WOW ! Spectacular Annular Solar Eclipse on May 10, 2013

Obviously after going so far, I wouldn't set up with a tree blocking my view. The image of the little eagles has been overlaid on the eclipse image.
We were on the road and close to our observing site. I pulled up and took some pictures of these Little Eagles.  Geoff Sims soon pulled up behind
me and scared them off but not before I photographed them in this dead tree.  

I've never been a big fan of annular eclipses.  Some of my friends have probably heard me refer to them as glorified partial eclipses. A small group of us travelled to Newman Western Australia to watch the annular eclipse on May 10. A few of us went to the limit zones of the eclipse where second contact occurred just as the lower limb of the Sun cleared the astronomical horizon. The atmosphere distorted the solar disk to give some great optical effects.  Three of us, Bengt Alfredsson, Geoff Sims and I travelled to the south west corner of the eclipse path. We were located 220km south of Newman and about 10km west of the highway placing us 20km inside the southern limit.  At our location, second contact occurred with the lower limb of the sun on the ideal horizon.  Colin Legg was 250km north near the north limit also at the sunrise point.

We went to a lot of trouble to find a location where second contact, the start of the annular eclipse, occurred right on the horizon in a location where we could see right to a flat zero degree "ideal" horizon.  The group spent countless hours during the months leading up to the eclipse scouring Google Earth,  Google Maps street view, lots of discussions with Xavier Jubier, programmer of the google earth interactive eclipse tool and Michael Zeiler.

Then, we had to find a way to point our telescopes in the dark with focal lengths ranging 600-2000mm at exactly the spot where the sun would rise.  "Easy," I hear you say.  With the sun below the horizon and about 90% obscured, there was none of the usual bright glow at the spot on the horizon. We were in iron ore country so most of the high ground had magnetic minerals near the surface.  Compass needles would vary by 25 degrees as we moved around the tops of small hills and ridges proving useless for azimuth measurements.  So we had to use referencing to physical features and corrections for the changing azimuth of the Sun. Surveys of sunrise were made 5-6 days prior to the eclipse. During May, the Sun is shifting north at about 0.25o per day. My reference survey was made at sunrise on May 5 so we hade to make roughly 1.5 degree azimuth corrections. 

Above :  My lunar azimuth calculator for the 4-10 May leading up to the eclipse based on one by Geoff Sims for the 6-10 May .

This photo was taken at 6:27:59am two minutes before sunrise and second contact.  The field is approximately 9 degrees wide.  My other eclipse cameras had 600mm and 1250mm focal lengths and  fields that were only 2o and 1o wide respectively.  While you can see roughly where sunrise will be,  there was no hint of the location of sunrise nor the foreground marker trees I wanted to use to point my camera. By some miracle, the underexposure warning on the camera's liveview picked up the outline of the trees and was flashing their outline in green. Suddenly I had my marker points  and was able to line up the camera.  

Geoff and Colin put a lot more work into their surveying, nailed the framing & deserved their success.  I had the Moon entering the bottom left corner of my 1250mm focal length Maksutov frame and had to eventually reframe.  I did however wait for C2 which was "in frame" before reframing. The telescope with video had a field not much bigger than the Moon.  It wasn't easy.  Colin and Geoff's work paid off and they were nearly spot on,  We put much less work into the surveying compromising preparation to allow time to spend 4 days in Karijini National Park. I wanted to show the Moon in the bottom left corner but placed it half out of the bottom left corner- about 1/4 degree off. At least I had the right half that caught the chromosphere at C2.  

This video is edited and shows the sun in annular eclipse as the Sun rises. It was taken with a K-01 camera shooting full HD attached to an Orion 100mm f12.5 Maksutov  : -

When I get home to a faster connection, I might upload one in higher resolution.  

In the first two images, you can see a thin red line joining the two bright cusps.  This is the solar chromosphere, a 2000km thick layer of hot ionized hydrogen gas that glows bright pink. This close to the horizon it showed up as a thin dull red line.






The solar annulus was twisted and distorted by the atmosphere on the horizon giving rise to this peculiar shape.  This is what we came to see.  

Had the atmospheric conditions been ideal, this is the sort of atmospheric distortion we'd hoped to see...............

I observed severe distortion like this across Lake Eyre in 2011

But we were more than happy to even have views like this............. spectacular.  

These photos were taken with a 600mm f7.5 ED refractor which I carried up the hill in three trips.


Below is a frame grab from my HD video cam.   It was taken 10 seconds after third contact with the 2000km
thick layer of ionized hydrogen gas known as the chromosphere is visible joining the two solar cusps.

We tried some astrophotography from the observing site while conducting the survey.  The sky wasn't particularly dark
thanks to mines in the area.  This exposure was 300s at ISO800 with a 12mm f4. Camera on fixed tripod. Camera was
guided by the camera's built-in Astrotrace GPS assisted guiding function.

Thanks to my main collaborators Geoff Sims with whom I began planning this trip during last year's transit of Venus, my traveling partner in crime, Bengt Alfredsson and time-lapse photographer Colin Legg.  

Xavier Jubier and Michael Zeiler for invaluable assistance with calculations and mapping that we used to find the site.   Clear views to an ideal horizon were hard to come by.  I am especially grateful to Colin and Geoff.  Colin and Geoff located the southern site and kindly shared the info with us.

It was nice to meet Eugene and Joerg, a large contingent of Chinese and Chinese Malaysian time-lapse photographers.

A big thanks to Terry Cuttle and Jay Anderson for good company, weather advice and a much needed beer in Karijini National Park a few days earlier.

Karijini National Park

Between surveying and the eclipse, Bengt and I went up to Karijini for a few days.  I've wanted to visit this area for many years but it's a long and expensive trip from Canberra.  This eclipse gave me the perfect excuse to fulfil this longheld ambition to visit this area.  Here are a few shots of the gorges and wildlife.  

Dales Gorge

Hancock Gorge  

Dales Gorge..........................................................................................................Hancock Gorge

 Hancock Gorge

Hancock Gorge

Australian Native Rainbow Bee. Look carefully,you'll see that native bees have no stinger.

A Spotted Harrier hovers over us at the top of Dales Gorge above Fortescue Falls.

 Fortescue Falls and circular pool.

Joe Cali

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