Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eclipse 2012 - the event

We got to see the eclipse!!!

We left the hotel as planned and arrived on time. The site was open, not commercial'ish and we had a private area at the best spot, looking over the Captain Cook Highway and out over the bay. The area was warm, there was not a lot of wind and there were no bugs. The air was very moist and clouds formed and dispersed very actively. Sometimes we a got a very slight drizzle. Not the best situation, but we have known all along that this eclipse would occur under complex and active tropical conditions.

Setting up, then waiting.
I set up the equipment: Borg 4" refractor on astrotrac with Nikon D300 controlled by Eclipse Orchestrator. I also got the H-alpha scope up and running for the guests. Finally, I put an old analog Nikon camera with color film and a 55mm lens behind our crowd so that we would be framed with the eclipsed Sun. Quite a lot of stuff to tend to this time. I am pushing it to the limit - got to remember to enjoy the eclipse with my senses and be mentally - even spiritually - engaged.

Venus rising.
All was ready. Venus rose - bright and steady - where the Sun soon would follow. We all took that as a good omen.

After first contact just eight minutes after sunrise, things seemed to progress very rapidly. The time from first contact to totality spanned just 54 minutes. Measured GPS position and time; entered into the software. Found the sun, focused using ImagesPlus, then went back to Eclipse Orchestrator.

Fifteen minutes before totality things started to go wrong. Large clouds started drifting past the sun. I noticed that Eclipse Orchestrators simulated view of the eclipse did NOT match reality. I scrambled - was the GPS coordinates entered wrong (no!), was the time (no!). Reboot and try again, same problem. If the software is not in synch with reality the images will not fire off at the right moments and all would be lost. Just seven minutes to go. Instead of just dumping the project and dedicating myself to enjoy the spectacle I frantically made an emergency script, using the last few minutes with my head at the computer screen. Suddenly totality started, but a cloud was blocking the sun - none of the usual ahhs and oohhhs from us all; more like a tense mumbling.

One percent makes all the difference.
I tried to initiate the emergency script but found that Eclipse Orchestrator was not responding. The fully eclipsed sun came out from behind the cloud only covered by a thin veil of haze. VERY BEAUTIFUL! All was lost with my imaging project. I ran up to the analog camera and fired off some shots of the spectacle.

I think we got the last two thirds of totality including the diamond ring and Baily's Beads. I spent too much time fiddling around and the whole thing ended before I could find myself mentally participating. Too much ambition, too little time. Leaves me a bit frustrated.

The inner corona and numerous prominences.
Still, the luck we had in seeing the totality at all was amazing. Moments later a large cloud came by and blocked the sun for ten minutes.Although a bit frustrated I am mostly very happy. I had fun doing the preparations and I will probably find time to analyze what went wrong and try again some other time. For the eclipse chaser there always comes another time!

Be sure to click all the images to get a better sense of what happened this morning. The photographer is Inge-Lise Krylbo, one the participants on this journey. More photos will follow in the coming days and we'll also hear about how it went for other observers here in tropical Australia.

1 comment:

  1. You bring tears to my eyes. Hej Mikael, sikken en gyser! Pyha, SMUKKE fotos fra jer!!! Glæder mig til at se de af dine fotos du uploader! Vi så live web cam fra Palm Cove lige nord for Cairns. De havde skyer og masser af mennesker foran kameraet under optakten, skyfrit præcis lige før under og efter totalen kl. 21:39 - 21:41 DK tid. Og så kl. 21:43 DK tid kom den der monstersky du nævner. KH Ellen