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Practical Astronomy

SOLAR ECLIPSE SPECIAL

Special Issue February 2011


January 4th Eclipse

Announcements
Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special Issue - Feb 2011

In this issue..
First Light
Welcome to
WARNING: Observing the Sun is very dangerous for this special
your eyes, without proper filters. Take great care. solar eclipse
NEVER look at the Sun directly. issue of
Practical
Astronomy

3 SOLAR ECLIPSE JAN 4 2011, ZANJAN IRAN I received


some excellent images of the
partial solar eclipse last month
- too many to include in the
5 SOLAR ECLIPSE - THE SHORTEST NIGHT regular issue for next quarter.

So I decided to produce this
special issue, to share the
8 SOLAR ECLIPSE JAN 4 2011, THESSALONIKI GREECE solar images more widely. It’s
also a good place for Elvio
Alanis’ Shortest Night article,
about his total solar eclipse
9 SOLAR ECLIPSE JAN 4 2011, THE SUN IS BEAUTIFUL experience, a while ago.

11 A REQUEST FOR HELP FROM INDIA I now have a good number of


articles for the next regular
issue, but I still need YOUR
12 ASTRO IMAGING COMPETITION contributions of articles and
images, for thereafter.
13 SKY VIEW - JANUARY TO MARCH 2011 Clear skies,
!
Kevin Brown

Cover design: Pixeljuice snc


Find back issues and related resources in the Cover image: Asadollah Gamarinezhad
Members’ Area (partial solar eclipse, January 4th 2011)
(subscribe to get the password, if you haven’t yet)

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Practical Astronomy magazine is published quarterly


Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse online. ISSN 2042-2687
Special Issue - Feb 2011 Views expressed are not necessarily those of the
editor or publisher. May include errors and
omissions. Trademarks are the property of their
Editor: Kevin Brown FRAS respective owners. The publisher is not responsible
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without express permission.

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 2


Solar Eclipse, Jan 4 2011: Zanjan, Iran
By Asado!ah Gamarinezhad

Pictures of the January 4 2011 Solar eclipse taken from Amand village, Zanjan, Iran
by Asadollah Gamarinezhad

“cold and cloudy weather! beautiful partial eclipse between clouds”

Equipment used: Canon 350D and G11 cameras, EQ 3.2 mount, Questar 3.5" and William
Optics Megrez telescopes

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 3


Solar Eclipse, Jan 4 2011: Zanjan, Iran (cont)
By Asado!ah Gamarinezhad

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 4


Solar Eclipse: The Shortest Night
By Elvio Alanis, Argentina

It was a cool Spring


morning. It had just
dawned and the sky
was clear and blue.
Later on, we would
surely feel the heat in
that humid region of
the Bolivian Chaco,
but that didn't bother
us now.
We were busy
preparing our
instruments for a long-
planned experience.
The weather
conditions, so crucial
to the success of our
work, were ideal and
according to our
estimates, would
remain so for the next
few hours.
part of the gravel road with an occasional
Everything was under control, and although we vehicle. It was an ideal location.
still had a few details to complete, we thought
that nothing would prevent us from Then suddenly, we heard the sound of an
accomplishing our mission. engine coming towards us on the pavement. It
was a motorcycle, which drove over the spot
We were excited and in high spirits - who where we had just been standing, without
wouldn't be??? paying us any attention at all!
Everything was going as planned. We had Later, I realized that the man had probably sped
achieved a good alignment of the main past a unique opportunity, without knowing it.
instrument and it was working synchronously Further up the road, he would not come across
with sidereal time, compensating for the Earth's another group of specialized people with
daily rotation. The classic sensor we had appropriate equipment, and be able to share
installed on it, would periodically record the the extraordinary phenomenon that was about
various stages of the phenomenon we were to occur.
studying.
The light grew dimmer and dimmer, almost
A camera, mounted on a tripod, was ready to unnoticeably at first; then decreasing rapidly to
capture additional details through a 200 mm the point of hindering the reading of our
telephoto. Another camera would be used for instruments.
capturing memories of the event.
The landscape looked unreal beneath that
We had settled on a paved road under gloomy light. Something strange was
construction and closed to traffic, happening: there was not a single cloud in the
approximately 300 meters from a gravel road sky and when I looked towards the Sun, I saw
intersection, so we weren't expecting any painfully, that it was still in its place.
vehicles to pass by. Nobody should interrupt
our work. Only in the far distance, could we see Our trembling voices, while exchanging the
brief comments required by our tasks and the

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 5


Solar Eclipse: The Shortest Night (cont)
By Elvio Alanis, Argentina

nervousness of our movements,


made the growing excitement
almost overwhelming.
What followed happened so fast,
that despite having several
instruments, we could only register it
in our memory.... forever.
For a very brief moment, we were lit
from above in a way never
experienced by any of us before.
Everything looked as if the
atmosphere had disappeared; as if it
was a photograph taken on the
Moon. The light came only from
above and there was no diffuse light
to fill in the shadows.
Then that surreal view I got of my
team mates, as surprised and
amazed as I was, that unique
impression in my life, suddenly
disappeared to make way for an
even more puzzling and wonderful
event.
The light went out abruptly. It
became night... but without twilight.
Although our reasoning minds
What about the Sun?!! We all looked towards
refused to believe it, night had arrived, in the
the place where the Sun should have been.
blink of an eye.
At first, only a round hole surrounded by a thin
This was witnessed by the stars that appeared
and faint circle of light could be seen, radiating
in the sky. The birds also believed it: intuitively
dazzling flashes from the prominence on its
they stopped chirping and went to sleep. Even
edge. It was like a "diamond ring" drawn in the
the occasionally buzzing mosquito in my ear,
sky.
believed it.
The Moon, invisible, slipped in front of the Sun,
The temperature dropped significantly and a
letting through its mountains the last rays of
cool breeze blew for a moment, making me
sunlight, until it finally managed to cover it all.
shudder.
Just a bit later, as if suddenly lit up, there
But it was a strange and unique night, not
appeared a bright halo around the Sun; like a
preceded by a sunset - twilight lacking. In the
cloud.
West, the sky and the mountains were dark.
However, towards the South, far from us on the The solar corona!
horizon, we could see a thin strip of bright sky... An image we had seen so often in books and
And the strangest thing, was all this was magazines, had suddenly appeared before our
happening at 9.45 in the morning. eyes, silently floating in a dark blue sky.
Surrounding it, there appeared Venus, Jupiter

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 6


Solar Eclipse: The Shortest Night (cont)
By Elvio Alanis, Argentina

and Mercury, the three planets that at the time


were near the eclipsed Sun, and also some
bright stars.
What a sight!
Our instruments were recording images of all
the happenings. At least, that's what we were
expecting. This was precisely the reason we
had planned the trip.
But the instruments needed to be handled and
properly regulated to suit rapidly changing
conditions. We were trained for it and knew
exactly what to do.
Then I heard someone asking.. what aperture
should I use? I think F2 - I babbled without any
conviction.

they were being used to interfere with our


breathing reflexes or accelerate our heart rate,
making our movements awkward.
Each of us was also trying to treasure the
images and feelings, that no instrument could.
We had very little time. We were in the shadow
of the Moon, a shadow that was smoothly
gliding over the surface of the Earth.
We knew that soon, dawn would arrive for the
second time that day and our wonderful dream
would end.
It would be a unique, three-minute night. And
for those there, it would undoubtedly be the
How strange! shortest night ever lived until then.
Our senses were working feverishly, but the
information gathered was directed to a wrong Impressions of a total solar eclipse by Elvio Alanis.
part of our brain. (translated #om Spanish by Josefina Passamai and
The photons entering our eyes did not translate Antone!a Scaravi!i)
into camera settings, as usual. No. Apparently

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 7


Solar Eclipse, Jan 4 2011: Thessaloniki, Greece
By Iordanou Theodoros

Partial Solar Eclipse


January 4th 2011,
from Thessaloniki,
Greece

These photos were


taken with a Nikon
D-70 camera, Ensinor
400mm telephoto
lens and Vixen barlow
2x lens.
A red infra-red filter
was used on the
camera, to cut out
much of the light,
before taking these
frames.
The first shot was
taken at 9:55:29 and
one hour later it
began snowing!

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 8


Solar Eclipse, Jan 4 2011: The Sun Is Beautiful
Even Eclipsed By Iman Miri

Eclipses are great opportunities to observe, Go for it


photograph and study. I had captured the eclipse from the very
They divide into two categories: Total and beginning to the end with more than 150 Jpeg
Partial, with the second occurring more and RAW images (RAW images are not
frequently throughout the world. compressed and work as negatives, so images
Some eclipses occur every year in part of the taken with this format have the possibility for
world and fortunately, the recent one was being fully processed by software), and up to
visible from Tehran, Iran. This partial eclipse 30 minutes of Full HD (1980*1080- 2.1 MP)
was a great chance for me to video.
observe and photograph.
Be ready before it occurs
I had prepared myself for this
event from 20th Dec 2010;
checking the weather condition,
optimizing my instruments and
searching for a good observing
site, were part of the activities
which I had done to become ready
for the event. The partial eclipses
are not suitable for scientific
studies, however very appropriate
for observing and photography.
I was prepared for everything and
my only concern was the weather,
although I had checked it (this year
most of the weather forecasts
were wrong, and my concern was
because of this). The focal length of my telescope is 900 mm
At the site and the crop factor of my non-full format
Everything was good: weather, instruments, camera is 1.6x, so the final focal length is:
etc, just the polluted air and moisture - 900*1.6=1440 mm, which is a stunning
however not too annoying. magnification appropriate for capturing the
Sun.
For safe solar observing, using suitable filters is
crucial and this is also true for photography.
Never look directly at the Sun without
suitable filters
Photography gear
My photography gear consisted of:
a DSLR (7D) and a non-DSLR (SX10 IS) Canon
cameras, 120 mm APO telescope, 100-400 IS
USM and 18-135 Canon lenses, a motorized
equatorial and two photography tripods, focal
reducer plus M48 T-ring, filters, batteries, etc.

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 9


Solar Eclipse, Jan 4 2011: The Sun Is Beautiful
Even Eclipsed (cont) By Iman Miri

When the telescope tube is used as the prime


lens, the camera cannot control the aperture
value (it is set to highest value by default), so
the only function for defining the amount of
captured light is the shutter speed - a value
between 1/400-1/600 works the best for the
camera.
The next challenging factor is focus. While
most of the astronomical objects are far from
Earth, setting the focus is a highly challenging
experience and it has no rule or equation. For
having the best focus, I suggest you to set the
focus using the focus dial and take some
pictures, then review them to find the best
focus range.
Before the next
Before the next solar eclipse comes, dedicate
some time to optimize your instrument and
improve your experience. Take some pictures
of the Sun (if available, in RAW format) and use
Photoshop or any other image processing
software, to enhance the details and overall
look of your shots. Use others’ experience and
share with them, to find the best and easiest
way for doing it. I can help you online with this:
email isec@scientist.com, I am intensely
waiting to receive your emails and help you
improve.

Contribute Your Articles And Images


and become a worldwide published author (no joke)
www.PracticalAstronomy.com/submit-article
Use the above link, to contribute articles and/or images to Practical Astronomy. Or send by
email, if you prefer to: editor@practicalastronomy.com

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 10


Announcement: A Request For Help

Can You Help Divyadarshan In India?


In previous issues of Practical Astronomy, you can see the contributions
from Divyadarshan Purohit of Vadodara in the Gujarat region of India.
You may therefore already be aware of the educational work he does
there, teaching students about radio astronomy and the Universe.
He now needs some optical equipment to further this outreach work.
Hence, this appeal for help..
Would you, or any other individuals or organizations you know, be willing to donate and ship
needed items to India?
Specifically, he needs some small, used telescopes of 2-4 inch aperture, to carry out to deep
rural areas and help students there observe the Night Sky telescopically for the first time.
He also needs a single, larger telescope, which will be permanently located at his Gurudev
Observatory in Vadodara. This would ideally be a new instrument like the Meade LS-8 ACF
LightSwitch, although a larger telescope would be most welcome.
Please consider if you or someone you know, could help with this...
In return, Divyadarshan will provide regular reports on how the equipment is being used in his
local educational activities in India. He can also arrange publicity (if desired) through TV, Radio
and Press coverage in India.
You can contact Divyadarshan directly for more information.
Email: divyadarshan63@gmail.com
Telephone: (cell) +91-09925294836 or (R) +91-0265-2461207

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Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 11


Announcement: Astro Imaging Competition

Check out this Astro Imaging competition


over at the ukastroimaging.co.uk forum.
Valuable prizes to be won and fun to be had!

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 12


Sky View: Northern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 51N)

Looking East

These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 13


Sky View: Northern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 51N)

Looking South
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 14


Sky View: Northern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 51N)

Looking West
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 15


Sky View: Northern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 51N)

Looking North
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 16


Sky View: Southern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 30S)

Looking West
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 17


Sky View: Southern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 30S)

Looking North
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 18


Sky View: Southern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 30S)

Looking East
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 19


Sky View: Southern Hemisphere Mid-Feb 21:00 GMT (lat. 30S)

Looking South
These maps show the sky view in different directions at 21.00 GMT in mid-February, for an
observer at latitude 51deg North (northern hemisphere) or 30deg South (southern hemisphere).
In January/March? Objects rise later/earlier.
Closer to the equator? Objects are higher above your local southern/northern horizon, but
patterns are the same.
Local time zone not GMT? The view should be much the same at 9pm in your local time.
Maps generated with Stellarium

Practical Astronomy Solar Eclipse Special 20