Monday, August 21, 2017

my first solar occultation (Glendo)

"He is the one who grabs the sun!"

12:13 AM MDT. I noted the time when I returned to my Pingo tent. Officially it was eclipse day. The big event was just a few hours away... One more sleep.

Suddenly I remembered that I needed to charge up my remaining DSLR batteries. I had planned to swap them through the evening. Now I was too tired. I could finish topping up in the morning.


Slept through my Android alarm but was out of the sleeping bag at 7-ish. Had coffee in trailer with a quick breakfast.

It was fun finding Sara in the trailer.

Yesterday I had readied a checklist. It included items like, load good batteries in everything, prepare the white sheet (on loan from Rhonda), have my big tripod ready, if necessary, have the Canon 40D prepared with kit lens and battery grip, settings set (f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 100), the intervalometer programmed (5 minutes), solar filter in the solar filter adapter, chair and umbrella at Ian's table, my sunglasses, my solar glasses and viewers, an appropriate t-shirt, smartphone at the ready with earbuds, sound recorder prepared, Black Cloak of Doom cloth, eye glasses strap, and some tape (to secure the focus and the filter). Oh, and Imperator Pinkarosa, of course.

Part of the reason for the umbrella was to allow Katrina to get good ambient air readings while avoiding direct sunlight.

8:20 AM. Reconfigured the Sony ICD-SX750D to use the correct local time. Just seemed the better thing to do.

8:39 AM. I felt like I was nearly ready. The photography rig was prepared although the intervalometer was being wonky, kept losing its settings when struck. The Kendrick solar filter in my custom adapter was ready and I was sitting with Katrina.

I continued to charge batteries.

Helped Dan with his imaging rig.

Signed the guest book.

totality cozies

Eric had put out a boat load of beer cozies so I grabbed a couple.

We put out RASC materials. I had a bunch of Star Finders.

We put on name tags. Name and location.

10:10. Chris did announcements to the group. We had a small PA system which was very helpful. Covered important safety items. Shared that he and I would call out events as prompted by our Solar Eclipse Timer app. A bit of cheerleading. "We'll be lifted up!"

10:21. I started my long camera run!

I started my audio recording.

Suggested to Chris that he check his Android device volume. Told him I had not heard my morning alarm. He cranked the volume.

Counted down as prompted by the SET app. 2 minutes. Some whooped, some clapped. 1 minute. A boy nearby counted the seconds down. I repeated the audio alerts from my smartphone. 40 seconds. 30. 10. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

It was windy. I asked Katrina if she wanted the umbrella up.

10:24. Chris and I called out that first contact had started. Within seconds he said he could see it in his telescope. We observed first contact! The Moon was clearly visible. I was surprised at how quickly it appeared. I viewed it in Chris's PST. It was at the 10 o'clock position.

Katrina tagged it in her binoculars. "It was really easy." Shared the bins. Nice. Tony shared his telescope view. Grace said she was excited now. Everybody was pretty happy. "That's the Moon, man!"

10:25. My OneWorld portable weather station showed 33°C, in the Sun. Humidity was 20%.

Charles and Sara were looking for eclipse viewers. We had lots. Their old ones were too dark. The cards were easier and faster to use.

Could see Moon over the Sun at 1x through solar film. Fun.

Ian brought his colander from the RV. We couldn't see anything per se. The deformations in the plastic were more of a factor. And old bits of macaroni.

Charles reminded us watch our own shadows.

The app was working well. I could hear the prompts clearly with my earbuds.

the Glendo neighbourhood

We were in a coasting phase.

Lora and Grace compared notes on the excitement factor. So far.

My thermometer had dropped to 30.8.

Pinhole images were working well now. Many thought it "cool." Katrina's cheese grater didn't work but Ian's kitchen colander was fabulous. Crossing fingers worked too.

10:56. Looked through Tony's binoculars, Celestron 10x50, nitrogen-filled. Custom solar filters. Tripod mounted. Good view.

Phil's rig

Looked through Phil's Tele Vue Ranger 70mm refractor, Tele Vue 11mm Nagler ocular (about 40x), Kendrick filter, tracking with the Star Adventurer. Very nice view. The sunspots were fantastic.

colander experiment

Put down the white sheet for the impending shadow bands. Put a rock at each corner. It was a hit for pinhole images! I was surprised by that. Many people used it to do pinhole experiments. The colander was working very well.

45 minutes to totality.

Katrina and I ensured our beverages were on ice...

I checked the camera power. OK.

Katrina noted the temperature was already dropping. She wasn't expecting it this early. I shared some of the expected observations from my amalgamated notes including the temp change. T-45, right on schedule. We were at 50% magnitude. The blue should have been a bit duller. The light on the ground should be a bit dimmer.

the crazy Canucks

We did a Team Canada group picture. Say, "Eh!" We made Eric an honorary Canadian.

The temperature continued to drop.

about half way

About 30 minutes to go.

I re-aimed Phil's 'scope with some effort. Damn. Should not have touched it.

Chris shared that the Moon's shadow would be 70 miles wide, 35 miles each side of us as we were close to the centreline.

I took my sunglasses off. The light was grey or silvery.

11:25. We were around 75% magnitude. Chris said this was it for our friends back in Ontario, i.e. no more of the Sun would be blocked.

Next event: the western sky should get darker.

Chris said he had changed the eyepiece in his 'scope and it was a way-better view. Good prominences and good detail around the sunspot active regions.

15 minutes to go. I walked around a bit to update people.

We noted the sharper shadows.

Spotted hot-air balloons in the west. What a great way to see the eclipse...

Chris reminded people to watch for the surroundings including the sunset colours.

It got cooler. The temperature drop was very obvious. Katrina kept regularly marking the time and temperature. About 4 degrees, so far.

10 minutes left.

There were no clouds anywhere near us. We were in a perfect spot.

I saw an airplane. Wondered if they were watching...

Suggested to Katrina we might be able to see Venus. It would be 30 degrees ahead.

5 to go.

The light was weird.

3 minutes. The app said to watch for shadow bands. The wind gusted.

It was dark enough that I kept thinking I had my sunglasses on.

2 to go. Everyone was getting very excited.

Amazing. Razor thin crescent. The shadows were really sharp.

1 minute.

It was getting really dark in the west.

40 seconds to go. I was getting very excited.

30. Wow. A brief moment before second contact, I saw snakes! Er, shadow bands! Called Katrina over. I was surprised at how rapidly they moved. A shimmering effect. They seemed to be moving west.

I could see the corona emerging! Holy moley.

11:48. Second contact! Totality! The crowd went wild. Wow. Amazing.

I saw Venus and a couple of stars. I tried briefly for other planets.

Katrina reminded me to look around. "He was scanning the horizon." Wow. We observed the 360 degree panoramic twilight.

Some called out they could see proms. Some spotted Regulus. "Oh my gosh," someone said. Ian exclaimed deeply, "Oh wow!"

Maximum eclipse. Cheers all around!

I was amazed at the darkness. It was very dark. Like an hour after sunset perhaps. Darkness in the daytime.

There was a little hole in the sky.

Grace said, "I'm excited."

The corona was fantastic, large, bright, a pure white gossamer veil. It was asymmetrical. There were two extended points at the top-right with one at the bottom left. It reminded me Devil's Pitchfork barbed seed.

Katrina was trying to see Mercury.

Then I noticed colour at the edge of the Moon, near the 4 o'clock. I blinked. Could it be? I realised I was seeing prominences. I was stunned by this. In all my preparation I had missed this. I didn't know one could see flares naked eye. They were pink.

I felt no wind during totality.

corona with the DSLR camera

Transfixed, I almost forgot to pull the solar filter off the Canon camera.

totality from Glendo

Snapped a shot with my phone.

Filter back on the Canon.

I knew third contact was coming. I waited a couple of seconds to soak in the diamond ring. It was incredible. Blossoming rapidly.

Glasses on.

11:52. Over. Suddenly it was done.

Brightness returned quickly. The air warmed. Everyone was ecstatic.

We noted the air temperature.

We had done it. Our troop had traveled 2500 kilometres to make this happen. We did it. No clouds.

When people started celebrating and shaking hands and hugging, then I got choked up.

Monitored my camera.

The Seager-Darrow clan started their journey home.

Couldn't believe how fast it went.

Chris and Dan saw Jupiter. Good sight lines.

The internet and phone networks were clogged.

cork from the Champagne

12:07. Katrina returned with a bottle from Wilson Creek Winery and some orange juice. I helped her disperse the OJ across the plastic glasses. I grabbed some Corona beers. Opa!

We thanked Katrina for the treat. We thanked Eric and Greg for inviting us. We thanked Ian and Phil for organising. We thanked Tony for fixing the plumbing.

12:22. Greg and I chatted. A first for both of us.

12:33. I tried to text Rhonda but it wouldn't go through.

Less than 50% magnitude now.

Kim and crew set out cheese and crackers. Hit the spot. I realised I had effectively skipped lunch. Found I was rather hungry.

12:40. Wow. Just wow. It was "perfect, perfect in every way."

Watched the camera display until I could not see the Sun.

12:48. Concluded the imaging run. I quickly checked some of the images. They worked, sorta. It seemed though that I had the exposure wrong: the images were very dark. I was happy to find the middle shot showing some corona! Wow! The lens was not in perfect focus but I was happy.

The Moon went in front of the Sun, man!

12:55. About 15 minutes left... Almost done.

11 minutes to go. I asked Grace if she was excited!

Wow. Did that really happen?

Katrina and I were both relieved the weather held.

A little bit left. I checked the timer tool. 7 minutes.

The temperature was higher than ever. Surpassed the early high. It was gettin' hot, in fact.

I offered to upload the audio for Katrina.

4 minutes.

I apologised to the Moon for all the bad things I had said.

Almost gone. Just over 2 minutes to go. The tiniest little bite.

Still there. 1 minute. Naked eye was not possible any more.

About 30 seconds. People couldn't see it.

1:12. And the eclipse was over.

My first successful occultation! After many fails (with asteroids and more distant stars).

Ian checked his photos. He was very happy. They looked spectacular. Perfect tracking, perfect focus.

I stopped the audio recorder.

1:41. We had lunch. Times two. Al fresco and then in the house. Didn't like New Belgium Blonde.

2:31. I was pooped. It was weird. Very, very tired. Felt mentally drained. Others felt the same. It must have been an adrenaline crash. Post-eclipse depression.

2:59. Decided to have a nap so popped into my tent for a bit.


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