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Pitfalls of an Eclipse Flight, Lessons learnt

It’s easy to be wise after the event- Some wise man

Ok, recently you may have heard a couple of space-nuts chartered a B737 jet to chase the July 22nd eclipse from a height of 41000 feet. I guess considering the monsoon, it was a good idea that would guarantee that you atleast got to see the eclipse. Passengers paid approximately Rs 80,000 for “sun side” seats and Rs 29,000 for “earth side” seats. Personally I don’t know why would I pay to see the sun’s shadow on earth.

From that point of view it was a good idea, considering places like Taregna, Patna, Shanghai and most parts of India got clouded or washed out!

However people on board with cameras and photography equipment will be kicking themselves because of some things that got overlooked. When you dig deep into your pocket for an experience like this a little more research should have gone into it

It may me useful to remember that while shooting from a plane’s windows, ( yes.. in case you forgot, you’re inside the plane and you have to take photos from inside the aircraft’s double paned window, both of which usually have thousands of microscratches) two results are inevitable

The image of a bright object may have double reflections from both window surfaces. Unfortunately this will always be there and playing with the camera focus cannot get rid of it. The sun will be at infinity and the extended light path due to reflection does not affect it. The result??, see for yourself

Look at this picture of totality taken from the eclipse flight, if you look carefully, there is a double reflection glaring at you at the bottom edge of the image. This was a specimen frame drawn from video taken by the BBC media crew on board the flight. We checked this with other videos taken by AAJ TAK etc, which also had the same issue.

There is also a second problem. As mentioned earlier, the windows are usually scratchy and not very clean. It is pretty easy to get rid of these scratches out of focus in the image. However with a eclipse, especially the diamond ring a big quality issue arrives.


The microscratches on the window scatter light in all directions completely ruining the photo. Both images above were taken aboard the eclipse flight.

One of the reports we heard from the people conducting photographic experiments onboard had another unforeseen issue, Apparently the plane went off charted course to bypass some clouds, sending their automation software “Eclipse Orchestrator” haywire

Pity!

If you were careful in reading what I wrote, yes there are CLOUDS at 41000 feet. We got wind of this fact a day before the eclipse. A curious me and Vishnu did ask the Captain of our Spicejet flight to Varanasi when we landed at Babatpur for the eclipse

So if you are serious about taking pictures of totality, you might want to keep these details in mind before swiping that credit card.

The views expressed in this article are by the Author only, and may not be shared by the AAAD as a whole

AAAD – ECLIPSE REPORT – VARANASI 2009


After the intoxicating cosmic ride, its time to key my thoughts .

Firstly, felicitations to the team including Anindya, Debnath, Puneit, Vidur, Mayank, Himanshu and yours truly!

Varanasi was a special choice to begin with, what with the surreal feel and effervescent life-giving Ganga. The ghats would offer a stunning view should mother nature decide to share our prayers and enthusiasm!

Many thanks to the preliminary group including Anindya, Debnath, Puneit and Himanshu for reaching early and selecting a stunner of a site. The terrace of the Anami Lodge on the Assi Ghat with a panorama of the Ganga and clear horizon across was magnificent. Anindya, our very own banarsi babu deserves special mention for his initmate knowledge annd pulse of the place.

Vidur, thanks for the lovely T-SHIRT design and Raghu, (Team Sasaram), thanks for the execution, both Sasaram and Varanasi had an identity!

The preparation was immense and exhaustive with DSLRs, Video Cameras and “Point and Shoots”. All of us gave our all during the night catching only a few moments of rest. Aside from scouting and selection of the place, our preparations involved elaborate and educated guesswork on the weather (which proved correct!) and timing the set-up of equipment and execution.

21st night provided a clear night sky (who said city skies are bad?) and we spent the time in doing what we love – deep sky observation. We managed good images of the Eagle Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, M6, M7, M45 and other MW objects aside from Jupiter. At 3 a.m., with Venus standing bright and tall, the signs were ominous – we were not going to be denied.

From then on, it was a queer and unadulterated mixture of confidence, hope and hysteria that caracterized the remainder of our solar journey! With the mystic black ((c) Puneit), enveloping the blinding gas ball over sublime grey skies, we all felt enveloped by the power of this magnificent world we inhabit.

Many thanks to Raj mama for his amazing guidance pre-trip (and the polaroid camera (Mayank shot some beauties (no pun intended!)) and Celestron C6 (Sasaram), Wish you were there!

Many thanks to Chinmaya for his enthusiasm pre-trip, Wish you were there too!
Many thanks to Nikhil (friend of CB, great pics!), Sunita, Prof. Ravinder Singh (Univ. of Patiala) and relative (Mirzapur), Amit (TOI) and family, Tushar (and brother and friend), Chitrangada, Tanuj and Manoj (Astronomica) and all others on the terrace for being with us!

Many thanks to Dr. Rathnasree for her untiring efforts for TSE 2009.

Many thanks to Vikrant (@ Patna) for his high pitched super charged voice at 3 a.m., there’s no one quite like you!

Gargantuan felicitations also to the Sasaram team (we are one!) who put in an equal amount of effort if not more!

Lets meet on SUNDAY and rejoice!

Vishnu

PS – Did I mention “divine intervention”

Total Solar Eclipse 2009, Varanasi and Sasaram

In a season when most Eclipse chase sites in India were washed out, the Bohemians had a blast with both sites at Varanasi and Sasaram getting to see totality. We consider ourself extremely fortunate to having witnessed natures most simple but spectacular event inspite of the threat of looming monsoons. My sympathies with all those who got clouded or rained out

Anindya’s Photo Gallery
Vidur’s Photo Gallery
Nikhils’s Photo Gallery
Mayank’s Photo Gallery
Himanshu Rastogi’s Photo Gallery

Varanasi Group Photos
Sasaram Group Photos

WATCH THE VIDEO of TOTALITY from VARANASI

Eclipse Report from Varanasi-By Vishnu Rethinam
Eclipse Report from Sasaram-By Raghu Kalra
Eclipse Report from Varanasi-PDF Snapshot
Diamond Ring Animation
Pitfalls of an Eclipse Flight. Lessons Learnt

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE JULY 22nd 2009

Total Solar Eclipse 2009, Amateur Astronomers Association Delhi

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Mark your calendars folks, its surya-grahana time in India again. Come July 2009 the moon will eclipse the sun as seen from India, Bhutan,Bangladesh,China, Japan and the Marshall Islands. Its going to be the longest solar eclipse for over a century and guess what, this time the path of totality passes through India. This eclipse pass over India comes after almost a decade. The last two eclipses happened in 1999 and 1995.

Totality

The eclipse begins on the 22nd of July 2009 at around 5:30 am IST in India and spends almost two hours passing the subcontinent. The path of totality will pass through central India passing over Surat, Ujjain, Baroda, Bhopal, Patna, Darjeeling, and Dibrugarh in the far east. Rest assured the Bohemians will be out there somewhere chasing the eclipse.!!!!



Click to Enlarge

Circumstances of the Eclipse
For a full list of Eclipse circumstances CLICK HERE

Eclipse Safety : Observing Eclipse Do”s and Don”ts

warning Before we go on I must warn you to NEVER EVER look at the sun especially the PARTIAL PHASE through unprotected eyes or homebrewn filtering mechanisms.

The use of homebrewn filters is recommended to seasoned astronomers only who understand the risks involved! There are however very simple ways to observe an eclipse without putting your eyes in harm”s way

One of the simplest method to observe the sun safely is through a pinhole projection camera. This can be used for viewing the partial phases of the eclipse. During totality however, it is perfectly safe to watch the eclipse naked eye.

To learn how to make a pinhole camera CLICK HERE

Alternatively you may use a solar filter
solar filters

The first thing you must remember is that the human eye has no nerve endings, so if you burn your retina, it will not hurt. 😛 , which is all the more reason that caution is advised while observing the sun

It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques. Even when 99% of the Sun”s surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse. This is primarily because nearing totality the ambient light levels become so less that our pupils dilate and the iris tries to allow in more light into the eye.

During the partial phase any surge in sunlight, like the one seen during a diamond ring formation can cause excessive solar radiation entering the eye and causing a burn on the retina.


In spite of these precautions, the total phase of an eclipse can and should be viewed without any filters whatsoever. The naked eye view of totality is not only completely safe, it is truly breathtaking

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UPDATES

Update: May 29d 2009
AAAD Observation Plans

Update: March 3rd 2009
The Solar Eclipse: Facts, Fiction and Pregnant Women
Update: March 2nd 2009
Average Cloud Cover along the Central Line of the Eclipse