The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Annular Eclipse Report

Time for my eclipse tale. I took in the eclipse from the Grand Canyon. I stayed in Flagstaff (visited Meteor Crater and Sunset Crater…maybe another blog on that later) and drove up to the Canyon Sunday morning. I got there about 11:00am and went through the east entrance near Desert View/the Watchtower. The Watchtower is where the park service was going to set up telescopes. I decided to drive down and check out all the overlooks to see where I wanted to be. By the time I hit Grand Canyon Village, I knew Lipan Point was my choice so I turned around (ate lunch on the way) to go back there. Only problem was, Lipan Point had limited parking and not a lot of room for setup so I was worried I might have missed my window of opportunity.

I pulled into Lipan about 2pm and got lucky as a great parking spot opened up. Even luckier was finding a great spot to set up. I set up close to the edge of the Canyon (past the guard rail) so people wouldn’t stand in front of me. Now just a long wait until the eclipse. I tweeted early in the day that today was like the Super Bowl for astronerds. Well, this was the tailgaiting part of the day. Lots of people were there, looking through scopes and swapping stories. The park service closed acces to Lipan later in the day because the was no more parking. As a result, it never got too crowded.

I set up my Canon Digital Rebel with a solar filter and a PST (Personal Solar Telescope) on a tracking mount. Finally, the Moon took a small bite out of the Sun.


The eclipse progressed nicely. Look closely for sunspots!

I attached a small, inexpensive point and shoot camera to my PST. The PST has a hydrogen alpha filter on it which lets you see prominences and filaments. I should have taken more pics with it, but they looked lousy on the small camera screen. They looked better when I downloaded them. Here is a shot from the PST. Note the little flame-like structures on the edge of the Sun (prominences) and the filaments (little dark lines on the Sun). You can only see these with a hydrogen alpha filter, not a white light filter.

Another PST shot closer to totality. You can see a nice active region in the lower right of the Sun.

Finally, we have the ring of fire!

That is a white light image of the ring of fire. I took a long video with my PST showing the progress through annularity. Here is the video for you.

And the Sun set with a small sliver still missing.

The Big Picture has a gallery of eclipse photos.  Look at #39 and #41 which were takend from the Grand Canyon. The background matches up with mine…they were taken from the same spot! He obviously used a very long zoom lens. I am pretty sure I know which one he was!

Interesting sidenote: This eclipse is part of Saros cycle 128. These eclipses repeat every 18 years, 10 days and six hours (approximately). I saw the previous annular eclipse from Michigan State in 1994 (we were just outside the path of annularity). The next one in this cycle is June 1st, 2030. If I see it, I will have completed an exeligmos (look it up, that’s your vocab word of the day…I learned it from David Dickinson on twitter).

It was a great day with perfect weather and skies. I am already looking forward to 2017 when the continental U.S. will finally get a total solar eclipse!


May 22, 2012 - Posted by | annular eclipse, Astrophotography, Solar Eclipse, Uncategorized


  1. Nice work Rob…can u plz tell me more about the ‘hydrogen alpha filter’?

    Comment by abir777 | May 22, 2012 | Reply

  2. Sure. A hydrogen alpha filter lets through only a very specific wavelength of light at 656.28nm (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter). My particular scope has a bandpass of only one nanometer meaning only light from half a nanometer below to half a nanometer above 656.28nm. This wavelength corresponds to an electron dropping from the n=3 energy level of a hydrogen atom to the n=2 energy level of a hydrogen atom if you remember that from chemistry.

    The Sun’s atmosphere is primarily hydrogen so using this wavelength is a great way to see the Sun’s upper atmosphere (instead of the visible surface which we call the photosphere). Prominences, flares and filaments show up in hydrogen alpha light. You can’t see these features in white light as the other colors are so bright they wash out these features.

    I have the PST ( but Lunt also makes a fine line of solar telescopes (

    Comment by halfastro | May 22, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for your lucid explanation…really like your posts

      Comment by abir777 | May 23, 2012 | Reply

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