You may have heard that the total solar eclipse caused some major traffic jams in Oregon. I managed to avoid most of that by traveling to the Oregon Star Party (OSP) on Aug. 15th and returning very early on the 22nd. That is, I left at 5AM. Apparently, very few people are willing to get up early to beat the traffic, so I managed to get out of the path of totality (where most people were) while they were still sleeping.
I have only a vague memory of a solar eclipse when I was a kid, and it probably wasn’t total, so this was really my first time. It was pretty awesome, but there are many stories to tell, and I’m going to start with just an overview of the eclipse.
My friends, Tim, Chris, and Susan, were parked next to me and we experienced the eclipse together. They had the neat solar projector you see in the above picture. It attaches to a small telescope and projects an image of the Sun onto a screen so that many people can see it at once. It was quite popular, and a number of people stopped by to take a picture of the Sun’s image during the partial phases. Below is my photo of it, from fairly early in the eclipse. Note that you can see sunspots clearly.
Another thing that people do during the partial phases is to create repeating patterns of the crescent Sun image through small holes. Kitchen utensils such as a colander are often suggested, but we couldn’t find one with holes of a suitable size and spacing, so I punched some small holes in a piece of cardboard:
That says “WO” for “Wa-chur-ed Observatory”, in case you don’t see it. Here’s a close-up, which better shows the crescent shape of the Sun’s image:
OSP had about 600 people last year and close to 1,000 this year. There would have been more, but it is held in the Ochoco National Forest, and the Forest Service limited them to 1,000. On the other hand, you don’t usually see nearly so many people out watching the sky at the same time. Of course, they are usually out observing in the dark, but I can assure you that it is never this crowded at night on the observing field:
That is just one side of the main observing field.
As expected, sales were very good this year, setting new records for me. I had made some changes to make my mobile gallery more accessible, and added space to show more products – especially the small backlit prints. Also, I did presentations at 10 AM for 3 days (excluding the morning of the eclipse, obviously). The presentations were aimed at people just beginning in astronomy and/or astro-photography. Only one of these events was outside, so space was very limited. I had brought a 42″ TV to show the presentation slides, but it was difficult to see in the bright morning light. I’ll have to come up with a better way to do it before next year. But even so, a small crowd gathered to hear and see it, so it must have worked well enough.
I haven’t processed any of the actual eclipse photos yet, but the big story there is a sad one, which I will tell you in my next report. In the mean time, I did have some fun with a few partial phase photos: