Partial Eclipse

The morning of the solar eclipse and looking to the East it’s not a pretty picture. I can see the location of the Sun, which is a major advance on yesterday, but it’s not even bright enough to show up through the solar filter… not good.

Optimism wins out, and I decide to set up the solar telescopes – white light and hydrogen alpha (Hα) – before having breakfast in the hope that luck will be with me today. It owes me a break since the night time trend is for me to get cloud when others get pristine skies.

Breakfast out of the way I’m asking myself whether it’s clearing. It looks like it is, but which way are the clouds going? I’ll take a look with the Herschel wedge on my ST-80. I can see the whole solar disk and think that the remaining light clouds lend an atmospheric touch as the sunlight bounces off them. But wait, is that a notch appearing in the circular face of the Sun? Yes! The game is on.

I watched the Moon slip across the face of the Sun, pausing to make notes and quick sketches of what I could see. The Sun is very active in Hα and some of the prominences became divorced from the Sun – detached isn’t the word, these were in limbo, now above the Lunar limb! I noted the time of first and fourth contact, and when a lonely sunspot group was occulted and later reappeared.

At maximum the temperature dropped, the sky took on a twilight feel, but the colour was different. Imagine a blue sky that’s fallen in luminance, a bit like that, purple for me and my dodgy colour vision. The birds actually clammed up, they’d been active until that point.

I noticed the temperature drop caught out the relative humidity. It had been dropping too as the morning progressed, but water was suddenly unhappy being vapour and my breath sent plumes across the garden. Weird would be a good word for it.

I could have imagined it, but it looked like there was some spillover of light onto the northeastern limb of the occulting Moon. In Hα I thought I could see some detail there. Very faint if it was real at all and not a product of the optics.

The house started to get in the way, so I had to be creative with the repositioning of my equipment around the garden to watch the next phase of the drama. But it was all there – much to my surprise – from beginning to end, first contact to the last.

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