All around the hidden sun

Total solar eclipse 2017

All around the hidden sun

The date of 21 August, 2017, will be remembered by numerous people as the day of “Great American Eclipse“. As the spectacular total solar eclipse occured over many states of US, it was easily possible to find a good place to watch it in the clear skies. I was among the people with best luck as I took a place in Guernsey state park of Wyoming as a member of international scientific group “Solar Wind Sherpas” led by prof. Shadia Habbal of University of Hawaii. While two minutes long eclipse was in the sky, I took many different exposures through MTO 1100mm/f10.5 telephoto lens with Canon 6D on Vixen GP-2 mount. As the longest exposure was 4 seconds, it was easy to capture even the eartshine on the Moon surface. This extreme HDR image was then post-processed in prof. Miloslav Druckmüller’s PM-NAFE software (Planckian Mapping – Noise Adaptive Fuzzy Equalization software), which enhanced the details in solar corona. The image shows in reality the moment of C3, so ending of the total eclipse.

The Solar Wind Sherpas

As many people travel to see the a total solar eclipse like “eclipse chasers”, to get even fantastic photographic and scientific results means even more difficult effort then only to be at the right place in the right time. It means to take care of lot of equipment, to count with all what should be set, prepared, measured or captured during just a minutes long natural phenomenon. So the meaning of the Solar Wind Sherpas is, actually, deeper than just an original name for scientific expedition. It means group of hard workers, same as the Himalayan sherpas who take the physical care about all of the needed stuffs for a lifetime moment. This wide-angle image shows the prize for some of the Guernsey Solar Wind Sherpas as the rest was working in the specially air-conditioned tent. In the sky, you can see the sequence of whole eclipse with its total phase in the middle, planet Venus and also colors of the sky in the lunar shadow. Many times I wish it could take much longer.

I tried to preserve the colors as I remember, and also the tone of feeling of the spectacular moment. A deeper look down left from the hidden sun can also reveal you a jetplane in the sky, obviously making eclipse flight in the path of totality. Except planet Venus you can also identify Mars (but hardly) and Jupiter (just above the tree most on the left). Used Canon 6D Baader modified, Samyang 12 mm, f3.0, ISO 100.

In two cosmic shadows

In fact, I didn’t move the camera and tripod from the spot I took the wide-angle esclipse sequence until deep night. As the weather forecast promised clear skies for the night, I wanted to continue in this unusual experience. What do I mean? Think about next question: Have you ever been experienced during one day in one place to be in shadow of two large objects of solar system, that could completely block off the sunlight? Well, every day we do once – when the sun sets, we get in shadow of our own planet, bringing us in a night and allowing to see the stars. But only with total solar eclipse during the day (and good weather, of course), you can be experienced this twice. While the Moon covers the sun, brightest planets and stars can be seen in broad daylight without any telescope. With the lucky weather I could even capture this experience on this a bit surrealistic “little planet” panorama. While on the right the sequence of solar eclipse with its total phase occured around mid-day, giving opportunity to spot Venus (in bottom part), Mars (on right) and Regulus (close to the hidden sun), just a ten hours later I took the same view but in night (ISO 8000, 25s exposures). The people on the daytime part of the little panet are in the middle of the sky show, in the shadow of the Moon, while the man on the night part is just calmly remembering the wonderful daytime experience under the arch of the Milky Way, when Earth’s shadow brought the very next starry night. Despite the light pollution from Guernsey city, the night sky was still such beautiful!

Two eclipses of August 2017

Speaking about the eclipses generally, this was not the only one in August 2017. Actually, always there are 2 eclipses of the same lunar month, two in about 2 weeks (sometimes even 3 phenomena, third one with next new or full Moon). It is always at least one lunar and one solar, usually one of it is very prominent (total) and another not so much (partial or similar). In case of August 2017 first eclipse was partial lunar one on 7 August, visible over Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and part of Oceania. The American eclipse was the “bigger” one of the pair. As eclipses are periodic, this particular eclipses-pair will repeat in 18 years, so in August/September 2035, over Europe, Africa or US (lunar eclipse) and Northern Pacific or Japan (solar eclipse). It is always nice to see both as it is not easy due to different location of visibility and, of course, weather conditions. I was lucky this time, observing the first one over Garching, Munich, Germany (on the roof of ESO Headquarters) and the second one in the Guernsey State Park, Wyoming, US (with the Solar Wind Sherpas expedition).

Full Sky Experience of Total Solar Eclipse 2017
The video was captured on Ricoh Theta S camera. Edited by: Petr Horálek, Luís Calçada.
Music: ToneLabs – Orion Fog. Watch in HD or more on Youtube.


August eclipses 2017

I would like to acknowledge great support for the eclipse expedition, which was made possible by grants from NASA, NSF, the American Astronomical Society to the PI, Shadia R. Habbal of the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, to all the members of the Solar Wind Sherpas expedition (especially to Judd Johnson, Richard Kiefer, Peter Aniol, Scott Gregoire, Miloslav Druckmüller, Tulin Bedel, Pavel Štarha, Nathalia Alzate, Zdeněk Hoder), and to ASTELCO company which took care about safe transport of equipment to USA and back to Europe. Without these people and institutions’ support the expedition would not have made and materialized.

Personal note: The telephoto lens was given to me from inheritance of my friend Václav Knoll, one of the biggest enthusiasits for solar eclipses I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, he passed away 7 years ago due to brain tumor. He was the one who managed me to see the first total solar eclipse in 1999, the “Great European Eclipse”. And this was just the next one of the saros period no. 140 after 1999. I think no better legacy could be done as creating an image like this in memory of him. R.I.P., Václav, and thank you for everything!