August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Like millions of other people, we went chasing the Great American Eclipse. We chose Nebraska, since everybody we knew was going to Wyoming, and the climate models suggested a good probability of clear weather. Our initial camp was at Lake McConaughy, which is just inside the line of totality. My sister Danielle and her husband Edward got there early to start scouting. Our plan was to check weather forecasts and then go mobile the day of the eclipse. The morning of August 19 I got up early and snapped this shot of the moon on its way to its date with destiny:

Sunday morning we checked the forecasts. It was not looking good for Nebraska in general, but east-central Nebraska seemed better than western according to the forecasts. So we packed up camp and headed out to Camp Augustine, a Boy Scout camp near Grand Island, Nebraska:

They had camping spots available, and a large field which would be good for observations. After a rather hot, muggy, sleepless night (dry camping with no electric hookup for the camper's A/C), we got up early on the 21st and set up our observing site:

Believe it or not, I simplified what I had planned. Here is my equipment. On the CEM-60 equatorial mount, I have a Canon 7DmkII and EF100-400 f/5.6L IS II lens with solar filter, and a Lunt 60mm Ha scope with a ZWO ASI174mm monochrome camera. In the foreground is a Canon 5DmkII with an EF8-15mm f/4L 180-degree fisheye lens:

Unfortunately, my sleepless night combined with high haze made it hard to tune the Ha scope, so the images are not much better than a regular white-light scope. Additionally, I forgot to turn the fisheye setup on until about halfway between C1 and C2. But it really did not matter. The main event was spectacular. Here is the whole sky at close to maximum totality. Note the horizon-wide sunrise, the corona around the Sun, and Venus up and to the right from the Sun:

An animated GIF of the 6 totality images clearly shows the Moon's shadow progressing across the sky:

Edit: I forgot to label the stars and planets we could see during totality, both in the all-sky image as well as closer-up images. Regulus, Jupiter, Capella, Venus, and Sirius are visible in photographs (although only Venus was obvious to the naked eye):

I got great pictures of the corona and prominences despite the high haze. This is a composite HDR of four images - three exposures for the corona (1/40, 1/60, and 1/80 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 100) and a shorter exposure for the prominences (1/2000 of a second). The corona was heavily sharpened to show the streamer detail:

Edit 2: I forgot to include the prominence-only photo:

Edit 4: I did end up with a diamond ring of sorts:

Edit 4: A heavily processed deep HDR stack which shows clouds in the sky along with coronal detail farther from the sun:

Here is a composite of several Ha images along with the corona composite:

And here is a movie I made combining various aspects of all of this:

Toward the end of the partial phase, we toasted our success with (empty) Corona beer bottles. From left to right are Edward, Danielle, Jill, and me, along with Edward's station to the left and mine to the right:

With the eclipse all done, we packed up our stuff. Note the two full 5 gallon gasoline containers on the roof of the Jeep - we were seriously prepared for the Eclipse Zombie Apocalypse. We also had about 5 gallons of water and plenty of food. Fortunately we did not need all of it:

The next day, we packed up and went home. A total of 882 miles; towing our camping trailer, we averaged 17.5 miles per gallon:

Edit 3: I put together a collage suitable for printing / framing (you can download the full-res original from this Google Photos album):

All-in-all a fantastic trip. Certainly there are things I wished I had done better - but we will have another chance in 7 years...


David Roy said…
Great work, Ross - and great, wonderful, life changing images - thank you

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