Astrocon and Casper eclipse

Roland Christen

Some further thoughts on our eclipse trip.

Marj and I attended Astrocon in Casper the week before the eclipse. We had our booth set up and met lots of eclipse chasers who came out to hear talks by famous amateurs and professionals during the conference, and check out the latest amateur equipment. The highlight of the conference was the talk by Fred "Mr Eclipse" Espenak. He certainly got the crowd fired up and looking forward to the next morning.

Astrocon officials made available to us a spot at Casper College, up on a hill with sweeping views of the distant mountains - an ideal spot for hungry eclipse eyes. Fred Espenak set up nearby with a battery of 18 telescopes and cameras in order to capture every phase of this fleeting event. I brought one setup for me and one for Marj, a scope with camera and a smaller 90mm refractor mounted on top for visual viewing.

The eclipse started nicely with crystal clear skies, but soon a series of thin clouds appeared on the horizon. And of course they drifted right over our site at totality, but thin enough to let us have a decent view of the corona. This is my 8th eclipse and every eclipse is different. The last 60 seconds the light level had an eerie sharpness, like an approaching thunderstorm. It was like dense twilight but without the colors of sunset. It was almost like a black&white movie.

In the last few seconds the light level dropped several magnitudes and the corona appeared as a pearly white glow. The entire eclipse was surrounded by faint reddish light from both the high level clouds and the smoke from forest fires several hundred miles to the west. The people around us were at first hushed and then burst out in applause and cheers.

What was supposed to be 2 1/2 minutes of eclipse was over in a flash - seemed like 30 seconds to me. Suddenly Baily's beads and the second Diamond ring appeared and last moment frantic images taken before it was all over. Within a few minutes a heavy cloud passed overhead and hid the sun in a thick haze for the following partials.

Emotions of sad, happy, wonder, and awe were followed by thoughts of the next eclipse.  


Diamond Ring has reddish  color from thin clouds

Mini-Diamond Ring Just before 2nd contact

Mid eclipse corona with subtle colors from the clouds

Closeup of the prominences

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