Events for October 2017

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for October 2017.

The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for October 2017
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Oct 02  02:05  Moon at Descending Node 
Oct 03  09     Venus at Perihelion 
Oct 05  18:40  FULL MOON 
Oct 08  00     Mars at Aphelion 
Oct 08  21     Mercury at Superior Conjunction 
Oct 09  05:51  Moon at Perigee: 366858 km
Oct 09  18:05  Aldebaran 0.6°S of Moon
Oct 12  12:25  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Oct 13  20:29  Beehive 3.0°N of Moon
Oct 14  22:10  Moon at Ascending Node 
Oct 15  10:54  Regulus 0.2°S of Moon
Oct 17  10:04  Mars 1.8°S of Moon
Oct 18  00:21  Venus 2.0°S of Moon
Oct 19  17     Uranus at Opposition 
Oct 19  19:12  NEW MOON 
Oct 21  11     Orionid Meteor Shower
Oct 24  11:54  Saturn 3.3°S of Moon
Oct 25  02:25  Moon at Apogee: 405151 km
Oct 26  18     Jupiter in Conjunction with Sun 
Oct 27  22:22  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Oct 29  06:41  Moon at Descending Node 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Atlantic Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Eastern Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Central Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mountain Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Pacific Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Alaska Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hawaii Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The astronomical highlight of 2017 is the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21. This is the first total eclipse visible from the continental USA in 38 years. For complete details on this highly anticipated event, see: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (EclipseWise.com).

For information on all solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2017.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Events for September 2017

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for September 2017.

The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for September 2017
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Sep 01  06:08  Venus 1.4°S of Beehive
Sep 04  18:41  Moon at Descending Node 
Sep 05  00     Mercury 3.2° of Mars
Sep 05  04     Neptune at Opposition 
Sep 06  07:03  FULL MOON 
Sep 10  05:30  Mercury 0.7°S of Regulus
Sep 10  21:44  Jupiter 2.9°N of Spica
Sep 12  10     Mercury at Greatest Elongation: 17.9°W
Sep 12  12:09  Aldebaran 0.4°S of Moon
Sep 13  06:25  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Sep 13  16:04  Moon at Perigee: 369856 km
Sep 15  12     Mercury at Perihelion 
Sep 16  14:50  Beehive 3.1°N of Moon
Sep 16  18     Mercury 0.1° of Mars
Sep 17  18:28  Moon at Ascending Node 
Sep 18  00:56  Venus 0.5°N of Moon: Occultation
Sep 18  04:32  Regulus 0.1°S of Moon
Sep 18  23:22  Mercury 0.0°N of Moon: Occultation
Sep 19  21:30  Venus 0.4°N of Regulus
Sep 20  05:30  NEW MOON 
Sep 22  07:51  Jupiter 3.7°S of Moon
Sep 22  20:02  Autumnal Equinox 
Sep 27  00:09  Saturn 3.5°S of Moon
Sep 27  06:49  Moon at Apogee: 404342 km
Sep 28  02:54  FIRST QUARTER MOON 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Atlantic Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Eastern Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Central Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mountain Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Pacific Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Alaska Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hawaii Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The astronomical highlight of 2017 is the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21. This is the first total eclipse visible from the continental USA in 38 years. For complete details on this highly anticipated event, see: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (EclipseWise.com).

For information on all solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2017.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Eclipse Day Checklist

So the BIG DAY has finally come. Are you all ready for the 2017 Total Eclipse of the Sun? It’s important to be prepared to take in everything the eclipse has to offer. You’ll be outside for hours and there are a number of things you can do to make yourself comfortable.

The checklist below will help you plan the perfect eclipse experience! Do your homework and the only other thing you’ll need is perfect weather!

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

Eclipse Day Checklist

    Basic Checklist

  • Solar filters for your eyes (partial phases only; filters are removed during totality; and bring extra filters to share)
  • Straw hat, kitchen pasta colander, or cooking spoon with small holes to project pinhole images of partially eclipsed Sun on a white piece of cardboard (see: Safe Solar Eclipse Viewing)
  • Suitable clothing and large brimmed hat (you will be outside in the Sun for several hours)
  • Sunglasses (not for direct viewing of partial phases)
  • Comfortable folding chairs or picnic blanket to sit on
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Bug repellent
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Cooler filled with water and drinks
  • Snacks, sandwiches, etc.
  • Roll of toilet paper (for emergencies)
  • A list of your intended activities during the eclipse
  • Times of the eclipse contacts for your location (can be found using the EclipseWise 2017 Google Eclipse Map).
  • Digital watch or cell phone with accurate time (set on the day of eclipse)
  • A printed copy of Stages of a Total Solar Eclipse to help you keep track of everything to watch during the eclipse

    Equipment Checklist for Viewing and/or Photographing Eclipse
  • Binoculars and/or small telescope
  • Solar filters for binoculars and/or telescope
  • Camera equipment and tripod
  • Video camera and tripod
  • Audio recorder for your comments and impressions or to capture reactions of people or wildlife near you
  • Audio recorder with prerecorded messages timed to cue you about what to see next*
  • Extra batteries for all of the above
  • Pencil and paper to record impressions or to sketch (also to take down the names and addresses of fellow observers)
  • * there are some smart phone apps that do this (e.g., Solar Eclipse Timer or EclipseDroid)

You may also be interested in reading:
Best Ways to View the Solar Eclipse
Safe Solar Eclipse Viewing
Stages of a Total Solar Eclipse
Experiencing Totality
Mr. Eclipse’s “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse”
Eclipse Photographer’s Checklist

Fred Espenak ©2017


Solar Corona

A composite image of the total solar eclipse of 2006 March 29 was shot in Jalu, Libya. It was produced from 26 individual exposures obtained with two separate telescopes and combined with computer software to reveal subtle details in the corona. Copyright 2006 by Fred Espenak.

Eclipse Photographer’s Checklist

Earlier this year I presented a live webinar on Solar Eclipse Imaging. One of the handouts I prepared was a checklist to help photographers get ready for the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017. It listed many of the things you should do days or even weeks before the eclipse. That way, you’ll avoid many potential problems on the big day itself.

I’m reproducing it here to share with a bigger audience.

Photography Preparation Checklist (weeks before eclipse)

    Set up all your equipment for testing
  • Make checklist of all necessary equipment
    (camera, lens, solar filter, tripod, batteries, memory cards, cables, adapters, chargers, etc.)
  • Include any tools you will need
  • For video camera or computer, how long do batteries last?
  • If planning bursts with a DSLR, how may shots before buffer is full?

    For maximum stability, set tripod as low as practical
  • Do not extend center column
  • Hang weight (water bottle, bag of rocks, etc.) from center of tripod or tape to legs

    Practice aiming, framing and tracking the Sun with your camera
  • If using equatorial mount, learn how to polar align in daytime
    (use compass for NORTH & angle finder for LATITUDE)
  • If NOT using equatorial mount, practice tracking Sun
    (how long does it take the Sun to drift out of your field of view?)
  • Note: Sun moves across the sky at the rate of 1 diameter every 2 minutes

    Make sure you can remove the solar filter quickly without moving Sun out of field
  • Solar filter must be secure enough that wind won’t blow it off
  • Practice removing filter smoothly

    Prepare brief Eclipse Day notes
  • Use clipboard or index cards
  • List eclipse contact times for quick reference
  • Eclipse Day checklist
  • Any other notes you need at your fingertips

    Carefully pack up all your equipment
  • Set up all your equipment one last time
  • How long does it take to set up?
  • Consult checklist to make sure you have everything
  • Use poly tarp to lay out equipment before packing for eclipse
  • Don’t remove anything once you’ve packed

For more on the basics see Mr. Eclipse’s “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse” and the Nikon Guide to Eclipse Photography. And check out Alan Dyer’s great ebook “How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse”.

Fred Espenak


As totality ends, the Sun begins to emerge from behind the Moon producing the dazzling diamond ring effect. Copyright 2005 by Fred Espenak.

Stages of a Total Eclipse

The August 21st total eclipse of the Sun lasts several hours. During this period, there and many interesting events and effects to be looking for. In the following excerpt from Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024, this handy checklist will help you keep track of what and when to look for each of these must see events and effects. You might even want to print this page as a handy reference on eclipse day.

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

First Contact – The Moon begins to cover the western limb of the Sun. Remember to use safe solar filters to watch the partial phases of the eclipse.

Crescent Sun – Over a period of about an hour, the Moon obscures more and more of the Sun, as if eating away at a cookie. The Sun appears as a narrower and narrower crescent.

Light and Color Changes – About 15 minutes before totality, when 80% of the Sun is covered, the light level begins to fall noticeably—and with increasing rapidity. The landscape takes on a metallic gray-blue hue.

Animal, Plant, and Human Behavior – As the level of sunlight falls, animals may become anxious or behave as if nightfall has come. Some plants close up. Notice how the people around you are affected.

Gathering Darkness on the Western Horizon – About 5 minutes before totality, the shadow cast by the Moon causes the western horizon to darken as if a giant but silent thunderstorm was approaching.

Temperature – As the sunlight fades, the temperature may drop perceptibly.

Shadow Bands – A minute or two before totality, ripples of light may flow across the ground and walls as Earth’s turbulent atmosphere refracts the last rays of sunlight.

Thin Crescent Sun – Only a sliver of the Sun remains, then thinner still until . . .

Corona – Perhaps 15 seconds before totality begins, as the Sun becomes the thinnest of crescents, the corona begins to emerge.

Diamond Ring Effect – As the corona emerges, the crescent Sun has shrunk to a short, hairline sliver. Together they form a dazzlingly bright diamond ring. Then the brilliant diamond fades into . . .

Baily’s Beads – About 3 seconds before totality begins, the remaining crescent of sunlight breaks into a string of beads along the eastern edge of the Moon. These are the last few rays of sunlight passing through deep valleys at the Moon’s limb, creating the momentary effect of jewels on a necklace. Quickly, one by one, Baily’s beads vanish behind the advancing Moon as totality begins.

Shadow Approaching – While all this is happening, the Moon’s dark shadow in the west has been growing. Now it rushes forward and envelops you.

Second Contact Totality Begins – The Sun’s disk (photosphere) is completely covered by the Moon. You can now remove your solar filters and safely look directly at the eclipse.

Prominences and the Chromosphere – For a few seconds after totality begins, the Moon has not yet covered the lower atmosphere of the Sun and a thin strip of the vibrant red chromosphere is visible at the Sun’s eastern limb. Stretching above the chromosphere and into the corona are the vivid red prominences. A similar effect occurs along the Sun’s western limb seconds before totality ends.

This image of the solar corona is a High Dynamic Range composite made from 22 separate exposures. The original images were shot by Espenak in Jalu, Libya during the total solar eclipse of March 29, 2016. The USPS used this image to create the Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp.

This image of the solar corona is a High Dynamic Range composite made from 22 separate exposures. The original images were shot by Espenak in Jalu, Libya during the total solar eclipse of March 29, 2016. The USPS used this image to create the Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp.

Corona Extent and Shape – The corona and prominences vary with each eclipse. How far (in solar diameters) does the corona extend? Is it round or is it broader at the Sun’s equator? Does it have the appearance of short bristles at the poles? Look for loops, arcs, and plumes that trace solar magnetic fields.

Planets and Stars Visible – Venus and Mercury are often visible near the eclipsed Sun, and other bright planets and stars may also be visible, depending on their positions and the Sun’s altitude above the horizon.

Landscape Darkness and Horizon Color – Each eclipse creates its own level of darkness, depending mostly on the Moon’s angular size. At the far horizon all around you, beyond the Moon’s shadow, the Sun is shining and the sky has twilight orange and yellow colors.

Temperature – Is it cooler still? A temperature drop of about 10°F (6°C) is typical. The temperature continues to drop until a few minutes after third contact.

Animal, Plant, and Human Reactions – What animal noises can you hear? How are other people reacting? How do you feel?

End of Totality Approaching – The western edge of the Moon begins to brighten and vividly red prominences and the chromosphere appear. Totality will end in seconds.

Third Contact – One bright point of the Sun’s photosphere appears along the western edge of the Moon. Totality is over. The stages of the eclipse repeat themselves in the reverse order.

Baily’s Beads – The point of light becomes two, then several beads, which fuse into a thin crescent with a dazzling bright spot emerging, a farewell diamond ring.

Diamond Ring Effect and Corona – As the diamond ring brightens, the corona fades from view. Daylight returns.

Shadow Rushes Eastward

Shadow Bands Reappear – Shadow Bands may be seen during the first 1-2 minutes after totality ends.

Crescent Sun – Partial phases occur in reverse order. Once again, you must use your solar filter to watch all the partial phases of the eclipse.

Recovery of Nature Partial Phase – Flowers open up, animals return to normal behavior, daylight regains its strength.

Fourth Contact – The Moon no longer covers any part of the Sun. The eclipse is over.

diamond ring effect

As totality ends, the Sun begins to emerge from behind the Moon producing the dazzling diamond ring effect. Copyright 2016 by Fred Espenak.

Learn all about the Best Ways to View the Solar Eclipse and well as what it is like to Experience Totality.

You may also be interested in the 2017 Eclipse Stamp as well as a post about Total Solar Eclipses in the USA.

Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024

Read much more in Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024 by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak.

Read much more in Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024 by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak.

About the Authors

Mark Littmann has written several popular books about astronomy. Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System won the Science Writing Award of the American Institute of Physics. Planet Halley: Once in Lifetime (Donald K Yeomans, co-author) won the Elliott Montroll Special Award of the New York Academy of Sciences. Reviewers described The Heavens on Fire: The Great Leonid Meteor Storms as a “unique achievement,” “altogether satisfying,” and “a compelling read.”

Mark holds an endowed professorship, the Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing, at the University of Tennessee where he teaches three different courses in writing about science, technology, medicine, and the environment. He has helped lead expeditions to Canada, Hawaii, Bolivia, Aruba, and Turkey to observe total eclipses.

Fred Espenak is the most widely recognized name in solar eclipses. He is an astrophysicist emeritus at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he founded and runs the NASA Eclipse Home Page, the most consulted website for eclipse information around the globe. His Five Millennium Canons of solar and lunar eclipses are seminal works for researchers, archaeologists, and historians.

Fred writes regularly on eclipses for Sky amp; Telescope and is probably the best known of all eclipse photographers. He leads expeditions for every total solar eclipse and has done so for more than 35 years. In 2003, the International Astronomical Union honored Espenak and his eclipse work by naming asteroid 14120 after him. The U. S. Postal Service recently used one of his photos on a postage stamp to commemorate the 2017 total eclipse of the Sun.

Fred Espenak


Events for August 2017

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for August 2017.

The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for August 2017
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Aug 02  13     Mercury at Aphelion 
Aug 02  17:55  Moon at Apogee: 405026 km
Aug 03  07:31  Saturn 3.5°S of Moon
Aug 07  18:11  FULL MOON 
Aug 07  18:20  Partial Lunar Eclipse; mag=0.246
Aug 08  10:56  Moon at Descending Node 
Aug 12  19     Perseid Meteor Shower
Aug 15  01:15  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Aug 16  06:39  Aldebaran 0.4°S of Moon
Aug 18  13:14  Moon at Perigee: 366129 km
Aug 19  04:45  Venus 2.2°N of Moon
Aug 20  07:15  Beehive 3.2°N of Moon
Aug 20  18:08  Venus 7.2°S of Pollux
Aug 21  10:34  Moon at Ascending Node 
Aug 21  18:26  Total Solar Eclipse; mag=1.031
Aug 21  18:30  NEW MOON 
Aug 25  13:00  Jupiter 3.5°S of Moon
Aug 26  21     Mercury at Inferior Conjunction 
Aug 29  08:13  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Aug 30  11:25  Moon at Apogee: 404307 km
Aug 30  14:23  Saturn 3.6°S of Moon

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Atlantic Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Eastern Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Central Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mountain Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Pacific Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Alaska Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hawaii Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The astronomical highlight of 2017 is the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21. This is the first total eclipse visible from the continental USA in 38 years. For complete details on this highly anticipated event, see: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (EclipseWise.com).

For information on all solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2017.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Best Ways to View the Solar Eclipse

Millions of people will soon travel to a narrow strip in America to witness a rare event: a total solar eclipse. On 21 August, many will look up to the sky to witness this phenomenon – will you be one of them? In the following shortened excerpt from Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024, learn what types of eyewear you should be using to watch the Sun disappear, when you can do away with eye protection completely, and other ways to best view this event.

You would never think of staring at the Sun without eye protection on an ordinary day. You know the disk of the Sun is dazzlingly bright, enough to permanently damage your eyes. Likewise, any time the disk of the Sun is visible – throughout the partial phase of an eclipse – you need proper eye protection. Even when the Sun is nearing total eclipse, when only a thin crescent of the Sun remains, the 1% of the Sun’s surface still visible is about 10,000 times brighter than the Full Moon.

Once the Sun is entirely eclipsed, however, its bright surface is hidden from view and it is completely safe to look directly at the totally eclipsed Sun without any filters. In fact, it is one of the greatest sights in nature. Here are ways to observe the partial phases of a solar eclipse without damaging your eyes.

Solar Eclipse Glasses

The most convenient way to watch the partial phases of an eclipse is with solar eclipse glasses. These devices consist of solar filters mounted in cardboard frames that can be worn like a pair of eyeglasses. If you normally wear prescription eyeglasses, you place the eclipse glasses right in front of them.

When you are using a filter, do not stare for long periods at the Sun. Look through the filter briefly and then look away. In this way, a tiny hole that you miss will not cause you any harm. You know from your ignorant childhood days that it is possible to glance at the Sun and immediately look away without damaging your eyes. Just remember that your eyes can be damaged without you feeling any pain.

A Samburu man wears a pair of eclipses glasses in preparation for an annular eclipse in Kenya. These inexpensive glasses with cardboard frames have become very popular for safe eclipse viewing. [©2010 Fred Espenak]

Welder’s Goggles

Another safe filter for looking directly at the Sun is welder’s goggles (or the filters for welder’s goggles) with a shade of 13 or 14. They are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased from a welding supply company. The down side is that they cost more than eclipse glasses and give the Sun an unnatural green cast.

The Pinhole Projection Method

If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a welder’s filter, you can always make your own pinhole projector, which allows you to view a projected image of the Sun. There are fancy pinhole cameras you can make out of cardboard boxes, but a perfectly adequate (and portable) version can be made out of two thin but stiff pieces of white cardboard. Punch a small clean pinhole in one piece of cardboard and let the sunlight fall through that hole onto the second piece of cardboard, which serves as a screen, held behind it. An inverted image of the Sun is formed. To make the image larger, move the screen farther from the pinhole. To make the image brighter, move the screen closer to the pinhole. Do not make the pinhole wide or you will have only a shaft of sunlight rather than an image of the crescent Sun. Remember, a pinhole projector is used with your back to the Sun. The sunlight passes over your shoulder, through the pinhole, and forms an image on the cardboard screen behind it. Do not look through the pinhole at the Sun.

A pinhole projector can be used to safely watch the partial phases of a solar eclipse. It is easily fashioned from two stiff pieces of cardboard. One piece serves as the projection screen. Make a pinhole in the second piece and hold it between the Sun and the first piece. If the two cardboards are held 2 feet apart the projected image of the Sun will appear about 1/4-inch in size. [Drawing by Fred Espenak]

Even a simple pasta colander can be used to project dozens of images of the eclipsed Sun onto a piece of white cardboard. [©2000 Fred Espenak]

Solar Filters for Cameras, Binoculars, and Telescopes

Many telescope companies provide special filters that are safe for viewing the Sun. Black polymer filters are economical but some observers prefer the more expensive metal-coated glass filters because they produce sharper images under high magnification.

Caution: Do not confuse these filters, which are designed to fit over the front of a camera lens or the aperture of a telescope, with a so-called solar eyepiece for a telescope. Solar eyepieces are still sometimes sold with small amateur telescopes. They are not safe because they absorb heat and tend to crack, allowing the sunlight concentrated by the telescope’s full aperture to enter your eye.

Eye Suicide

Do not use standard or polaroid sunglasses to observe the partial phases of an eclipse. They are not solar filters. Standard and polaroid sunglasses cut down on glare and may afford some eye relief if you are outside on a bright day, but you would never think of using them to stare at the Sun. So you must not use sunglasses, even crossed polaroids, to look directly at the Sun during the partial phases of an eclipse.

Do not use smoked glass, medical x-ray film with images on them, photographic neutral-density filters, and polarizing filters. All these “filters” offer utterly inadequate eye protection for observing the Sun.

Observing with Binoculars

Binoculars are excellent for observing total eclipses. Any size will do. Astronomy writer George Lovi’s favorite instrument for observing eclipses was 7 x 50 binoculars – magnification of seven times with 50-millimeter (2-inch) objective lenses. “Even the best photographs do not do justice to the detail and color of the Sun in eclipse,” Lovi said, “especially the very fine structure of the corona, with its exceedingly delicate contrasts that no camera can capture the way the eye can.” He felt that the people who did the best job of capturing the true appearance of the eclipsed Sun were the 19th century artists who photographed totality with their eyes and minds and developed their memories with paints on canvas.

For people who plan to use binoculars on an eclipse, Lovi cautioned common sense. Totality can and should be observed without a filter, whether with the eyes alone or with binoculars or telescopes. But the partial phases of the eclipse, right up through the diamond ring effect, must be observed with filters over the objective (front) lenses of the binoculars. Only when the diamond ring has faded is it safe to remove the filter. And it is crucial to return to filtered viewing as totality is ending and the western edge of the Moon’s silhouette brightens with the appearance of the second diamond ring. After all, binoculars are really two small telescopes mounted side by side. If observing a partially eclipsed Sun without a filter is quickly damaging to the unaided eyes, it is far quicker and even more damaging to look at even a sliver of the uneclipsed Sun with binoculars that lack a filter.

Binoculars can be used to safely project a magnified image of the Sun onto a piece of white cardboard. Never look at the Sun directly through binoculars unless they are equipped with solar filters. [©2000 Fred Espenak]

Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024

Read much more in Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024 by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak.

Read much more in Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024 by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak.

About the Authors

Mark Littmann has written several popular books about astronomy. Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System won the Science Writing Award of the American Institute of Physics. Planet Halley: Once in Lifetime (Donald K Yeomans, co-author) won the Elliott Montroll Special Award of the New York Academy of Sciences. Reviewers described The Heavens on Fire: The Great Leonid Meteor Storms as a “unique achievement,” “altogether satisfying,” and “a compelling read.”

Mark holds an endowed professorship, the Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing, at the University of Tennessee where he teaches three different courses in writing about science, technology, medicine, and the environment. He has helped lead expeditions to Canada, Hawaii, Bolivia, Aruba, and Turkey to observe total eclipses.

Fred Espenak is the most widely recognized name in solar eclipses. He is an astrophysicist emeritus at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he founded and runs the NASA Eclipse Home Page, the most consulted website for eclipse information around the globe. His Five Millennium Canons of solar and lunar eclipses are seminal works for researchers, archaeologists, and historians.

Fred writes regularly on eclipses for Sky amp; Telescope and is probably the best known of all eclipse photographers. He leads expeditions for every total solar eclipse and has done so for more than 35 years. In 2003, the International Astronomical Union honored Espenak and his eclipse work by naming asteroid 14120 after him. The U. S. Postal Service recently used one of his photos on a postage stamp to commemorate the 2017 total eclipse of the Sun.

Fred Espenak


Events for July 2017

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for July 2017.

The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for July 2017
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Jul 01  00:51  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Jul 01  07:28  Jupiter 2.7°S of Moon
Jul 03  20     Earth at Aphelion: 1.01668 AU
Jul 05  00:21  Venus 6.5°S of Pleiades
Jul 06  04:27  Moon at Apogee: 405934 km
Jul 07  03:34  Saturn 3.2°S of Moon
Jul 09  04:07  FULL MOON 
Jul 10  01:33  Mercury 0.1°N of Beehive
Jul 12  05:17  Moon at Descending Node 
Jul 13  18:03  Venus 3.1°N of Aldebaran
Jul 16  19:26  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Jul 19  23:37  Aldebaran 0.4°S of Moon
Jul 20  11:13  Venus 2.7°N of Moon
Jul 21  17:09  Moon at Perigee: 361238 km
Jul 23  09:46  NEW MOON 
Jul 25  00:46  Moon at Ascending Node 
Jul 25  08:49  Mercury 0.9°S of Moon: Occultation
Jul 25  10:14  Regulus 0.0°S of Moon
Jul 25  17:03  Mercury 0.8°S of Regulus
Jul 27  00     Mars in Conjunction with Sun 
Jul 28  03     Delta-Aquarid Meteor Shower
Jul 28  20:15  Jupiter 3.1°S of Moon
Jul 30  04     Mercury at Greatest Elongation: 27.2°E
Jul 30  15:23  FIRST QUARTER MOON 

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Atlantic Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Eastern Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Central Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mountain Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Pacific Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Alaska Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hawaii Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The astronomical highlight of 2017 is the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21. This is the first total eclipse visible from the continental USA in 38 years. For complete details on this highly anticipated event, see: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (EclipseWise.com).

For information on all solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2017.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Events for June 2017

The following table gives the date and time of important astronomical events for June 2017.

The time of each event is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones. Some of the astronomical terms used in the calendar are explained in Definitions.

 Date    GMT   Astronomical Events for June 2017
------  -----  --------------------------------------------
        (h:m)
Jun 01  12:42  FIRST QUARTER MOON 
Jun 03  11     Venus at Greatest Elongation: 45.9°W
Jun 03  23:57  Jupiter 2.3°S of Moon
Jun 07  03:19  Mercury 5.3°S of Pleiades
Jun 08  22:21  Moon at Apogee: 406402 km
Jun 09  13:10  FULL MOON 
Jun 10  01:25  Saturn 3.1°S of Moon
Jun 13  00     Venus at Aphelion 
Jun 15  02:40  Moon at Descending Node 
Jun 15  09     Saturn at Opposition 
Jun 17  11:33  LAST QUARTER MOON 
Jun 19  13     Mercury at Perihelion 
Jun 20  21:13  Venus 2.4°N of Moon
Jun 21  04:25  Summer Solstice 
Jun 21  14     Mercury at Superior Conjunction 
Jun 22  14:23  Aldebaran 0.5°S of Moon
Jun 23  10:49  Moon at Perigee: 357938 km
Jun 24  02:31  NEW MOON 
Jun 26  11:18  Beehive 3.2°N of Moon
Jun 27  16:26  Moon at Ascending Node 
Jun 28  00:26  Regulus 0.1°N of Moon

As the events above transpire, I will post photographs of some of them at Recent Images.

Astronomical events calendars for complete years and for eight time zones are available through the links below.

Time Zones Calendars of Astronomical Events
Greenwich Mean Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Atlantic Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Eastern Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Central Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mountain Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Pacific Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Alaska Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Hawaii Standard Time 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

For additional years, see Calendars of Astronomical Events.

The astronomical highlight of 2017 is the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21. This is the first total eclipse visible from the continental USA in 38 years. For complete details on this highly anticipated event, see: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (EclipseWise.com).

For information on all solar and lunar eclipses this year, see: Eclipses During 2017.

The Calendars of Astronomical Events were all generated by a computer program I wrote (with THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak



Experiencing Totality

The great American total eclipse of the Sun is now just three months away. Those of us who have witnessed totality (that brief period when the the Sun’s brilliant disk is completely hidden revealing its glorious corona) realize how monumentally difficult it is to convey that experience to others. Words often fail when trying to explain the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, feelings and emotions that consume us during this other-worldly event.

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

A series of nine images were combined into a time sequence of the total solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, from Lake Hazar, Turkey. The corona has been computer enhanced to show subtle details and prominences. Copyright 1999 by Fred Espenak.

The best description I’ve ever read of the “Totality experience” was written over a century ago by Mabel Loomis Todd (“Total Eclipses of the Sun”, 1894). Todd was an American writer and editor who traveled to a number of total eclipses with her husband astronomer David Peck Todd during the late 19th Century.

Her description is not only expressive and passionate, but it accurately captures the variety and sequence of events in a most compelling way.

    “As the dark body of the Moon gradually steals its silent way across the brilliant Sun, little effect is at first noticed. The light hardly diminishes, apparently, and birds and animals detect no change.”

    During the partial phase a curious appearance may be noticed under any shade tree. Ordinarily, without an eclipse, the sunlight filters through the leaves in a series of tiny, overlapping disks on the ground, each of which is an image of the Sun. But when the partial phase of an eclipse is well advanced, these sunny spots become crescent in form, images of the now narrowing Sun.”

    The gaps between the leaves on a tree act like a series pinhole cameras that each project an image of the eclipse Sun on the ground below.

    The gaps between the leaves on a tree act like a series pinhole cameras that each project an image of the eclipse Sun on the ground below.

    “As the entire duration of an eclipse, partial phases and all, embraces two or three hours, often for an hour after ‘first contact’ insects still chirp in the grass, birds sing, and animals quietly continue their grazing. But a sense of uneasiness seems gradually to steal over all life. Cows and horses feed intermittently, bird songs diminish, grasshoppers fall quiet, and a suggestion of chill crosses the air. Darker and darker grows the landscape.

    As much as five minutes before total obscurity it may be possible to detect strange wavering lines of light and shade dance across the landscape – the ‘shadow bands’ as they are called – a curious and beautiful effect (related to the same atmospheric phenomenon that causes stars to twinkle).

    Shadow Bands

    Shadow bands are seen to ripple across a house in Sicily during a total eclipse in 1870.

    “Then, with frightful velocity, the actual shadow of the Moon is often seen approaching, a tangible darkness advancing almost like a wall, swift as imagination, silent as doom. The immensity of nature never comes quite so near as then, and strong must be the nerves not to quiver as this blue-black shadow rushes upon the spectator with incredible speed. A vast, palpable presence seems to overwhelm the world. The blue sky changes to gray or dull purple, speedily becoming more dusky, and a death-like trance seizes upon everything earthly. Birds with terrified cries, fly bewildered for a moment, and then silently seek their night quarters. Bats emerge stealthily. Sensitive flowers, the scarlet pimpernel, the African mimosa, close their delicate petals, and a sense of hushed expectancy deepens with the darkness.

    An assembled crowd is awed into silence almost invariably. Trivial chatter and senseless joking cease. Sometimes the shadow engulfs the observer smoothly, sometimes apparently with jerks; but all the world might well be dead and cold and turned to ashes. Often the very air seems to hold its breath for sympathy; at other times a lull suddenly awakens into a strange wind, blowing with unnatural effect.

    Then out upon the darkness, gruesome but sublime, flashes the glory of the incomparable corona, a silvery, soft, unearthly light, with radiant streamers, stretching at times millions of uncomprehended miles into space, while the rosy, flame-like prominences skirt the black rim of the moon in ethereal splendor. It becomes curiously cold, dew frequently forms, and the chill is perhaps mental as well as physical.”

Solar Corona

A composite image of the total solar eclipse of 2006 March 29 was shot in Jalu, Libya. It was produced from 26 individual exposures obtained with two separate telescopes and combined with computer software to reveal subtle details in the corona. Copyright 2006 by Fred Espenak.

Allow me to interject here for a moment. Totality never lasts more than 7 and 1/2 minutes. But this is exceedingly rare and will not happen again until 2186. It is far more common for totality to last a mere 2 or 3 minutes, and this is the case for the 2017 eclipse. Although the corona appears static (no visible motion) during this brief interval, it is never-the-less mesmerizing in its delicate gossamer beauty. This million-degree plasma is electrically charged and twisted by the intense magnetic fields of the Sun into a complex array of streamers, plumes, brushes, and loops. All of this surrounds the jet-black disk of the Moon appearing as an eerie hole in the heavens.

Many inexperienced writers often say that “day turns to night”, but the darkness of totality more closely resembles evening twilight when the first stars become visible. The colors of sunset/sunrise ring the horizon as you look out the edge of the lunar shadow into locations still bathed in sunlight. And the brightest planets are visible to the naked eye. In the case of 2017, Venus and Jupiter will easily be seen.

Totality

The eerie twilight of totality is seen against a backdrop of thorn acacia trees in this wide-angle photograph shot during the total solar eclipse of 2001 June 21 from Chisamba, Zambia. Copyright 2001 by Fred Espenak.

Although these sights are all impressive, the eye is invariably drawn back to the corona and its apparition-like appearance and exquisite detail.

Todd’s description of the end of totality continues:

    “Suddenly, instantaneously as a lightning flash, an arrow of actual sunlight strikes the landscape, and Earth comes to life again, while the corona and prominences melt into the returning brilliance, and occasionally the receding lunar shadow is glimpsed as it flies away with the tremendous speed of its approach.

    The great opportunity has come and gone, and happy is the astronomer who has kept the poetry of his nature in such abeyance that the merely accurate and scientific work has been accomplished; but in executing his prescribed program, the professional observer must exercise vast self-control.

    Professor Langley says of this superb sight: “The spectacle is one of which, though the man of science may prosaically state the facts, perhaps only the poet could render the impression.”

    I doubt if the effect of witnessing a total eclipse ever quite passes away. The impression is singularly vivid and quieting for days, and can never be wholly lost. A startling nearness to the gigantic forces of nature and their inconceivable operation seems to have been established. Personalities and towns and cities, and hates and jealousies, and even mundane hopes, grow very small and very far away.”

diamond ring effect

As totality ends, the Sun begins to emerge from behind the Moon producing the dazzling diamond ring effect. Copyright 2016 by Fred Espenak.

Totality – The Great America Eclipses of 2017 and 2024, my newly published book with Mark Littmann has a unique feature called “Moments of Totality.” These are personal anecdotes and stories shared by people who have witness totality themselves. A separate “Moment of Totality” appears after each chapter in the book adding many different voices to this topic.

Please share this post with anyone who is still unsure about whether a trip to the 2017 path of totality is worth the effort.

Fred Espenak