Partial Solar Eclipse Watching

Photo by Robert Bernstein

Santa Barbara was far from the “Ring of Fire” line for the annular solar eclipse Saturday morning. But we did get 70% coverage and the viewing conditions were good. It was noticeably dimmer and cooler outside.

Our Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU) astronomy club generously set up a variety of viewing devices near the theater at Camino Real Marketplace. Here are my photos.

Some of them were out at 6:30AM to set up telescopes and other viewing equipment. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History was selling safe viewing glasses for just $3 each. They also worked for placing in front of your camera lens!

Here were some attendees using the glasses to watch the eclipse:

Here is how it was to put the glasses in front of my camera lens:

And here is a zoomed in view near the peak. The peak was around 9:23-9:25 AM.

Pat McPartlin is one of the SBAU heroes who is on the SBAU board and who helps out at most events. She showed how an ordinary colander can project an array of little eclipse images. Basically, an array of pin hole cameras.

Here was the view nearer the peak from another colander volunteer:

Chuck McPartlin is the Outreach Coordinator for SBAU. He is the powerhouse volunteer who is at virtually every SBAU event spreading the joy and wonder of astronomy. Yes, he is the husband of Pat. He had a video camera connected up to a viewing monitor, allowing many people to watch at once on a screen. He also was passing around a very heavy meteor chunk made primarily of nickel and iron. It is billions of years old. Chuck explained “it may be the oldest hunk of junk you have ever held”. The young lady was suitably impressed!

Here is a closer view of the monitor. One feature of a solar eclipse: You can see a silhouette of the mountains on the moon as a jagged edge of the shadow. But Chuck warned that some of the effect on this screen may be due to the pixelation of the less than high resolution camera.

Someone had created a viewing box you could place over your head to watch the eclipse. Pretty much the same as with the glasses, but with less glare and showing green rather than orange. My friend Tova was with her son Ziv, trying it out.

At one point the fog rolled in, making it impossible to view through the telescopes or filters. But it made for a stunning view that could be seen directly through the camera.

We looked through a variety of telescopes. Most interesting were the ones with hydrogen-alpha filters. Those give a clear view of the solar flares emerging from the sun. Unfortunately, I was not able to mate my camera lens with their eyepieces.

About 80 minutes after the peak, it was all over. Here was the view as we left:

Here is more information about the SBAU and their many events and programs.


Written by sbrobert

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  1. Thanks Robert!

    One slight correction: The H-alpha filters show an outer layer of the Sun called the chromosphere, because of the red color of the fluorescing hydrogen. It is normally overwhelmed by the photosphere. The feathery red projections of the chromosphere you saw around the edge of the Sun were prominences, glowing plasma held up by the intense magnetic fields. Flares are short-lived magnetic reconnection explosions that show up as bright spots lasting at most a couple of hours.

    Overall, it was a busy morning, with 2,173 people showing up over the course of the eclipse.

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