they appear to originate, Perseus, the Perseid meteor shower is the result of the Earth plowing into dust and particles left behind by past journeys through the Solar System of comet Swift-Tuttle. 

Read more about the Perseids on

This is a blend of four images captured with Nikon D7000 and Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 between 4:30 and 5:30am in Garland, Texas. Thanks to David Kingham for the blending technique (here).

Image shared by EarthSky (tweet, Facebook)

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Two Perseid meteors over Sunnyvale, Texas pre-dawn Aug 11th (top one cut off mid-flight).

Raw, unedited image

More on the 2016 Perseid meteor shower here.

Monday, May 9, 2016

2016 Mercury Transit: Video Clips

After starting the morning watching the transit online, there were finally a few breaks in the clouds, allowing me to capture portions of the transit myself, assembled into the video below. High wind also hampered things, making it tough to get a sharp focus and steady image, but it was still an incredible thing to watch.

60mm Parks refractor on German equatorial mount
Baader film solar filter from Kendrick Astro Instruments
Orion EQ-1M drive (for solar tracking)
Nikon D7000 (attached with T-adapter)
dslrDashboard on Nexus 9 tablet for remote viewing and camera control

Music: Mercury, the Winged Messenger from The Planets by Gustav Holst

Created with iMovie on a Macbook Pro

Astronomical event of the year: Mercury Transit 2016

In spite of clouds and windy conditions, I've managed to capture a few shots of Mercury crossing the face of the sun. It's a relatively rare occurrence, though not as rare as a Venus transit which I've also watched (see here). Very cool.

It's still in progress through 1:42pm Central today so you might still have a chance to check it out.

For information on the transit:

To watch online:
How to Watch Transit (

Click on any image below to view large.

One of the better shots so far today. This is the sun with the planet Mercury (the dot at middle left) crossing it's face, an event called a transit. To the upper right of Mercury is a sunspot. Note that it's larger than the planet!

Our 60mm Parks refractor outfitted with a Baader film solar filter. My Nikon D7000 DSLR is attached to the telescope with a T-adapter. I'm remotely watching the live view from camera using an app on my tablet. The app also allows me to control the camera, taking the shot above and video (to be posted later today).

The makeshift wind screen I'm using to minimize how much wind shakes the telescope (which affects stability of images)