October’s Partial Solar Eclipse

On October 23, 2014, a partial eclipse of the Sun was widely visible from North America (see: Partial Solar Eclipse of 2014 Oct 23). I observed the eclipse from Sacramento Peak, New Mexico while attending the 2014 Solar Eclipse Conference (see: 2014 Solar Eclipse Conference).

I wasn’t particularly excited about this event because I’ve seen many total solar eclipses (see: MrEclipse.com), but about one week before the eclipse, an enormous sunspot complex rotated into view. Designated AR2192, this active region was about the size of Jupiter making it the largest sunspot in 24 years (see: APOD: Giant Sunspot).

The AR2192 Sunspot group rotated into view from behind the Sun about a week before the partial solar eclipse. It was visible to the naked eye using a solar filter. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

The AR2192 Sunspot group rotated into view from behind the Sun about a week before the partial solar eclipse. It was visible to the naked eye using a solar filter. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

Suddenly, my interest was piqued because the sunspot would be well placed during the eclipse. I packed up my Vixen 90mm f/9 fluorite refractor and a Losmandy GM-8 equatorial for the trip to New Mexico. I usually test all my equipment days or weeks before an eclipse, but this was a busy time with several house guests and two talks to prepare before the eclipse conference, so no system testing was done.

Fred Espenak observes the partial solar eclipse from Sacramento Peak, NM. ©2014 by Pat Espenak.

Fred Espenak observes the partial solar eclipse from Sacramento Peak, NM. ©2014 by Pat Espenak.

I soon discovered two equipment problems as the eclipse began. Although my rechargeable battery was freshly charged, it died early into the eclipse. I then switched to my car battery. A second problem presented itself when the telescope failed to track the Sun. The fast/slow buttons of the drive worked to position the Sun, but it would slowly drift out of the field. My only recourse was to use the fast/slow buttons to recenter the Sun before each exposure.

Because I planned to shoot a time-lapse video of the eclipse I needed to make exposures quite frequently – in this case, every 30 seconds. Consequently, I had to remain near the telescope for the full 2.25 hours of the eclipse to center the Sun before every exposure. This was turning into much more work than I had anticipated, but the clear weather, good seeing and that wonderful sunspot kept me at my post until the eclipse ended.

At maximum eclipse, about 43% of the Sun's diameter was covered by the Moon. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

At maximum eclipse, about 43% of the Sun’s diameter was covered by the Moon. ©2014 by Fred Espenak.

A month passed before I found the time to begin processing the 270 separate eclipse images in Adobe Photoshop. The first step was to create a circular reference template to manually center each photo. This took about 9 hours. I then created a Photoshop action to crop and resize the frames and to make adjustments to the histogram. Finally, the frames were assembled into a 10-frame-per-second time lapse video using Time Lapse Assembler on an 11″ Macbook Air and uploaded to Vimeo.

The resulting video shows the Moon gracefully swinging across the northern half of the Sun while sunspot AR2192 remains in full view.


Partial Solar Eclipse of 2014 Oct 23 from Fred Espenak on Vimeo.

And now, it’s time to begin preparing for the total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015 in the Faroe Islands (see: Total Solar Eclipse of 2015 Mar 20). Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of testing my gear before that eclipse!

Fred Espenak


5 thoughts on “October’s Partial Solar Eclipse

  1. Dear Fred : Thanks a lot to take your time to prepare, observe, shot , make the video and then write it on this blog !!! Here from Santo Domingo, always observing the sun . Our position are very good to observe the sun , due we here have a very good seeing . Hope to meet you some day.

    Robert Guerrero
    Founder Dominican Astronomical Society.

  2. My brother just sent me your Oct partial eclipse video and I have watched it over and over! Thank you for helping us see the wonders of our existence! I was quickly pulled out of my tiny world of stress and do not have words to express the calm that has come over me. I am privileged to know you and Pat

  3. First of all anyone that chooses to live in Portal, AZ and name their awesome website Portal to the Universe is clever and should be heeded. Thank you AGAIN for covering the eclipse so cleverly and artistically. I use a great many of your images and articles in my high school astronomy class and you definitely have a fan base in NJ. Fred you’re the best!!! Keep amazing us please.

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