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Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

It was great fun and a new experience photographing the recent solar eclipse.  Mostly it was a learning experience for me.  It will be very difficult to get a lot of experience with this type of astrophotography because solar eclipses are rare, at least total eclipses.

The view from Ottawa at the beginning of the solar eclipse. This photograph is unprocessed, straight from the camera. Five sunspots are visible. See maximum eclipse photo below.

To photograph the eclipse I used my Nikon D7000 DSL camera mounted at prime focus on my Celestron ED 100 mm refractor scope  The big lens of the telescope was protected by a Kendrick Baader solar filter (an absolute must!!) . The telescope was secured to an Advanced VX computerized mount atop a secure tripod and aligned approximately to Polaris. 

Now of course you can’t see Polaris in the daytime so I pointed it at the approximate location of Polaris (which I know from night photography). Then I used the GOTO to point the scope towards the moon, which was just a few arcminutes from the sun. Now the telescope will track the sun and keep the image smack in the middle of the photo. The Nikon is hooked by USB cable to my Surface Pro 4 and connected by a software program known as Backyard Nikon. This presents the camera’s live view on the computer screen.  Because of the bright sunlight conditions I had the Surface Pro in a cardboard box and covered my head with a blanket in order to see the image (it was HOT!!! under there) With the help of the Surface Pro I was able to get a good focus. I set all this up in the morning and went downstairs to check my test images, which were ok.

This is the eclipse at maximum coverage 2:35 pm, August 21, 2017. This image has been processed in Lightroom.

I just used the lowest ISO setting I had which was 125. Then I tried out various exposures. I found 1/1250 second was good. The effective speed of the lens is F8 or F9. So I set the program to take one photo every 60 seconds. The eclipse started and it went really well although I was really worried about the temperature of the Surface Pro.  The captured images were processed using Lightroom. I got a ton of photos but only have shown two. They are pretty much all the same except the moon covers more of the sun, I only did a minimum of processing. I adjusted contrast slightly and increased the colour temperature a lot to get the yellow colour. The sun’s light is actually white.
You might note on close inspection that the two photos have slightly different orientations. Just after maximum eclipse, a couple of minutes actually, the telescope reached the end of its reach – who would have guessed?  It took me 5 minutes to figure out what was wrong and then I had to the ‘flip’ to bring the scope around to the other side and continue shooting. LOL a more experienced astronomer would have known how to prevent that.

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  1. Charles D'Hobbit August 27, 2017

    Great photos! When is the next eclipse in Ottawa?

    • Charles D'Hobbit August 27, 2017

      The next eclipse in the Ottawa area is April 8, 2024, just seven years away. It will be a total eclipse in Cornwall, Kingston and Niagara Falls, so book your hotel rooms now.

  2. J.E. O'Neill August 27, 2017 — Post Author

    Thanks! The next eclipse visible in Ottawa will occur on April 8, 2024. Totality will not extend to Ottawa but it will be close. Book your hotel rooms in Cornwall, Kingston and Niagara Falls if you want to experience a total eclipse. Exciting!

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