Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

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Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017 a unique opportunity occurred for a vast number of North Americans to witness a total solar eclipse. The last total solar eclipse visible in North America was in 1991 when the path of totality passed over Mexico and before that in 1979 when the path traversed the northwestern United States and central Canada. The last time a total eclipse came through the southeastern US was in 1970. I had seen a partial solar eclipse shortly after I moved to Florida, probably the annular eclipse of May 30, 1984. Earlier this year Virginia said that we should go somewhere to see totality since Florida would only witness a partial eclipse and we made plans to do so.

Once we had decided to go, I knew that I would regret it if I did not at least try and get some photographs of this infrequent celestial event. In addition to our viewing glasses I obtained some solar filters for both my longest telephoto camera lens and small telescope. After originally intending to just go to South Carolina - the closest the path of totality came to Florida - we ended up in Clarksville, Tennessee.

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This image is a compilation of photographs made during the progress of the eclipse. Starting with the full sun about 25 minutes before the eclipse began, the series progresses through the increased occultation of the sun by the moon until finally reaching totality. The first image - showing the eclipse just starting with a tiny sliver missing from the sun - was taken an hour and 26 minutes before the last image which shows the corona during totality. Where we were totality lasted almost two and a half minutes, which was very nearly the maximum length of the eclipse anywhere along the path.

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During totality we could see Venus, and several of my photographs showed Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, to the left of the sun.

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One of the surprises in my photographs, and something that we did not notice during the event, were the solar flares that could be seen during totality.

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Yes, the temperatures did drop, from miserably hot before the eclipse started to a much cooler fairly comfortable from a bit before to a little while after totality. As the eclipse progressed the light in the sky took on an odd cast reminiscent of the yellow sky after a severe late afternoon thunderstorm, having a similar visage although not the same color.

For those that did not experience totality, the next opportunity in North America will be in April of 2024. Parts of South America will be in the path of totality during eclipses coming up in 2019 & 2020 and in December 2021 a total eclipse with be visible along some of the coast of Antarctica.

Paul Rebmann
October 8, 2017