Total Solar Eclipse – August 21, 2017

Posted by as Observing Highlights

2012 Total Solar Eclipse aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, on the totality track south of New Caledonia Nov 14, 2012 200km south of New Caledonia in the Coral Sea
2012 Total Solar Eclipse

A Total Solar Eclipse is a rare astronomical event, and it is even rarer for one to occur close to where you live. Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest of North America will be favoured with such an event happening near us on August 21, 2017. In fact, everyone in North America is within striking distance of being able to observe this amazing event, where the Moon slides in front of the Sun for a few brief minutes, suddenly and totally obscuring the Sun.

If you haven’t observed a Total Solar Eclipse, this is your chance!

Location

The eclipse tracks across Oregon and Idaho, making it easy to get to the eclipse totality track from Victoria, British Columbia with one day’s drive. The major cities of Portland and Eugene in Oregon are obvious targets for those of us who are eclipse chasers. I-5, an Interstate highway, crosses the eclipse centreline at the city of Salem, Oregon as the eclipse tracks eastward across the U.S.A. So you might decide to stay in Portland or Eugene, but you will have to drive to the centreline, otherwise you will miss the eclipse!

NASA’s Eclipse website gives all the facts and figures required to find and enjoy the eclipse, including an interactive zoomable map showing the eclipse track.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017 track across Oregon and Idaho
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 track across Oregon and Idaho

At the intersection of I-5 and the eclipse path near Salem, Oregon, these are the characteristics of the eclipse:

Lat.: 44.803° N
Long.: 123.0318° W

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 0 seconds

  • Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 09:05:18AM  Altitude=27.8° Azimuth=101.2°
  • Start of total eclipse (C2) : 10:17:13.0AM  Altitude=39.8°  Azimuth=116.8°
  • Maximum eclipse : 10:18:13AM  Altitude=40.0° Azimuth=117.0°
  • End of total eclipse (C3) : 10:19:13AM  Altitude=40.1° Azimuth=117.3°
  • End of partial eclipse (C4) : 11:37:50AM  Altitude=51.0° Azimuth=140.1°

Why this location? Well, if you look at the weather predictions and the track maps, you will see this location is easiest to get to from Victoria, and offers a decent chance of clear skies. Simply take a ferry to the mainland, and drive down I-5 to Oregon. This location is away from the coastal clouds, even though there is better weather available if you drive eastward through Oregon and possibly into southern Idaho. You can also seek out more scenic locales such as Wyoming, however now you will be traveling much further.

What if you can’t travel to the track of totality?

You can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in North America. Use NASA’s Interactive Eclipse Map to get the calculated timing for the eclipse in the area you plan to observe from. Click and zoom to your area, then click on your observing spot to see a popup telling you how long the eclipse will last and what you will see.

Weather map for the Total Solar Eclipse 2017 in Oregon
Weather map for the Total Solar Eclipse 2017 in Oregon

Weather

Weather always plays a big part in any solar eclipse, so being mobile is key to improving the odds of actually seeing the event should clouds threaten to obscure the Sun at the critical moment. Our very own Jay Anderson (former RASC Journal editor) is a weather expert, and specializes in forecasting weather for solar eclipses. His Eclipse website offers sage advice backed up with maps and charts depicting weather prospects for each eclipse happening in the world for the next several years. Read Jay’s analysis of the area you propose to observe from, so you understand how the weather might behave on eclipse day. Topography, elevation changes and local factors play into how the weather evolves throughout the day for a particular locale. Become a local weather expert, and you increase your chances for success!

Observing

Observing a Total Solar Eclipse is pretty easy, however that said, if you haven’t done it before, it’s nice to have experienced eclipse observers around to guide you through the process. Obviously the time of total eclipse is the main event, however other things happen beforehand, afterwards, and during an eclipse that are worthwhile.

You should try out any gear you propose to take with you before you leave. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars, camera lenses and telescopes you are bringing along. Take test photos of the Sun weeks before you leave, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. Always have a backup plan for when (not if) gear breaks, or you simply can’t get it to work properly. Remember,you only have a couple of minutes to see this event!

Finally, relax and enjoy the day. Arrive early. Try to manage your stress level. Just sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses handy, and enjoy!

Safely observing a solar eclipse – read about how to safely observe a solar eclipse

Help!

If this will be your first time observing a total solar eclipse, no doubt you have many questions and concerns, and don’t know where to start. The resources presented here may be overwhelming. Please ask any questions you might have about eclipses at Astronomy Cafe, held each Monday evening. Your fellow RASC members have observed solar eclipses before…they can help!

Perhaps you prefer to leave it to someone else to organize for you, and take a tour. Tour organizers will ensure you are on the centreline for the event, will do their very best to seek clear skies (no guarantees though!), and will supply you with eclipse glasses and ensure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the event. Some suggestions:

  • RASC Eclipse 2017 – a scenic holiday to the midwest USA, a solar eclipse, and sponsored by RASC!
  • Sky & Telescope – overland to Nashville, seeing rockets and observatories along the way…and the eclipse
  • Travelquest – a tour company specializing in eclipses who are offering five different experiences for the 2017 eclipse

Resources

  • NASA’s Eclipse – a great starting point for information gathering and predictions
  • Eclipsophile – Jay Anderson’s weather predictions are a must to select a location that will likely have clear weather
  • Great American Eclipse – comprehensive information about this specific eclipse – where to go and what you will see
  • Eclipse 2017 – lots of home-grown advice about where to be and what to do
  • America’s 2017 Solar Eclipse – Sky & Telescope’s online resources for planning your eclipse adventure
  • MrEclipse – Fred Espenak’s guide to successfully experiencing and photographing an eclipse
  • Mr. Eclipse says west may be best… – Fred’s eclipse predictions to the Seattle Astronomical Society

 

Orion Nebula imaged by Dan Posey

Posted by as Observing Highlights

M42 – Everything and the kitchen sink

RASC Victoria Centre: Dan Posey &emdash; M42 - Everything and the Kitchen Sink

 

First off happy holidays! We have only had small windows of clear sky this month in Victoria, but I managed to gather a little bit of data about two weeks ago. I picked Orion as a test for a new light pollution filter for the Victoria RASC, and gathered an hour of ten minute subs with my unmodded 6D. It turned out quite nice, so I found some old data and made a project of it.

All of the subs were shot with the same Np127is. This image consists of 6×10 minutes at iso 400 with an umodified Canon 6D, 7×10 minutes (OSC) with a QSI 583c, 59×1 minutes (OSC) with the same QSI for the core, and 4×20 minutes of hydrogen alpha data with a 3nm filter. All of the files were calibrated and stacked using Pixinsight.

I created a synthetic luminance frame and red channel using a blend of the hydrogen alpha and 6D/QSI data through pixelmath. Unfortunately some high moisture/thin cloud left a bit of a noisy halo on the lower right stars in the data from the 6D, but it added so much to the image overall I left it in. I did my best to regulate the noise down there, but it is what it is.

Dan Posey

Dec 11, 2015 – observing session on the UVic 32″ telescope

Posted by as Observing Highlights

2015-12-11-RASC Observing Group in front of the UVic telescope
RASC Observing Group in front of the UVic telescope

Introduction

This time, we will be offering a study of star clusters. We will have the big telescope trained on many of the various types of beautiful star clusters visible at this time of year, and offer a study session of each. A great learning opportunity, especially newcomers to astronomy, or to anyone who simply loves the beauty of star clusters!

Location

32″ (0.8m) DFM Cassegrain telescope, Bob Wright Building, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Observing Reports

Finally! We caught a well-deserved break in the weather for the UVic observing session last night. John, Chris, and I were joined by Miles, Reg, Les, Barb, Diane, Lauri, and David for a tour of and dozen interesting open clusters, finishing off with a lovely view of M42. Despite the ridiculously bright (unshielded) lights from Centennial Stadium and some significant mist, the viewing was terrific.

Or, maybe it’s just that we haven’t seen stars for so long it just *seemed* terrific?

Nah. It was great! Thanks for coming out everyone, and thanks to John and Chris for helping host these sessions, and to Reg for his weather prognostications. You nailed it!

We will announce the next session, hopefully in January.

Sherry


We had a good session at the UVic Observatory last evening observing open clusters across the Milky Way. A list of the clusters and photo of the observers are attached. We also had a look at Pleiades and M42.

Those attending were David Lee, Diane Bell, Reg Dunkley, Miles Waite, Lauri Roche, Leslie Welsh and Barbra Wright.

It was Sherry’s idea to follow a theme for the evening and that seemed to go down very well with those present. The hosts, Chris, Sherry and I plan to do this again with galaxies being the focus next time.

2015-12-11-OpenClusters-MilkyWay (pdf)

John McDonald


There’s something nice about a clear night in the middle of a December “wind and rain” parade !! Several members joined John McDonald and Sherry Buttnor for a lovely evening under the 0.8 meter reflector at U-Vic’s Bob Wright Building. We enjoyed our “tour” of several open clusters; many of them were Messiers. The icing on the “cake” was a view of M42 in Orion, with the Trapezium….My favourite was M103, the Christmas Tree cluster – in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Very pretty through the ‘scope. Thanks to John, Sherry and Chris for organizing it; also a good commentary shared on each target!!

Diane Bell

Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Observing Report

The weather was clear for this total Lunar Eclipse. RASC Victoria Centre members were observing from various locations around Victoria, including Cattle Point, Mt. Tolmie, Clover Point, and Esquimalt Lagoon. It was a beautiful clear Sunday night with mild temperatures, so thousands of members of the public came out to see the apparition as the Moon rose in the east around 7PM. Many missed the first minutes of the eclipse since the Moon was obscured by low clouds along the SE horizon, however once it cleared the clouds, it was a spectacular sight! By 9PM, the show was over and police at the various locations directed traffic as people returned home.

Several of our members captures excellent photos. Please browse the gallery or watch the slideshow below.

Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse
Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse

Introduction

On Sunday, September 27th, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon rises already in partial eclipse as the Sun sets just after 7 pm PDT. After reaching totality the Moon will gradually regain its brightness over the course of 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.

This will be the last total Lunar Eclipse visible in North America until January 2018!

What’s Happening

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.


Glossary

  • limb – the outer edge of the Moon
  • penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
  • umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
  • partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
  • total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra

 

 E C L I P S E   T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra 5:11 pm PDT
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra 6:07 pm PDT
Moon rises 6:58 pm PDT (approx)
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
7:11 pm PDT
Totality 7:47 pm PDT
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact 8:23 pm PDT
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra 9:27 pm PDT
Eclipse ends Moon leaves the penumbra 10:22 pm PDT

 

Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) for the west coast of North America.


Observing Tips

What do you need?

Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.

Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the east especially if you wish to view during the early stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.


Photographic Tips

Equipment
Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.

Settings
Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.

Technique
The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.

Example:

 

 Focal Length  Aperture Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
Effective Aperture
with 2x teleconvertor
 180mm  2.8  360mm  5.6
 480mm  6.8  960mm  13.6

 

To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.

Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.

 

Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
Full Moon  1/250 second at f/16
1st Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
Totality
*see table below
L = 4 : 8 seconds at f16
L = 3: 30 seconds at f16
L = 2: 2 minutes at f16
L = 1: 8 minutes at f16
3rd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1 dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2 deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3 brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4 very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim

 

Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.

Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.

The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at davidflee7331@gmail.com.


David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2015
Brenda Stuart – illustrations


The Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008 was very similar to this one in 2015. Here is the online gallery of some of our members’ photos of that event.

ISS video pass – April 12, 2014

Posted by as Observing Highlights

I have produced a short video of the International Space Station going over the Victoria Centre Observatory on the 12th of April. The track starts near Pleiades and goes almost through Polaris as it arcs over the VCO.

John McDonald

 

ISS over VCO from RASC Victoria Centre on Vimeo.

This video shows a pass of the International Space Station over the Victoria Centre Observatory on April 12, 2014. The first frame shows the ISS just past Pleiades. From there it goes on to pass very close to Polaris then exits stage right.

 

Messier Marathon 2014

Posted by as Observing Highlights, Special Events

The Messier Marathon from Victoria was a bust this year.  Both March 28 and 29 were cloudy, so it was called off.

Our member Elizabeth van Akker spends her winters in New Mexico, and had much better luck:

Hello, all, from sunny New Mexico. My friend Lesa and I successfully completed the Messier Marathon. The weather was great, the skies dark. We especially enjoyed watching the summer Milky Way rising in the early morning. From here, all of Scorpio is visible, and Sagitarius is glorious. The most difficult part was the beginning, 77, 74, 33, 31, 32, 110 were low in the west and only just visible. We are delighted with our results!

Elizabeth van Akker.

Pro-Am Double Star discoveries by Michel Michaud

Posted by as Observing Highlights

We would like to highlight the exceptional work accomplished by one of our members. As you may know Michel Michaud has been busy photographing stars in the Pleiades. Last year Michel submitted a paper titled “Double Star Measurements in the Pleiades Cluster Using a DSLR Camera” to the University of South Alabama. This paper was subsequently published in the October 2012 edition of the Journal of Double Star Observations.