By the time this is posted, by the time you read this, the eclipse will be long over. You will have been flooded by images and descriptions of this event from thousands of sources. However, this blog is a personal diary, I will put down my thoughts and memories before they grow dim, post my photos, and preserve the experience for myself.
Our plan was simple, camp out well ahead of time in a site that had been carefully selected and scouted. Jody and Larry camped along side this little pretty meadow earlier in the summer, noting that it would serve quite well. They also arrived first, five days before the eclipse, and minutes ahead of others that sought this same place.
The plan worked, and worked well. In the days leading up to the eclipse dozens of vehicles came past, each looking with envy at those who had arrived early to claim the best spots. The stream of vehicles continued late into Sunday eve, no matter, this forest offers room for all.
Just a photo downloaded from the camera and minimally processed on the iPad…
Yes, DarkerView has been a solar eclipse blog over the last couple weeks. No worries, it will soon be over and regular programming will resume… After the obligatory photos from the eclipse expedition!
A few articles? Yes, just a few…
Total Solar Eclipse 2017
Eclipse Observing Checklist
The Eclipse Plan
Safe Eclipse Viewing
Two Solar Film Filters
Countdown to the Eclipse
The Sun on Eclipse Day
The Solar Corona on Eclipse Day
Correcting a Baader Solar Film Solar Image
The Eclipse Petroglyph
Ahead of our aircraft a crescent Moon is rising. Outside the window it is completely dark, a blackness broken only by the strobing anticollision lights across the wing and the rising Moon. Seattle is still hours away as we cross the Pacific, there are no city lights below to break the darkness.
The waning crescent phase is another reminder that the total solar eclipse I have been anticipating is very near, only a few days now. Not that I really need a reminder, the entire reason I am on this flight is to meet the Moon once more, to catch the moment when it blots out the Sun.
Somewhere below me in the cargo hold is the telescope mount, assembled from restored and hand made parts. In the luggage bin overhead is the telescope, the little refractor that is a prized posession. Through it I have watched and photographed eagles and whales, volcanic eruptions, and distant galaxies. At my feet is a pack with a few cameras in it, only five.
For over a decade I have awaited the coming of this event. A day that once seemed so remote draws swiftly near as a rising crescent Moon portends.
With a little short of two minutes of totality I need to go into this with a plan. I do want a few photos, but I also want to experience the eclipse. How do I balance that?
The important bit here is that I am going to give myself time to simply enjoy the eclipse and not spend the whole time futzing with the camera gear. When totality begins I will simply sit back and watch. To that end I have thought through a shot plan that may just accomplish this balance.
The plan calls for three cameras… A single camera on a solar telescope, this will be primarily run on automatic with an intervalometer. I just need to check focus and centering of the solar image periodically during the long partial phases. I will use part of totality to attend to this camera and take a deep corona photo.
A few days ago I looked at the solar imagery from the spacecraft and ground observatories and feared that our Sun would be completely spotless for next week’s solar eclipse. The one sunspot visible had just rotated out of view, not to return until well after the eclipse. There were no other sunspots apparent.
Our Sun has served up a very nice surprise. A complex and energetic sunspot group has formed. Better yet it will be just about mid-disk when the Moon arrives.
Sunspot group AR2671 formed on the eastern limb of the Sun over the last couple days. It has even produced a few c-class solar flares to show it has some vigor.
Better yet… This sunspot group will be a boon to eclipse photographers across the US. The pattern of dark spots will make the difficult task of focusing a telescope on the Sun far easier. These spots will provide a focus target to untold telescopes.
The only question now is will the group last for five more days? Will is grow or shrink.
Among the petroglyphs at Horsethief Lake is one that has always caused me to wonder. Of course the site is home to the famous Tsagaglalal or She-Who-Watches image. This is not the one I refer to, rather a somewhat smaller and usually overlooked image.
To me this petroglyph is obviously a total solar eclipse.
To my eye the image is clearly that of the solar corona surrounding the black shadow of the Moon against the Sun. The image is all the more striking to me personally… In 1979 I witnessed a total solar eclipse, my first, just a short distance from here, from the bluffs above Maryhill.
With a quiet Sun, no active sunspot regions on the face or limb of the visible disk, one wonders what the solar corona will look like. What will we see when the Moon blots out the Sun and the corona is revealed.
Unlike solar observers of old, we can look at the corona without waiting for an eclipse. We have both spacecraft and ground based telescopes equipped with coronagraphs. With these we can view the corona in real-time everyday!
Just up the hill from me is the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory. I know a couple folks that work there and have toured the facility. MLSO is a fairly modest telescope equipped with some very specialized instruments. This telescope stares at the Sun all day, every day, monitoring our star as part of a worldwide network of solar observatories.
What will the Sun look like when eclipse day arrives on August 21st?
There is only one major sunspot group visible at the moment. The large spot AR2670 has been visible for a couple weeks now, crossing the face of the Sun since the beginning of the month.
I observed this spot several times while training some folks at the observatory to use a solar setup and while testing my eclipse telescope.
AR2670 is now disappearing from sight as it rotates over the limb, maybe it will be back in another couple weeks for a third appearance.
Checking the SOHO image archive and the GONG farside maps shows there is nothing else, no significant solar activity that will appear before the total eclipse in eight days. Nothing hiding on the farside to rotate into sight.
There is a slim chance of something new developing over the next week. However, we are approaching solar minimum, a quiet Sun is to be expected. Indeed, I expect we will have an almost featureless solar disk on eclipse day.
Update 14 Aug 2017: With one week to go a new spot has appeared! I do not see that is has an AR designation yet, but this new spot should be in the middle of the Sun on eclipse day if it lasts for the week. It may not be big or pretty, but it will at least give everyone something to focus cameras on in preparation for the main event.
Update 15 Aug 2017: The new sunspot has been designated AR2671 and has already produced some C class flares. Looks like has the energy to develop a bit more. At least one small sunspot for the eclipse?