Annular Eclipse Party (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 14 Oct 2023

Annular Eclipse Party

[Annular eclipse, afocal with cellphone camera through H-alpha scope] The path for the Oct 14, 2023 annular eclipse passed right over my house. What luck!

We'd driven a few hours to see the last annular eclipse, in 2012, from Red Bluff, CA. The opportunity to see one from home, without needing to drive anywhere, was not to be missed.

[People at an annular eclipse party] We threw an eclipse party at the house and invited friends and neighbors. It went great. I was a little worried about whether I was being rude in holding an outdoor-only party (because COVID), and that I'd invited too many people; but we all managed to fit on the deck, and we had quite a few scopes set up, plus eclipse glasses, so everybody got lots of chances to watch the eclipse as it progressed. I think everybody had a good time. I know I did.

[Projecting an annular eclipse] For the Red Bluff eclipse, I'd tried to project the image using binoculars, so passers-by could take a look without needing to look in a telescope eyepiece. But hand-holding binoculars didn't work so well: it's fiddly and requires constant attention, and the image was not that easy to see. This time, for projection, I got the idea the night before to set up the little 90mm f/5.5 Maksutov with a 45-degree diagonal. For a screen, I taped some white paper on a lid from a metal cookie box, drilled a 1/4" hole in it and screwed it onto a separate tripod. It worked great, except that the tripod legs cast a shadow on the white screen. Draping a sweater over the top of the tripod cured that problem.

One attendee had her camera shooting an automated time-lapse. I'm looking forward to seeing how that turned out. Another was able to get her phone, with cardboard eclipse glasses held over the lens, to zoom in enough to get an impressive view of the eclipse during the annular phase. I had no idea there were phones that could zoom that far with decent image quality. I didn't try do much photography myself, since I was busy checking scopes and talking to people and, yes, enjoying the varied munches people had brought. But around maximum eclipse I did take a few afocal shots with my cellphone through the H-alpha PST (like the one shown above); the PST was showing spectacular and rapidly changing prominences, including some momentary views where you could see a prominence seemingly floating alone, the nearby solar limb being occluded by the moon.

[person wrapped in blanket during annular eclipse] As annularity approached, it got darker and noticeably colder. People retrieved their sweaters, and one guest got so chilled she wanted a blanket. Birds flocked to the feeders, despite the commotion of all the guests up on the deck (usually our birds are quite skittish), as if it was sunset, and we even got visited by a small flock of bluebirds bathing in the fountain, which is unusual here: I often see or hear bluebirds flying over but they don't often stop.

It was a very successful and fun event. I was able to share some great views of the eclipse, and I got to see lots of old friends and chat with everybody.

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[ 19:22 Oct 14, 2023    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | ]

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