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My Flight-Ready Eclipse Chaser Kit

Equipment Imaging Solar
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#1 NickLandis2023

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 12:51 PM

Now that my 2023 Annular Eclipse "dry-run" was a success I figured I'd write up a detailed post about my kit I put together for this year and next year's eclipses. Ever since the 2017 total eclipse I knew I wanted to try and take some better photographs of the 2024 eclipse. I'm from PA and I knew I was going to base out of Texas for the total eclipse, but I also knew driving to Texas was going to be out of the question so I needed a solution that was flight ready. I was interested in trying to capture the annular eclipse as well, so I used that as a goal to have my kit ready so I could use it as a dress-rehearsal.

 

Another big goal I had was being able to automate as much as possible. I wanted to be able to use a motorized mount and timer for the camera so I could set it up and be able to enjoy the rest of the eclipse and talk to people without having to worry about babysitting my camera the whole time.

 

First off here's all of the equipment together:

Full Kit

 

As noted I have an Apache 5800 from Harbor Freight as my main carry-on. Then the Pier and the Tripod go in my checked luggage.I probably don't need the pier since my scope camera should have enough clearance with this tripod, but it was a good place to mount the battery so I included it.

 

Inside Hard Case

 

Inside the Apache 5800 I've removed most of the foam and just fitted in the entire soft carrying case for my Williams Optics ZenithStar 61ii. I actually thought I was going to have to pull out the foam from the case and just stick that in there, but surprisingly the whole case fits in perfectly. I also just threw in the whole foam packaging for the mount (SkyWatcher AZ-GTi). The camera I've had since 2020 and I just got it off eBay. I wanted to go mirrorless so it would be compact, but otherwise I went with the A6000 since it has the features I need, without me being overwhelmed by all the buttons and dials of other nicer cameras. The battery I've also had for a while to use with my Celestron NexStar 6SE. It's way overkill for this set up and after running the mount for 3+ hours and taking over 400 pictures the battery indicator remained on full.

 

One thing I'll likely change for the Total Eclipse is running the mount via the iPhone. It worked great for the annular eclipse since all my exposures ended up being the same (ISO 640 1/500s) for the entire eclipse. I was able to set the camera settings and just use Skywatcher's app to take a picture every 60 seconds, or manually once it got close to maximum and I wanted more photos. For the total eclipse I'll need some way to program the different exposures I want to take for totality. I haven't decided how I'll do this since I don't have a laptop, but I may play around with a RasPi.. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

 

Inside Soft Case
 
Inside the WO soft case I obviously have the OTA. The Field flattener is in the normal slot and by taking out the finderscope I was able to fit the T-Mount adapter, Sol-Finder, and solar filter into the finderscope's place. This is also where I threw the battery adapter for the camera and the dovetail bar is tucked in the side. I was a little worried TSA wasn't going to like the dovetail bar but no one said anything.
 
Set Up 1
 
Set Up 2
 
And here's it all set up for the eclipse. Set-up took about 15 minutes and it worked out great! I was surprised at how well the point-and-track feature of the mount worked for tracking the sun. I was expecting the need to re-center the sun occasionally throughout the eclipse but it stayed more-or-less dead center the whole time! It really is an awesome little mount for its size.
 
Raw Disc

 

And lastly here is a raw un-edited full disc shot I took with the set-up. I think this focal length should be good for the total eclipse so that I can capture the full extent of the corona in one image.

 

Would love to hear people's thoughts!

 


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#2 foxwoodastronomy

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 02:12 PM

What to you think about the "glow" around your Sun disk at the exposure setting you used.  Did you use Thousand Oaks SolarLite Film?



#3 NickLandis2023

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 02:26 PM

What to you think about the "glow" around your Sun disk at the exposure setting you used.  Did you use Thousand Oaks SolarLite Film?

I don't mind it aesthetically, and I think the glow looked great in the timelapse I figured the fuller phases would be overexposed a bit but that meant I didn't have to tweak anything for the annular phases. It was nice not having to worry about it especially this time when I was running the Eclipse Photography booth at UNM's event. So I didn't have to check my exposure in between answering "Can I take a picture with my phone if I hold my glasses up to the lens" for the 300th time lol.

 

And yes I used Thousand Oak's SolarLite S-3250. I love that it biases a bit towards yellow. Produces some nice images.

 

Love your tools btw heart.png



#4 foxwoodastronomy

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 02:52 PM

Nick,

Thanks for the comment about my tools, I appreciate it!  I just tested the Solar Eclipse Timer app at the annular eclipse.  Even though I didn't have the data set in the app for the annular there is a work around that allowed me to test.  So I tested the Regular Mode and the new Photographer's Mode that I collaborated with Fred Espenak on.  They both ran great through the eclipse! You need to be sure that you have the latest build of the app with Photographers' Mode.

 

Regarding the "glow" it is perfectly fine that you don't mind it, I am okay with that.  My opinion is, that is a problem with SolarLite film. Unlike you, I don't want that glow.  I want a clean edge to black, around my solar disk, which I can get with glass.  Again, just my preference. That glow gets in the way if you try to group a composite of solar images.

 

If you have time and the opportunity to borrow someone's glass filter, you should give it a try and see what you think.  Just compare them.  You might like the cleaner edge when you see it from your own gear?  You will need to adjust your exposure; my testing reveals that SolarLite has about 3 stops less transmission than glass (page from my book attached),  Glass with also produce a yellow image, which is want I prefer also.

 

Thanks, Gordon

Attached Thumbnails

  • first composite 1200 labels copy.jpg
  • TO SL Glow Book Page.jpg

Edited by foxwoodastronomy, 18 October 2023 - 02:53 PM.


#5 NickLandis2023

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 03:04 PM

Thanks for the info! I'll be shooting the sun a lot this winter in preparation so I can play around with exposures. And I'll see what I can find in the glass dept. Do you have a recommendation for a glass filter manufacturer? I have a glass filter from Orion I used back in 2017 but I don't see them still making any.



#6 foxwoodastronomy

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 03:31 PM

The two glass suppliers right now that I know of, are Seymour Solar, I have two of their filters.  The other supplier is Spectrum Telescope. That annular image I posted above was taken with a Seymour Solar filter.

 

Try you Orion glass filter. I used to have an Orion filter, but I accidently dropped it and broke it.  Even if your Orion is a smaller diameter, make some sort of adapter to hold it on the front of your gear, even if it is off-axis.



#7 NickLandis2023

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Posted 18 October 2023 - 03:37 PM

Thanks,

 

And it's like 165mm so I don't even think it would fit in my case haha





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