With a solar eclipse and a historic Venus transit of the sun both coming soon, hundreds of people had a chance to practice observing our star through dozens of specially filtered telescopes during a recent solar-observing bonanza in New York. The event, dubbed the Northeast Astronomy Forum Solar Star Party, offered eager skywatchers and other curious members of the public an opportunity to safely view the sun through telescopes at various wavelengths. During the transit, Venus will appear in silhouette against the sun as a small, slow-moving black dot. The sun is the "star" attraction during the annual Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) Solar Star Party in New York.
WARNING: Never look directly at the sun through a telescope, binoculars or with the unaided eye as severe eye damage can result. In addition to gaining fantastic views of the sun, people were able to glimpse the bright slim crescent of Venus in broad daylight through an unfiltered telescope. Stephen Ramsden of the non-profit educational outreach program Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project brought an impressive array of solar telescopes for the public to use and enjoy.
During the May 20 eclipse, the moon will cover most of the sun, leaving a ring of bright sunlight shining in the sky. November's total solar eclipse will be visible along a narrow track that crosses northern Australia and the South Pacific. As all of these solar skywatching events loom, the sun continues to get more and more active.
The eclipsed sun appeared like a fat, flaming sickle as it set behind a large cargo ship in this portrait obtained by Jett Aguilar from Manila Bay, Philippines, on January 26, 2009. Don't forget to use a large-capacity memory card and set the camera to its highest resolution so you can capture as much detail and color information as possible.
Switch your camera mode from Auto (A) to Manual (M) so you'll be able to control its focus as well as lens aperture, shutter speed and white-balance settings. To minimize vibrations that can blur your images, use your camera's mirror lock-up feature before each shot.
When composing your shot, try to include some interesting elements in your foreground, such as a lighthouse or sailboat silhouetted against the horizon, or people strolling on the beach. After the eclipse, be sure to download your images to your computer and back-up all your files right away. Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre are veteran eclipse chasers with 10 successful expeditions to date (eight total solar eclipses and two annulars). However, you will need to use a special Solar Filter to protect your eyes and your camera. That's because the Moon's orbit is tipped 5 degrees to Earth's so the Moon's shadow misses Earth during most New Moons. Watching and photographing an eclipse of the Sun is a relaxing activity since it progresses at a leisurely pace. If the eclipse is a total one, the last remaining minutes of the partial phases can be quite dramatic and beautiful. And the incredible solar corona is simply the most awe-inspiring naked-eye sight in all of nature. It wasn't very long ago that film was king while digital cameras were low resolution, high-priced gizmos.
The simpler Point and Shoot cameras have a non-interchangable lens with a single focal length. The most versatile (and expensive) cameras are the 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) and its digital counterpart the DSLR (digital single lens reflex).
These cameras allow you to replace the kit lens with any number of other lenses from wide angle to super telephoto.
You can even connect an SLR or DSLR directly to a telescope so that the Sun fills the entire frame. No matter what kind of camera you own, one or more of the following techniques can be used be used to shoot a solar eclipse. Almost any kind of camera can be used to capture this rare event; however, a lens with a fairly long focal length is recommended to produce as large an image of the Sun as possible.

A better choice would be one of the small, compact catadioptic or mirror lenses that have become widely available in the past 20 years. The focal length of 500mm is most common among such mirror lenses and yields a solar image of 4.6mm.
With one solar radius of corona on either side, an eclipse view during totality will cover 9.2mm.
Adding a 2x teleconverter will produce a 1000mm focal length, which doubles the Suna€™s size to 9.2mm. This means that the relative size of the Suna€™s image appears 1.5 times larger in a DSLR so a shorter focal length lens can be used to achieve the same angular coverage compared to a SLR. Another issue to consider is the lag time between digital frames required to write images to a DSLR's memory card. It is also advisable to turn off autofocus because it is not reliable under these conditions; focus the camera manually instead. If full disk photography of partial phases of the eclipse is planned, the focal length of the optics must not exceed 2500mm on 35mm format (1700mm on digital).
In order to photograph the Suna€™s corona during totality, the focal length should be no longer than about 1500mm (1000mm on digital); however, a focal length of 1000mm (700mm digital) requires less critical framing and can capture some of the longer coronal streamers. Figure 19 shows the apparent size of the Sun (or Moon) and the outer corona in both 35mm film and digital formats for a range of lens focal lengths.
A solar filter must be used on the lens throughout the partial phases for both photography and safe viewing. Such filters are most easily obtained through manufacturers and dealers listed in Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines.
These filters typically attenuate the Suna€™s visible and infrared energy by a factor of 100,000.
The actual filter factor and choice of ISO speed, however, will play critical roles in determining the correct photographic exposure. The easiest method for determining the correct exposure is accomplished by running a calibration test on the uneclipsed Sun.
After the film is developed, note the best exposures and use them to photograph all the partial phases. Just shoot a range of different exposures and use the camera's histogram display to evaluate the best exposure. The Suna€™s surface brightness remains constant throughout the eclipse, so no exposure compensation is needed except for the narrow crescent phases, which require two more stops due to solar limb darkening. The great challenge is to obtain a set of photographs that captures these fleeting phenomena. The most important point to remember is that during the total phase, all solar filters must be removed. The corona has a surface brightness a million times fainter than the photosphere, so photographs of the corona are made without a filter. Furthermore, it is completely safe to view the totally eclipsed Sun directly with the naked eye.
The average brightness of the corona varies inversely with the distance from the Suna€™s limb. The inner corona is far brighter than the outer corona; thus, no single exposure can capture its full dynamic range.
Rehearsing this sequence is highly recommended because great excitement accompanies totality and there is little time to think. This guide was developed from eclipse photographs made by the author, as well as from photographs published in Sky and Telescope.
The shutter speeds in that column may be used as starting points for photographing various features and phenomena tabulated in the a€?Subjecta€™ column at the far left.
Alternatively, the recommended shutter speed can be calculated using the a€?Qa€™ factors tabulated along with the exposure formula at the bottom of the table.
Keep in mind that these exposures are based on a clear sky and a corona of average brightness.

The exposures should be bracketed one or more stops to take into account the actual sky conditions and the variable nature of these phenomena. Point-and-shoot cameras with wide angle lenses are excellent for capturing the quickly changing light in the seconds before and during totality. Use a tripod or brace the camera on a wall or fence since slow shutter speeds will be needed. You should also disable or turn off your camera's electronic flash so that it does not interfere with anyone else's view of the eclipse.
Another eclipse effect that is easily captured with point-and-shoot cameras should not be overlooked. Use a straw hat or a kitchen sieve and allow its shadow to fall on a piece of white cardboard placed several feet away.
The small holes act like pinhole cameras and each one projects its own image of the eclipsed Sun. The effect can also be duplicated by forming a small aperture with the fingers of onea€™s hands and watching the ground below. Virtually any camera can be used to photograph the phenomenon, but automatic cameras must have their flashes turned off because this would otherwise obliterate the pinhole images. To plan your eclipse photography, you'll need to know when upcoming solar eclipses will occur and the contact times of the partial and total phases. Astrophotography Basics, Kodak Customer Service Pamphlet P150, Eastman Kodak, Rochester, 1988.
All photographs, text and web pages are © Copyright 1970 - 2014 by Fred Espenak, unless otherwise noted.
They may not be reproduced, published, copied or transmitted in any form, including electronically on the Internet, without written permission of the author. Details in the sun’s chromosphere that are visible include fine, carpet-like spicules and long, dark filaments across the disk as well as delicate prominences along the edges of the sun. The experts explained the inner workings of the sun and the various solar features visible in the eyepiece. Venus transits occur in pairs eight years apart, but these dual events happen less than once per century. Observers in the city of Cairns in Queensland will be immersed in the moon’s shadow for 2 minutes early in the morning of Nov.
3) early risers along the east coast of the United States and beyond will be treated to a spectacular sunrise eclipse, provided the weather is clear.
For example, observers in Boston and New York will see up to 54 and 48 percent of the sun obscured, respectively, while in Miami it's going to be 37 percent. If you are planning to use a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, shoot through a telescope or telephoto lens with a focal length of 400 millimeters or more to give you a fairly large image of the sun's disk in the frame. You should also operate the shutter with an electronic cable release to eliminate camera shake. This will increase your chances of getting the appropriate exposure for the scene you're interested in. The What, Where, When, Why, and How Guide to Watching Solar & Lunar Eclipses, John Wiley & Sons, 1997. You can pre-focus the camera (without the solar filter) before the eclipse using Mars or Jupiter or a bright star. Use editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to enhance the images' brightness, contrast, sharpness and color balance. 14 welder's glass filter is acceptable, but ordinary sunglasses and polarizing or neutral-density filters used in regular photography are not safe and should not be used.

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