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Here comes… [Next Page - …The Sun]
October 7, 2023

An annular solar eclipse occurs October 14, and I plan to be in New Mexico to see it. (In an annular eclipse, the moon is completely in front of, but does not cover, the sun. A total eclipse like the one coming up April 8, 2024 completely covers the sun.) I was doing some equipment testing today and determined my optimal equipment setup, which is the 6D Mark II connected to the Televue 85 telescope with a T-mount straight tube. This is basically a manually-focused 600mm lens with a fixed F7 aperture. I have various attachments I acquired years ago that supposedly allow shooting a camera through the telescope eyepiece. This would allow greater magnification, but all of these are difficult to use and basically suck in combination with my particular telescope and mount, which is just an alt-azimuth head on a camera tripod.

The first image is my test today, triggered over a USB connection to my laptop. The second image is the annular "Ring of Fire" eclipse I captured in Iceland in 2003. Clouds partially obscured my view at the key moment in 2003, but I was luckier than many who got completely shut out by the weather.

In 2003, I used the 100-400 zoom with a 1.4x teleconverter on the long-gone 1D Mark I. To show how much the clouds affected and almost ruined the exposure, the image shown here had exposure time of TWO SECONDS, about 500 times slower than my test with the same lens and filter yesterday. Obviously I had a tripod. In my test yesterday, I also noticed that the the focus was soft. Despite the need to manually focus, I got sharper images with the telescope today than with the autofocus 100-400 yesterday. Looking back at the 2017 total eclipse, the sunspots leading up to totality also were a bit soft (even without using the 1.4x teleconverter), but I'm more than happy with what I got during totality, perhaps because I switched from the filtered 100-400 to the unfiltered 300mm for those few minutes. The Televue glass telescope filter is better optically than the camera lens filter made of film, and it doesn't have an orange cast. I will probably get a glass 77mm filter for the next eclipse.

There were a few tiny sunspots today, unlike the sun during the partial eclipse of 2014 which had some huge sunspots, as shown in the third image below. That image was shot with the 5D Mark III attached to the telescope.

One thing I figured out about astrophotography rather quickly is it can become quite expensive and time consuming. My equipment for shooting wildlife is the same as what the pros use. My equipment for shooting the heavens is not. The Hubble cost billions of dollars, and I can't compete with that. I haven't bought any additional stuff in the past 20 years and I mostly shoot just the sun and the moon. The final image was my attempt to capture the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December 2020 with my 500mm lens on a tripod. If you Google search the NY Times image of this event, what they had isn't much better than this.

The first image is not posted on my web site and is not linked to a larger version.


Iceland 2003

Partial eclipse sunspots, 2014

Jupiter & three of its moons, and Saturn, December 2020.

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