Solar Eclipse 2024

  Traveling to see the total eclipse of the sun.

Event Report 20240325-0415

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The Experience

Total solar eclipses happen on planet Earth about 4 times a year.  But, eclipses that are total and cover "reasonably convenient" locations are something rare.  Since we experienced the last solar eclipse in 2017, we had our sights on this event.  As fate would have it, the solar eclipse passed over the farm of a friend and they invited us to join them.  We traveled from San Diego to Herrin, Illinois and back for the event; a non-trivial road trip with way more freeway miles per day than I would have preferred.  But, we were "on the clock" and needed to get there, see the eclipse and get back in time to prepare for our trip to Spain and Portugal.

We took hundreds of photos and down-selected for the shots that were the most representative of the event.  All the photos below were taken by either myself or Kathleen with our set of digital imaging devices: Sony A1, A7R4, Fujifilm XT-4 or PlayerOne solar camera.  The standard cameras used a 13.5 stop neutral density filter 100-400mm zoom with 2x doubler. My Lunt hydrogen alpha solar telescope was on an Astrotrack portable tracking mount..  SER format video was captured using the FireCapture application on my laptop talking to the PlayerOne camera. Depending on the image source, stacking was done with Autostakkert! 3 and then "developed" with with Capture One.

The photos below are what we saw.

This is a shot of my setup with the Astrotrack tracking mount, Lunt scope using a 2.5x Barlow extender connected to my Sony A1 camera.  Also visible is my "Feather Touch" stepper motor focusing aid. There are a lot of "moving parts" in this setup.

Here, the PlayerOne camera is attached to the Lunt scope with the Barlow extender.  The USB cable at the bottom of the camera is connected to my laptop running the FireCapture control application.

Using my setup, excellent results are possible.  This photo, however, is not critically focused as the coastal haze in San Diego prevented good focus.  But, with sufficient video frame stacking and some aggressive post-processing, an acceptable result can be achieved.  These solar flare are huge.  We were aware that the weather could prevent us from getting any photos at all, but hope springs eternal.  Kathleen and I were committed and decided to go no matter what the weather.

We fully lucked out on weather.  Eclipse day dawned clear with some haze but no significant clouds.  Before the eclipse started, I got a shot with the Sony A7R4 at 800mm with neutral density filter.  The sunspots were less numerous than they had been in the prior weeks leading up to the eclipse.  Overall focus acuity was impacted by the haze.

We busied ourselves setting up our solar scope and controls in anticipation of the eclipse.  I paused during the setup to get this "in progress" shot.

This was the first usable shot from the hydrogen alpha solar scope and monochrome camera.  The high clouds and haze prevented us from achieving critical focus, thus the fuzziness.  We had problems with the camera all day, essentially preventing us from capturing the totality in the hydrogen alpha spectrum.

  The PlayerOne camera repeatedly disconnected from my laptop and would not reconnect.  We were not sure if it was an application thing, a cable/adapter thing or an operator error.  We came out of our frustration funk and got another in-progress shot with the Sony and neutral density filter.

The eclipse was progressing nicely and almost at totality.

A bit past the onset of full totality.  Note the coronal glow and the (seemingly) small eruption at about 6 o'clock as well as the larger flare at 12:30 at the top.

As the eclipse progressed, the small eruption at the bottom was revealed to be huge.

Applying some post-processing adjustments to the tone curve highlighted the eruptions.  Note that the magnetic field lines of the corona are now visible.

This shot was taken a few seconds later and also used tone curve adjustments.  Now the flares are clearly visible.

One more shot a few seconds later.  In my opinion, this shot of the eclipse was the best.

Post totality.  Sony at 800mm with neutral density filter.

Almost back to normal.

Prior to the PlayerOne camera going south, we got this "full disk" photo of the sun.  This camera is only 3MP, but has small pixel size so is capable of high resolution (assuming it will talk to the laptop).  This photo was produced by taking a 30 second SER format video (16 bit) and then stacking the individual frames to average out the haze and atmospheric distortion.  The subsequent monochrome image was sharpened and then artificially colorized to produce a "pleasing" orange.

We prepared extensively for this event.  We purchased special purpose "devices" like the neutral density filters and the PlayerOne camera.  We trained and did full setup and tear-down multiple times before the actual eclipse.  None of that preparation could withstand the connection failure of the camera, so we resorted to the tried-and-true: a hand-held shot while bracing the camera.  Despite the hardware failure, we were lucky that the weather cooperated.  In general, it was a great experience and worth the many days of driving.

Many thanks to our hosts Mark and Gail for letting us visit them and stay on the farm.

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