Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TOTALITY ! With the Citizen CATE Experiment near Mitchell, Oregon

Monday morning, August 21, 2017, dawned at my CATE site (near Mitchell, Oregon) clear and sparkling.

We finalized the setup of our CATE equipment as well as set up two telescope mounts for personal digital color photography.

We then gathered a small crowd of about 25+ people for a short talk about why a solar eclipse and what to look for, listen for, and feel during the partial and total phases of this eclipse.

We distributed solar eclipse glasses to everyone and trained them on their use, and when and when not to use binoculars.

Then it was on to the serious work of final scope alignment and gathering of essential data for the CATE experiment. Meanwhile the crescents in the shadows due to the crescent Sun/Moon was interesting...

Poking holes in cardboard and then letting the sunlight fall on white paper was fun!

As the partial phases progressed my wife was taking temperature reading for the GLOBE project, to help track the temperature changes, as well as taking some video and still shots.

As totality neared trouble appeared in the sky... smoke from a forest fire to the south-west of our location (about 30+ miles away). This was disheartening as we wanted the pristine skies we had experienced since the had arrived on the Wednesday prior.

As the partial portion of the eclipse progressed, we felt a slight breeze and a definite cooling down, mostly due to the loss of the Sun's heat. But regardless of the conditions we were going to have a totality
event all the same. Here are some images of the progress of the Moon over the Sun.

I was able to image the sunspot group AR2671, which by then had crossed the center line of the Sun's surface. Here you will see the Moon cover up the sunspots over a period of about 15 minutes (I think)

UPDATE: the first of these four images was accepted by Sky & Telescope magazine's website for its online photogallery here!

As totality neared I had to give 100% of my attention to the CATE project and do my best to center the Moon/Sun given the little sliver of light that remained.
The first big event just before totality is called the "Diamond Ring" effect, as just a very small sliver of sunlight stubbornly holds out. Awesome!

Then so quickly came the "Bailey's Beads" effect, where the Sun's light is broken up by the mountain peaks on the Moon. Sweet ! One is stunned by the swiftness of the brief time between the "diamond ring" and "Bailey's Beads" effects... only a second or so!

Then, there it was...TOTALITY !

The Moon had completely covered the Sun and the Sun's corona began to shine in all of its glory! This next image is a quick HDR result of the CATE project's software...

In post processing some detail can be drawn out...

 Here a prominence in normal light and then negative:

Here are some close-ups (in black and white) of a few of the prominences around the Sun

And just as there was the "Baily's Beads" and the "Diamond Ring" event on the frontside of totality, so there is the same on the backside

This image was accepted as well by Sky& Telescope magazine's
online photo gallery here!

UPDATE: A brief video of our experience at totality is ready for viewing!

And just so quickly the Sun re-emerges from the Moon's blockage! (The red flare is an artifact of the camera lens, not what was actually visible)

This was my wife and mine's second total solar eclipse since we got married in 1977. We feel like this time we were well prepared and enjoyed it so much more!

My Super Totality Wonder Woman!

To our surprise, the predicted crowds did not show up en mass and the result was that we were able to head home to La Pine later on Monday. So we packed up and hit the road. We want to thank our hosts, Pat and Myrna for letting us stay the past 5 days !

We are still in awe of God's unique creations, both above the Earth and on it as we headed home...

On the road home via Mitchell, Oregon...

We made it through Prineville at normal speed (we encountered long delays on our way to Mitchell). But our enthusiasm was dimmed by the spread of the forest fire's smoke that blocked much of the light of the Sun (a second solar eclipse in one day?).

And the closer we got to Bend, Oregon the thicker the clouds became, turning the Sun into some kind of weird Jupiter!

But in the end we made it home and were happy to sleep in our own bed, no mosquitos and no flies!

Now, whose up for Round 3 in April, 2024 ?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On Location for CATE Experiment - Day 1 & AR 2671 Sunspot Group

We left home (La Pine) Wednesday morning and began our journey to the Mitchell, Oregon area to setup our site for the CATE Solar Eclipse Experiment in conjunction with the National Solar Observatory.

We thought we had left early enough...

We didn't.

Just outside of Prineville, Oregon the traffic came to a complete halt. Apparently there is a huge outdoor concert that is being held from Wednesday through the day of the total solar eclipse just 15 miles east of Prineville with over 30,000 people trying to get there on time.
AND in addition the Oregon Star Party (which is on the same access road part of the way) is also kicking into gear at the same time and likely well over 600 people are expected at it (it sold out a while back!)

So everyone had the same great idea: beat the crowds... and it didn't really work!

So it took us well over 30 minutes to travel just 4 miles to Prineville... and then it was stop and go all the way through town.

Once we got out of town and past the exit road to both major events there was nearly NO ONE on the road to Mitchell /  John Day!

We pulled into Mitchell hoping to get the great burgers and fries from the Lone Pine Cafe (where we ate just a month+ earlier) only to find it CLOSED and up for sale! BUMMER!

But we found the only other small cafe open (The Bridge Creek Cafe) and was very pleased with the food and service there (wifi too!)

Then we headed north to our location  for the Citizen CATE Experiment, which is right next to the John Day River. Though it was hot the occasional breeze made it bearable and the evening cooled us off.

The stars were phenomenal ! No city lights here!

We hit the sack about 10:30 pm and woke in the morning of the 17th to clear skies and non-smokey, too!

I set up the CATE equipment and did a practice run on the procedure because the solar sunspot group known as AR 2671 was looking mighty fine! Though I had some difficulty establishing polar alignment to my satisfaction, the sunspot group was an awesome capture!

Here's to hoping that it will go CME (coronal mass ejection) on the day of totality, as it is said that it harbors X class flare possibilities!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Scorpius Constellation Over Kilauea Volcano Caldera, Hawaii

On August 1, 2017, my wife and I were part of a tour group to the Kilauea Volcano caldera on the big island of Hawaii. The constellation Scorpius was hovering over the playfully erupting volcano that night. Quite a sight ! The camera was hand-held for about 6 second exposure.

Here were the camera settings info:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Testing Exposures and Lenses for the Solar Eclipse 2017

or... How to Fake a Solar Eclipse!

Hi, everyone!

Yesterday I got this crazy idea of how to practice for DSLR imaging (in addition to the primary imaging with the CATE Experiment).

With my Canon T3i, I wanted to practice with the HDR and intervalometer functions so that imaging would be fairly automatic during the eclipse as well as test my lenses to see what the image size of the Sun/Moon would be.

My crazy idea:
Wait until dark, place a flashlight behind a soccer ball propped up on a concrete block.
Set up the camera in the HDR/Intervalometer/P mode on a tripod so that the flashlight is "eclipsed" by the soccer ball. Then I would toss some dust up in the air between the flashlight and the soccer ball to help simulate a corona.
Then by experimenting with + or - overrides and setting the ISO to 800, I would run the camera and see what would result. By the way, I used a 2012 version of MagicLantern firmware with the camera to be able to control the HDR/Intervalometer functions and settings.

I found that it may well provide the various bracketing exposures during totality with very little attention!

Then since the Moon was full (and the skies thick with smoke from forest fires all around and a thin cloud layer) I tested the settings on it as well. It also provided with with a way to test with my zoom lens set to 250mm as well as used a 5" Celestron f/5.6 telephoto to determine the image size of the Sun/Moon since last night was a full Moon.

Telephoto Zoom set at 250 mm (tripod mounted)

Celestron 5" 750mm f/5.6 telephoto scope (tripod mounted)

So the result is that I am quite comfortable with the possibilities of good exposures!