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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Annular Solar Eclipse

The western United States enjoyed an Annular Solar Eclipse on May 20th. I didn't even know there was going to be an eclipse until four days before it was to occur. After learning what an Annular Solar Eclipse was I started making plans. The Dallas area where I live was not going to be able to see the full eclipse because the sun would set before it reached its maximum. The news was saying that the full eclipse could be seen as far east as Lubbock, Texas but the maps actually showed that limit to be southeast of Lubbock about 100 miles. My wish was to photograph the peak of the eclipse as the sun set and include some interesting landscape with it. I decided that the wind farm near Roscoe, Texas may fit the bill.

I sent an email to several friends to see if they were interested in shooting the eclipse. Dan was stuck at home babysitting the neighbors bulldog but Gary wanted to go. We left Gary's house around 1:30 to make the four hour drive to Roscoe. I had used a computer program, The Photographer's Ephemeris, to map out a couple of likely locations and we should have plenty of time to scout them out. TPE  uses Google Earth to show the time and direction of sunrises and sunsets from any location and we ended up shooting very near a spot I had scouted with the software. The eclipse started about 7:45pm.  Even after the moon had covered up a large percentage of the sun, it was still hard to notice it. The sun remained very bright during the whole event and didn't seem to dim much at all until it was setting.

When I took the top image it was still so bright that a very short exposure was needed in order to show the detail of the moon and sun. It also stopped the turning blades on the wind turbines and turned them into silhouettes. That was nice! The next two images are very similar except for the sun. I knew the timing of the full eclipse would be close to sunset but I didn't really know just how close. The above image shows the sun just above the horizon and the full "Ring of Fire" is not yet visible. The bottom image was shot 44 seconds after the first and the full "Ring of Fire" would be visible if part of the sun had not already dropped below the horizon. Part of me is disappointed that we didn't get to see and photograph the full "Ring of Fire", but then again it was pretty cool!