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  • Dr Toner Stevenson

Preparing for the next Total Solar Eclipse

Like many amateur astronomers I am planning to visit the United States to view a total solar eclipse in August this year. On Monday morning, 21 August 2017, the eclipse path will travel right across the USA as seen in the eclipse map and detailed information published by NASA. You can see, in the video below supplied by NASA, how the shadow of the Moon will travel across the land creating the path of totality.

This will be my fifth attempt at viewing a Total Solar Eclipse, and it all depends on being in the right location (on the path of totality), at the right time and the weather. In 2008 I successfully viewed an eclipse in Siberia, in 2010 another opportunity on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) was again a highly successful experience as the eclipse was viewed over the Moai statues. In 2012 we were fortunate to be in the pathway of totality in Australia, and again the sky cleared for viewing the eclipse up in the mountains west of Port Douglas in north Queensland, Here the Sun spectacularly rose partially eclipsed over gum trees and rocks. Last March I joined a group of Indonesian astronomers and hopeful eclipse enthusiasts voyaging to a remote island in the Malacca Straits.

This time, due to cloud cover, we only saw a split second of totality, ably photographed by journalist Anton Williams using a zoom lens camera on a sturdy tripod. You can see below that even though there is still some fine cloud, Anton has captured the corona and two solar prominences.

We had many types of instruments prepared as you can see in the photograph below. Local school students made pinhole cameras and used a Solar-scope through which we were able to project the partial phases, this was both safe and very effective.

It is most important to view the partial eclipse phases safely by wearing authorised eclipse glasses, projection or a telescope with a tested solar filter. The educational and public program I was part of in Indonesia has been published, you can read more about the aims of the program and its results here.

In preparing for the next eclipse I am taking a good camera with a zoom lens, a sturdy tripod, a projection device, solar eclipse glasses and a big bag full of good luck for a clear sky.

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