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Easter Island 2010 Eclipse Page

Quick Summary


I once again had the pleasure of traveling with TravelQuest International, my preferred eclipse vendor. 

Eclipses have taken me to the ends of the earth.  Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia and Zambia were hardly on my bucket list; however, Easter Island is someplace I have always wanted to go.

The natives bill Rapa Nui as “the most remote place on earth”. I supposed if the claim is based on the distance from others then it is safe as the nearest occupied land is Pitcairn Island. However, a place with regular ship and plane service as well as cell phone and internet is not “off the grid”. That distinction more correctly belongs to its neighbor.

You can reach the island from either Tahiti or Santiago. For our TravelQuest group it was a 5 hour flight from Chile. It’s winter there now. Santiago was surrounded by snow covered hills. Easter Island is in its rainy season - not ideal eclipse weather.

TravelQuest put together a wonderful collage of the Easter Island Experience.

Story of the Easter Island Trip

Easter Island is famous for its moai which are the remnants of the native civilization. Almost all of the people now live in the southwest corner.  Most of the island is a World Heritage Park which preserves a pastoral feel for the island as opposed to the suburban sprawl of Tahiti. All of the moai were toppled before first European contact due to internal fighting.  The various sites in the park contain the moai in various states of well restored, badly restored, and left alone.
For more pictures of Easter Island see the Easter Island Picture Page

The weather prospects were not good , but since I was going to be doing some serious stargazing in the Atacama afterwards and since the air connections to Easter Island were better than my previous two trips, I decided to take my full eclipse gear(Televue-76 scope, Orion EQ-3 mount, and Canon 20Da camera).  I did leave the computer at home this time since I did not want the weight and assumed I would probably get rained out anyway. As it turned out the day before the eclipse was a “rivers in the streets” storm.  We watched the satellite images of the clouds all night and could see that there was clear sky to the west. The question was whether it would reach us in time.

The morning of the eclipse looked hopeful. The weather was broken to scattered clouds, but with very high winds. As the morning progressed clumps of clouds raced past. It was anyone’s guess whether totality would be in a cloud or a clear patch. 

This was going to be a 4 minute plus eclipse so I thought it would not have as interesting a shadow as in Russia. In the similarly long Libya eclipse I used a computer to execute a carefully scripted program. This snapped shots of the prominences at the start slowing down to take a shot of the new moon in earthshine. In Libya the computer allowed me to observe with minimal interruptions. Since I wanted to actually look at the eclipse this time as well (as opposed to futzing with a camera) I decided on a simple plan, but one that would allow me to capture something that I have never seen before: Baily’s Beads.

Baily’s Beads occur in the seconds before 2nd contact and after 3rd contact (when the photosphere disappears and reappears). The moon is not a perfect sphere. The sun shining through valleys along the edge results in a beaded appearance, but only for a second or so. Since the bright surface of the sun is still visible you have to view these with a telescope using either a solar filter or with a camera using very fast shutter speed.  Using a solar filter would not work since I wanted to see/capture the prominences that are visible for the few seconds after (before) contact.  I did not want to be fussing with a solar filter while totality was happening! Thus I wanted to try with a camera on my telescope set to a fast speed (1/1250) controlled by a shutter release with me madly pushing the camera to get as many photos as possible.

The warning on every telescope I have ever seen is to not point it at the sun. That is good advice and our safety briefing included many examples of the sun causing damage to optics. I have personally seen a magnifying finder burn a hole in the reticle when someone forgot to cover it when observing a sunset comet a few years ago. Thus taking these pictures without damaging my equipment was part of the challenge.

The technique I used was to stand in front of my scope about a minute before totality. I removed the solar filter and replaced it with a black plastic bag. I then sat down and watched the sun through solar glasses. As I could see totality approaching I removed the plastic bag. I later measured that it was about 51 seconds before 2nd contact which was earlier than I wanted to, but still OK. It was unsafe to look through the viewfinder so I snapped picture using the shutter cable hoping I was getting something. As we got closer to totality I snapped faster.

Baily's Beads before C2 Easter Island 2010

The best picture was about 7 seconds before 2nd contact. It clearly shows the beads. At this point the sun was still too bright to observe unaided. I caught the sequence before and right after 2nd contact as well as some inner corona. I looked up once my 2nd contact and corona pictures were finished and was mesmerized. It was the most beautiful and detailed corona I have ever seen. I almost forgot that inches from my head was a 1000mm equivalent lens. After a minute or so I switched to my eyepiece.  I studied the detailed magnetic lines in the corona.  At that magnification I could not see the outer corona, but it was my best view ever of the inner.  Eventually I started seeing the prominences emerge on the other side. When I saw the red chromosphere I moved my eyes from the eyepiece and shot my 3rd contact set.

In 2016 I went back and reconverted some of the images from this project.  Among them was this shot of the prominences which I then enhanced using PixInsight

Easter Island 2010 Prominences

See all of the pictures and the 2nd contact movie on the 2010 Eclipse Picture Page.

One important last point. It does not make sense to go to an eclipse and not look at it. I thought I had only been messing with the camera for a couple of seconds after 2nd contact. Looking at the shot timings it was actually 43 precious seconds! That did give me another 3+ minutes to actually look, but many eclipses are shorter. 

Eclipses are addicting. A community of people regularly travel to them.  This was my eighth (fifth traveling with TravelQuest). The next two are on a boat and short (2012 and 2013) so I will leave the fancy equipment at home.  Also in 2012 an annular eclipse comes to northern California. In 2017 totality comes to the states!


Pirate Rob The sun is really small in the sky. If you just take an image with the normal lens of a camera you will just get a dot. From experience I knew that I wanted 700-800mm. That meant using a telescope and tracking.  Fortunately I had experience with this in the 2006 Libya trip.

My telescope is a TeleVue 76.  This is a relatively small APO and it mates well with DSLR. The combination yielded an effective focal length of 768 mm at f/ 6.3. It is relatively light and fits in a wheeled carry on (with a lot of padding).  I was able to consistently get in the overhead bin to protect it (but it survived a trip in the hold of a commuter plane in 2006).

My camera is a Canon 20Da. This was a variant of the 20D issued by Canon for astrophotography.  It's main feature was a different IR filter that did not attenuate H-Alpha as strongly.  That is useful for pictures of the sun since most of the red is H-Alpha.

The tracking mount was an Orion EQ-3.  This is not a very high quality mount if it is being used for astrophotography, but it proved more than adequate for my use in Libya.  I brought a compass with me, but there was some question whether my northern hemisphere compass was properly weighted to operate without binding in the south. Sure enough my compass would not work freely.  I did the best I could, but the alignment was much worse than in Libya. The mount required many more dec corrections and the images definitely showed a drift.

Unlike Libya I did not give as much thought or practice this time.  What I decided to do was to simply hold the shutter down with a cable and take as many pictures as I could.  This resulted in a very uneven capture. Some seconds had multiple frames. Some seconds had nothing.  Fortunately I had good coverage at 2nd contact - 7 seconds which is when the best beads occurred.

If I was going to do this again I might have tried programing my shutter release to take one frame per second and see if that worked.

I once again used by white Atlas case as a suitcase/field table. The 20inch cube provoked a number of discussions with airline personnel and was inspected on virtually every leg of the trip.  No worries. It only contained my winter clothes and the bubble wrapped parts of the EQ-3. Neither of which was fragile.

I missed my eclipse timer from Libya. I also had a last minute problem with my handheld GPS that I later determined was that the GPS did not like the hybrid batteries I was using. That caused my bad guess on the 2nd contact time. Fortunately I was early (but not too early).

I missed not having my computer to double check the focus.  In Libya there were some large sunspots that made focusing easy.  This time there were a couple of small ones.  I could see them visually if I put a diagonal in, but never found them on the screen on the camera. As a result the focus is a bit soft, but that also could just be bad seeing.

In 2016 I reprocessed the images using Canon Digital Professional.  As noted above, 5670 was also sharpened with PixInsight.

Oh Yes the Eye Patch

pirate-rob head Eclipses are short and the surroundings transition from near daylight brightness to the equivalent of full moon illumination in the matter of a second.  Since it takes about 1/2 hour to get dark adapted there is no way that the human eye can prepare itself to see the subtle features of the corona.

In 2006 I experimented with an eye patch while watching the eclipse in Libya.   I put a patch on my eye at least 1/2 hour before 2nd contact. 

I did it again in 2008 during the Russia eclipse. There it allowed me to see more detail than I had seen before.

I tried it again in
China, but I had bigger problems then.

I gave it another go this year. That may be the reason that I thought the corona was as detailed as it was.


Creative Commons License
Copyright © 2010, 2016 Robert J Hawley Some Rights Reserved. The Easter Island 2010 pages by Robert J. Hawley are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. This permits the non commercial use of the material on this site, either in whole or in part, in other works provided that I am credited for the work and you apply this or similar license to the result. Some of the included works bear a similar copyright.

rjh 11/14/16