August 2017 Update: US trip to observe the Total Solar Eclipse!

Tom O’DonoghueAfter two unsuccessful attempts previously to see all the stages of a Total Eclipse, the prospects to view the American Eclipse in August were excellent. The path of the shadow was to cross the entire country, giving plenty of locations to view it from.

I had booked accommodation in Wyoming a year in advance, at Fireside campside in Jackson Hole. This area has very good weather forecasts at this time of year. There was also the bonus of the stunning local scenery from the Teton Mountain range, and Yellowstone park just a short drive up the road.



My friend Gretchen joined me on the trip, and I was to meet up with another Dutch astrophotographer Andre Von Hoeven, who had informed me about the campsite the year earlier.



The night before the forecast looked perfect, with any small thin clouds dissipating early in the morning. A few hours before Contact 1, where the Moon can be seen to touch the Suns edge, we had 100% clear skies.

Equipment and Location
I had brought over a Takahashi FS60 CB telescope to take my eclipse photos. This is actually my guidescope for the Spanish and French Deep Sky setups, but I had taken it back from Ollys just for the Eclipse. I added an extender section in the middle of the tube. This took the focal length from 355mm, to 600mm, and the focal lenght to F/10. I was using a Canon 5D Mk3, all on a Star Adventurer mount. There was some wobble, and vibrations when you focused that took a few seconds to die down. All in all, I had taken 22 Kg out of an allowable 30Kg in equipment for the Eclipse shoot, and for Panoramic holiday photos.

I set up beside Andres RV as he had a clear unobstructed view to the South / South East in the direction of the eclipse. I wanted to view this eclipse, and let a small laptop automate the exposures. A huge thank you to Liam Hackett for lending me the small light laptop.

The night before I checked the equipment, and all worked as it should. However 45mins before totality, I ran a test, and the laptop would not communicate with the Camera. This brought on a mild panic, but after checking all connections and re-booting everything, the laptop was back in control, with no clear reason to what the issue was. I had set up a small pocket camera also to take a video of the event. Sadly it ran out of memory before C3, the time when the Sun begins to re-emerge. However the excitement of everyone at the campside could clearly be heard.

The Eclipse
I did not notice the shadow approaching as I was focussing the camera, and removing the Solar filter just before C2. We had however been enjoying the views of the Crescent through the leaves of the trees, and also the effect of hands at 90 degrees to each other with different sharpness to their shadows. I found the last few seconds to C2 came on so quickly. The changing light and the drop in temperature was incredible. I loved the deep Blue hue on the sky, and I managed to spend some time scanning the 360 degrees around at the horizon, where it seemed to be twilight everywhere.

The Coronal streamers were gorgeous. There were 3 very pronounced tails reaching far out a few radii of the Moon. Regalus, Venus, and Mars were very bright in the vicinity also.

All too quickly, at C3 (Contact 3) the re-appearance of the Sun via the Diamond ring began to brighten up the sky. I did notice the shadow leaving us during this stage.

That just left us to pop the Champagne and relive the experience with Andre and his family, and all those other eclipse chasers around us. The laptop did its job, and I managed to obtain the following images of the Eclipse.

Note: All my solar eclipse images are available to purchase from my Online Store here

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