Total Solar Eclipse of 26 February, 1979.
Images of the Corona and Lunar Umbra.

Jeffrey R. Charles

© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.



Images of the 26 February, 1979 Total Solar Eclipse.

Contents:


Introduction:
The following images are from my total solar eclipse expedition to Montana for the 26 February, 1979 total solar eclipse. This was my first eclipse expedition. It was also the shortest in terms of distance, since the center of the eclipse path was only about 800 kilometers from my home in Colorado. We observed the eclipse from a site 3 kilometers south of the small town of Grassrange, Montana. I had the pleasure of going to this eclipse with my father and my brother, and while in Montana, we had a chance encounter with friends Norman Duecker, Louis Lubeski, and Carl Morris.

On this eclipse expedition, I brought almost all of my cameras (which was not a good idea) and had not practiced my procedures very much. I got some results, but my corona shots were not as good as those taken by others who had brought a more modest amount of equipment. At that time, I did not have a complete set of lenses for any one brand of camera (I just obtained whatever used equipment I could get for the least cost) so my equipment included Canon, Minolta, Miranda, Nikon, and Pentax, Rollei, and Yashica. I have since standardized on Nikon, but I would have considered standardizing on Minolta if their new cameras had appealed to me as much as Nikon. I wanted to be sure I could continue to get cameras having removable pentaprisms in order to facilitate easier astrophotography. Standardization allowed me to own fewer lenses yet have more capability.

Many aspects of this eclipse took me very much by surprise. I was so caught up by it all that I forgot to do a number of things. I forgot to turn on my movie camera during totality, and I forgot to look at the eclipse through my binoculars - even though I had them on me the whole time! The outer corona was not visible due to cirrus clouds, but these same clouds enhanced the view of the lunar umbra. By far, what impressed me most was the lunar umbra, which put on a totally breathtaking show. Fortunately, I had brought a camera with a fisheye lens and I succeeded in capturing a few umbral images just before and just after totality.

I did not take umbral photos during totality, but I did produce a drawing of the umbra as it appeared about 40 seconds after second contact. During totality, I could clearly observe motion of the leading edge of the umbra as it rapidly moved toward the east-northeast. In addition to observing umbral motion, I was able to see yellow, orange, and even red color around the horizon. This experience is what inspired me to take 360 degree panoramas at all subsequent total solar eclipses I observed. I used these later panoramas in umbral predictions, with the emphasis being on determination of the altitude at which the boundary of the umbra is visually the most prominent as it is projected onto the earth's atmosphere. The corona and umbral images follow.

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1979 Eclipse Images, Corona:

Corona images from the total solar eclipse of 26 February, 1979.
© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.
The upper left image is a drawing I made of the chromosphere at second contact. The lower left image was taken with a 300 mm lens and a 2x teleconverter. The exposure was one second at f/45 on Ektachrome 200 film which was push processed 1 stop. (Lacking an attachable solar filter for the partial phases, I had stopped the lens down to f/45 to keep the solar image from frying my focusing screen, then forgotten to open the aperture during totality. Oops!) The upper right image is a one second exposure with a Rolleiflex SL66 and a 250 mm f/5.6 Sonnar lens on ASA (ASA was later supplanted by ISO) 400 print film. The inner corona was overexposed in the original, but radial dodging brought out some of the detail. The lower right image shows the diamond ring at third contact. The image is a composite of an image taken with the 300 mm lens and teleconverter and one taken with the 250 mm Sonnar lens. The diamond ring effect was pronounced and short lived due to scattering from local cirrus clouds.

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Sequence of Partial and Total Eclipse Phases.

Sequence of Partial and Total Solar Eclipse Phases.
© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.
Sequence of partial and total eclipse phases. The base image was taken before first contact with a 4 x 5 inch camera and a 90 mm f/6.8 Angulon lens. The sequence image was taken on Kodalith film (having an ASA of about 6) with the same camera and lens, plus a mylar solar filter. High contrast Kodalith film was used to minimize base fogging that could result from scattering by the mylar solar filter. The two negatives were then sandwiched to produce this image.

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Panoramic and Wide Angle Images of the Lunar Umbra.

Wide angle images of the lunar umbra.
© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.
The umbra approaches. These 130 degree wide images were taken toward the west on ASA 100 print film, with a Minolta SRT 101 camera and a 16 mm f/2.8 Rokkor-X full frame fisheye lens. The left image shows the umbra 65 seconds before totality. It was exposed for 1/15 second at f/4. The right image was taken about 10 seconds before totality and exposed for 1/4 second at f/4. Note the bright color on the left side of the image, near the horizon and just under the trailing edge of the umbra.
An umbral view to eclipse all others is shown in this 170 degree wide image with east-southeast in the center. The small white objects in the sky just left of center are sunlit clouds which were visible through the shadow. I watched this scene for some time, but was so taken in by it that I did not shoot a picture! The experience impressed me so much that I started this drawing in the car while on the way back from the eclipse. A few weeks later, the drawing was merged with photos I had taken of the horizon. More recently, I used Adobe Photoshop to fill in the sky color. The sky was not black at this eclipse, but it was not an entirely consistent gray-blue either, so the image still needs some work. This sight is what inspired me to take multiple 360 degree panoramas at future total solar eclipses.
The rounded edge of the umbra is obvious in this image, which was taken 13 seconds after the end of totality with a 16 mm fisheye lens. The exposure was 1/15 second at f/4. This is a completely unprocessed image, scanned directly from a straight machine print! Due to its large angular size, the umbra was not obvious to the naked eye after totality, though looking through a fisheye "door peeper" would undoubtedly provide a clear view. I brought a door peeper to most subsequent eclipses. This and all other images Copyright © 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.

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Instrumentation:

The jumble of cameras used for the 1979 total solar eclipse.
© Copyright 1979, 1998, Jeffrey R. Charles, All Rights Reserved.
Jumble of Equipment for the 1979 Eclipse
The eight foot wide motel room was rather crowded, but it was only $14.95 per night for three people! I was more organized (and brought less stuff) on subsequent eclipse expeditions. One of the best improvements one can make is to mount multiple items on a tripod. This results in fewer tripods, which radically reduces the total amount of baggage that must be transported.

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Images of Montana

© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.
Top: Icy parking lot in front of our Motel in Grassrange, Montana. Bottom: Equipment set up at our eclipse site, three kilometers south of Grassrange. Top: Monument at the Custer Battlefield in Montana. Bottom: Diorama of the battle. One of many displays in the visitor center.

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Water tower "Eclipses"
Chasing the shadow of a spherical water tower in 1979.
© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.
The 1979 eclipse had me so hooked that I did not want to wait for the next "real" eclipse. In my more eccentric attempts at creating an artificial eclipses, I chased the shadow of a spherical water tower. Due in part to the low elevation angle of the sun, this technique does not reveal the corona, but it sure was fun to try at the time! A solar filter was not used for the pictures, but I did use one to visually observe "partial eclipse" phases. In the upper left image, the sun is partially eclipsed by the water tower. In the lower left image, the sun is eclipsed even more, but local clouds are beginning to interfere, though they do create an interesting effect. In the upper right picture - Totality! (Well, sort of anyway!) The lower right image shows the "umbra" of the water tower as it races away from me. Due to the low elevation angle of the sun and the low angle of the shadow cone, the ground speed of the tower's "umbra" is several km per hour!

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Recommended Reading:

Light intensity graph for the 1995 eclipse, by Jeffrey R. Charles (Also shows some data from the 1979 eclipse.)

Steps to a Successful Eclipse Expedition, by Jeffrey R. Charles

Need information about eclipses for your planetarium, motion picture, or other project? Jeffrey R. Charles performs science consulting in regard to eclipse phenomena and instrumentation. Please direct inquiries to Jeffrey R. Charles jcharles@versacorp.com or click here for more information about total solar eclipse related science and engineering consulting.


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© Copyright 1979, 1998 Jeffrey R. Charles. All Rights Reserved.

Mail to: Jeffrey R. Charles (jcharles@eclipsechaser.com )

Document created: 17 March, 1998
Last modified: 25 March, 1998