Well the day had arrived. The weather had been generally clear
(but crushing hot) on the 19th and 20th. On the 21 the sunny
weather was replaced by hazy clouds.
Our meteorologist, Jay
had been watching the weather forecasts. It looked like a weather
system was going to move into Shanghai the day of the event. This is
the IR Satellite image from 8 AM (0 UTC) on the day of the
maps indicated that the further south we were the better.
Unfortunately there is only so far south you can go and still stay in
the band of totality.
On the 21st Jay set out with the tour company and
located a new spot. What they discovered was a rest stop on
the south side of the Hangzhou Bridge. We could set up on a grassy area
near the buses. A newer building is on the west side of the
grassy area not shown below.
We encountered heavy rain on
the trip south. Not the weather you want to see on eclipse day!
When we got to the site the
sun was just rising through
the lower clouds. Everyone started setting up. I kept
reminding everyone of some of my past experiences and that it was never
over until it was over.
By 7:14 the sky had clear
enough to make a test shot
Eclipse Site Panorama
Many of the Bus A people set up around me on the grassy area.
This is a panorama of us setting up.
This "movie" is really a series of still pictures Photoshoped together.
here for a full size copy of the panorama.
Best Laid Plans...
courtesy of Kerry Patt
All set up and ready to
go. Some friends did a coffee run into the rest stop.
I did not have the sophisticated
(and fully automated) equipment that I took to Libya. I
also left my DSLR at home for this trip. Fortunately the small
camera I had a 10x zoom. Test shots showed I would get some
acceptable pictures. I had planned to shoot multiple frames at
1/1600 ISO 200 to try to catch the diamond ring, then switch to binos,
then back to the camera at about 3 minutes in to see how much corona I
could get. I knew that the 1/5 sec shot I got of the moon in 2006
was well beyond what this setup was capable of. But I thought that
1/320 sec shots of the inner corona were well within the capabilities
Since I could very precisely adjust the aim of the camera I could even
deal with intermittent clouds.
courtesy of Danni Armstrong
But then the rain came....
By the scheduled start of totality everyone was throughly wet and my
starting to look hollow. I put most of my equipment back on the
bus and just sat there hoping our luck would change.
I kept my dark adaptation patch on for a while, but there reached a
point where doing so seemed a little silly.
Second Contact minus
Then something funny happened. I know eclipses cause their own
weather. I experienced this in 2005 when a completely clear sky
became clouded over by 2nd contact. In Russia the
happened. As the sky cooled, the clouds over the lake dissipated
(just as Jay predicted).
Once again Jay bet correctly. The rain stopped. The low
direction from traveling north to traveling along the eclipse path. The
sun reappeared, albeit behind thick
clouds. As the shadow moved over us the sky turned as black as
midnight (see my images from Russia for what the sky
more typically looks like). And we got to see at least the inner
corona. I abandoned my photography plans and just watched with my
Even then observing was a challenge. The sun was fairly high in
the sky at this point. I kept getting rain drops on my objective.
Thus I ended up observing the sun in one corner of my binos while
balancing the drops to another corner!
Another person on our bus was more persistent. Mike Mayda
captured the corona during totality. Normally photographs do not
capture the range of brightnesses that can be seen visually. In
this case our view was attenuated by the clouds so this is identical to
what I saw.
Had I been in space this is
what I would have seen. This picture was
taken as the shadow was over us.
So I would not declare this to be a full success, but we were not
skunked either. Had Jay and TravelQuest not made the change we
certainly would have been. This is yet another reason I will be
traveling with them again.
So that is it for 2009. I sort of regret not trying some
pictures, but I made a rule early on in my eclipse chasing that my
first priority was to enjoy the eclipse. I met that goal.