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Travel Scope for Eclipses

22 replies to this topic

#1 nicholasweinberg

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Posted 10 April 2024 - 11:15 AM

Hi!

 

I kind of had a life changing experience viewing the recent eclipse with very impressive corona and solar flares in Northern VT about an hour north of my house in NH. It was my first total eclipse and I'm hooked. I want to go to North Africa in 2027 where there will be over 6 minutes of totality and combine it with a rock climbing trip - maybe Algeria or Tunisia. On Monday I brought by 8" dob and AT UWA 28mm and was treated to exquisite views! I would like to buy a portable scope that I can bring to future eclipses and also use for portable planetary viewing. From my research and numerous threads it seems that the Tak FC-76DCU is the consensus choice. 

 

Do poeple still feel this is the best option? Another guy near me at the eclipse had a small scope I think it was a Celestron 4" and the views were very uninspiring compared to mine. I also think it wasn't collimated since there were multiple images. I'm still fairly new to this but I assume aperture is less important for solar viewing but wondering how the views in the smaller FC-76-DCU will compare to what I saw with my 8" dob?

 

Other questions:

 

1) Which diagonal would you recommend for 2" eyepieces?

2) Is there a superlight and portable yet quality/durable portable mount that people recommend?

3) Is there a particular compact travel bag that is nice?

4) Will I need any of the extensions for this scope for planetary viewring and eclipses?

5) Is it worth upgrating to the Feathertouch focuser. I have one on my Obsession 18" its sweet but I also want this particular setup to be lightweight?

 

Thank you!

 

-Nick



#2 mogur

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 04:37 PM

Prior to totality I was using my AT70ED with my Quark unit attached for some awesome Ha viewing. The sun barely fits in a 40mm EP FoV, but I was polar aligned fairly well so it stayed there with very minor adjustments every 15 min. or so. Used on my motorized GP mount.



#3 Cajundaddy

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 05:14 PM

Depends on on your goals and budget.
 

The AT72 ED is certainly a worthy TSE scope.  I travel with one often for eclipse, birding, wildlife, and Space X launches.  It is a bit small for ideal planetary and I’d suggest that TSE and planetary have very different requirements.  I carry mine in a camera backpack.  A very sturdy tripod is recommended.  I like the Twilight but it is not travel friendly.  A good Slik or Manfrotto with 20lb capacity would work.  Choose the diagonal you like.


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#4 mac4lyfe

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 05:57 PM

I'm also looking forward to the 2027 eclipse. I'm thinking Luxor Egypt to watch it over the pyramids.  I used my Seestar to capture some of this eclipse but didn't like the focal length during totality. Not sure I can change it for the future?


Edited by mac4lyfe, 11 April 2024 - 05:59 PM.


#5 ecuador

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 07:25 PM

I wanted to travel light (my StellaMira ED2 85 triplet is big and heavy, requiring un-flyable mount) and get a wider field of view for more corona than my previous eclipse. And also not to spend too much as this was just for the eclipse. I ended up with a SharpStar 61 EDPH III. They've added a second ED element to the EDPH II and it's superb for those who want something closer to its 360mm FL. And a bargain.



#6 thesmiths

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 07:46 PM

I took my new Askar 65PHQ to Texas. The telescope was great to travel with -- it fits into airplane cabin luggage comfortably. The optical and mechanical quality is excellent. It's also really easy to attach a ZWO EAF.



#7 nicholasweinberg

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 12:27 AM

The AT 72 ED looks pretty sweet and very portable.

 

Would I want the field flattener for eclipses? For planetary viewing?

 

What about ASTRO-TECH AT90CFT F/6 TRIPLET APO REFRACTOR CARBON FIBER OTA? Its pricey and a few pounds heavier - but has more aperture. If I could afford it is there any reason not to go with this model? Would it also give better planetary views than the AT 72 ED?

 

Are the AT 2" diagonal's decent?

 

Wil these refractors work with my existing eyepieces: AT UWA 28mm, AT XWA 13, 7, and 4.8mm?

 

Is there a lightweight simple alt/az mount people recommend? What about the Desert Sky Astro DSV-M?

 

Will the larger weight and bulk of the AT 90CFT make it unfun to travel internationally with compared withthe AT 72ED?

 

Is a red dot finder going to be a pain for eclipse/solar viewing? I like that they are less bulky than finderscopes for travel, but seems that finderscope with solar filter is simpler? What about one of the dedicated solar finders from TV or Apertura?

 

Will this small aperature of one of these refractors make the eclipse during totality significantly less impressive than in my 8" dobsonian? 90mm = only 3.5"!!!!

 

Thanks!


Edited by nicholasweinberg, 12 April 2024 - 01:45 AM.


#8 6opuc9

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 03:29 AM

I traveled to Texas Star Party for this eclipse and brought my TV85 on an AOKSwiss VAMO Traveler mount + Baader Herschel prism diagonal for solar viewing, a handful of eyepieces including a Baader zoom, and a 2" TV Everbrite mirror diag + nebula filter for nighttime. The setup worked well, except the Innorel RT90C tripod was a bit of a let down - more flex / shaking than I anticipated, even despite using the spike feet (I was on a grass field). I worked around it ok, but it was definitely more than I experienced in the past with a light Gitzo 2-series tripod. During daytime giving a nice bump to the whole setup with the herschel prism attached I could detect some visible "tuning fork" oscillations in the mount. A closer look showed that it was the whole mount moving rather than any visible flex in the mount itself, indicting the tripod. I have air traveled with this scope quite a bit in the past and remember it being a lot more stable on my Gitzo 2-series mountaineer tripod, despite its much lighter rating. I believe the top plate attachment of the Innorel is the source of this vibration, so will likely be reverting to the old Gitzo for the time. For the travel case I use a Pelican 1510 case with TrekPak dividers, which has roller wheels for easy transport (on smooth surfaces, like floors of the airport. I always pick it up rather than rolling over rough pavement or anything like that not to jar my equipment any more than necessary). The case fits a ton of stuff in it!


Edited by 6opuc9, 12 April 2024 - 03:30 AM.


#9 6opuc9

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 03:36 AM

For 70mm - 80mm scopes I would 100% recommend Desert Sky DSV-M mount and extension column (I use one for my AT72EDII) - superb construction, extreme portability. Can be tough to get hold of the guy making them, but once you do he always delivers an excellent product (I recently bought a second one, after giving the first one away to my friend). Also, if you go with a 70mm-80mm scope class, a nice photo backpack is a great travel bag choice, like some others previously mentioned.

 

I am still trying to figure out a good airline portable alt-az mount for my 92mm Stowaway. I originally planned to bring it to the eclipse, but just couldn't make my bags not break weight limitations with the DiscMounts DM4 it normally rides on, so the old familiar TV85 + VAMO was my (good) compromise.


Edited by 6opuc9, 12 April 2024 - 03:43 AM.


#10 ecuador

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 04:38 AM

 

Would I want the field flattener for eclipses? For planetary viewing?

 

Is there a lightweight simple alt/az mount people recommend? What about the Desert Sky Astro DSV-M?

 

I'll answer those two for you. First one is an easy no.

 

Second is also a no from me if you want photography in addition to visual. In the 2017 Eclipse I had a sky adventurer eq tracker. I built a daytime alignment functionality in my iOS app to align it and it tracked for hours. This time, I did not have a portable but good enough tripod for an eq tracker, so I thought I'd try a SkyWatcher AZ-GTi, which is a very portable Alt-Az goto mount that comes with a sturdy tripod that *just* fit into my suitcase. The mount is indeed very good, robust, very portable, but it was, in the end, quite a downgrade from the tracker: due to only being able to do a 1-star alignment during daytime, the tracking was obviously worse than the eq - I did adjustments every few minutes to keep the sun centered. And the field rotation during totality is obvious (it was half a degree/minute), so while in a bracket it is ok-ish, combining separate brackets to get a cleaner corona requires a lot of work. I'll probably be keeping the tripod and getting a new sky-adventurer for the next eclipse.


Edited by ecuador, 12 April 2024 - 04:39 AM.


#11 Rico.Tyler

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Posted 13 April 2024 - 11:47 AM

I live in Kentucky and was fortunate to have the 2017 pass almost directly over my home (built the Ouse in 1990 to be close to the centerline) and drove 2.5 hour north to catch last week’s eclipse. While I brought 4 different telescopes with me the one I ended up enjoying the most was a tiny Vixen Planet 80S on a Manfrotto tripod. The wide field was excellent for observing totality and the entire package is tiny by any standard. I have an FC 76 DCU I was planing to take to the August 2027 eclipse but I am actually reconsidering my options.

 

Rico



#12 Cajundaddy

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 12:09 AM

The AT 72 ED looks pretty sweet and very portable.

 

Would I want the field flattener for eclipses? For planetary viewing?

 

What about ASTRO-TECH AT90CFT F/6 TRIPLET APO REFRACTOR CARBON FIBER OTA? Its pricey and a few pounds heavier - but has more aperture. If I could afford it is there any reason not to go with this model? Would it also give better planetary views than the AT 72 ED?

 

Are the AT 2" diagonal's decent?

 

Wil these refractors work with my existing eyepieces: AT UWA 28mm, AT XWA 13, 7, and 4.8mm?

 

Is there a lightweight simple alt/az mount people recommend? What about the Desert Sky Astro DSV-M?

 

Will the larger weight and bulk of the AT 90CFT make it unfun to travel internationally with compared withthe AT 72ED?

 

Is a red dot finder going to be a pain for eclipse/solar viewing? I like that they are less bulky than finderscopes for travel, but seems that finderscope with solar filter is simpler? What about one of the dedicated solar finders from TV or Apertura?

 

Will this small aperature of one of these refractors make the eclipse during totality significantly less impressive than in my 8" dobsonian? 90mm = only 3.5"!!!!

 

Thanks!

Again, it really depends on your goals, and budget.  

The AT90CFT is a fine scope but 6” longer, 2x as heavy, and 3x the cost when compared with the AT72ED.  Probably still “just” carryon capable but now needs a much more robust tripod which probably would not be carryon.  Not my 1st choice for a travel scope for all the above reasons.
 

Field flatters are generally needed for large star fields, not solar system objects.  I would not use one for an eclipse.
 

An eclipse is a very large bright target so aperture is generally not much advantage unless your subject is closeups of prominences.  I would definitely  prefer the 8” DOB for planetary viewing though.

I made my own solar finder with 3/4” pvc pipe, drilled a hole in a cap, and used parchment paper on the back as a projection screen for about 25 cents in materials I had in a drawer.  It slipped into an existing finder mount I had and worked great.
 

FWIW-  You *could* spend a lot of money for a dedicated eclipse scope but you certainly don’t have to.  Fairly simple gear in the hands of a skilled and practiced observer will take you far.  I might argue that a nice pair of 8x42 binoculars offer the best views if the outer Corona is your subject of interest.


Edited by Cajundaddy, 14 April 2024 - 04:26 PM.


#13 Alan D. Whitman

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 12:55 AM

I'm also looking forward to the 2027 eclipse. I'm thinking Luxor Egypt to watch it over the pyramids.

I don't believe there are any pyramids at Luxor. But there are major archaeological sites.


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#14 hkgee

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 01:37 PM

I am also planning to go to Egypt and view/photo the eclipse at Luxor. I have traveled to some remote eclipse sites in the past (Baja, Aruba, Zambia, China, Dallas) and have previously taken my trusty Pentax 75SDHF 500mm f/6.7 apo refractor and a tracking mount (Astrotrak, Sky Watcher Star Adventurer). Camera was Canon 5D2. I always ran EO on a notebook PC because I strongly believe in experiencing the eclipse not fussing with camera equipment.

 

After my recent Dallas trip I have come to the conclusion that I want a really light, compact, easy to use solution for Egypt. What I have used so far worked well but is now too heavy and unwieldy for this trip. No, I don't think any of the small "smart telescopes" are suitable for me. Here is what I plan to take now:

 

1. Camera, Sony RX10 IV (Superb 600mm/f4 Zeiss lens, 1" 20.1MP sensor, 2 lbs. 6 oz.)

2. Sky Watcher SolarQuest sun tracking mount head (2 lbs. 14 oz.)

3. Feisol CT3402 carbon fiber tripod w. short center column (2 lbs. 12 oz.)

4. Apple MAC Mini (used) running Mojave and Eclipse Maestro (2 lbs. 5 oz.)

5. Li-Ion Battery powered inverter to 110VAC to power MAC Mini. (12 oz.)

 

Total weight is a little over 11 lbs. Items are small and compact enough to easily fit in a backpack. 

My rationale for choosing these components:

 

1. I know of no other scope/camera combination that has this quality level of optics. Sure you can buy a much heavier bigger Canon 500mm/f4L lens but at more than twice the weight and cost just for the lens. I have used this camera extensively on my travels and it is an excellent performer with the legendary Zeiss contrast and sharpness. Yes, a 1" sensor isn't as great as a full frame sensor but recent AI powered noise reduction software fixes that to my satisfaction. It will also double as my "sight seeing" camera during day trips. The 25:1 zoom range is exemplary, no other lenses needed.   

2. A lightweight solar tracking mount that carries 8 lbs. is perfect for my needs. Sips battery and is a proven performer even during totality. 

3. Very compact light weight strong tripod I've used many times. Travelled to China and worked very well with my AstroTrak.

4. The tail wagging the dog! The only eclipse automation software that can run a script to control the Sony is Eclipse Maestro. This forces me to use a MAC since there is no equivalent PC software available. (Maybe this will change in two or three years but for now, statement stands.) The only part I have yet to determine is how to Remote Desktop from my Windows PC into the MAC so I can sit in the shade a few feet away from my rig. I don't think I will be standing/sitting in the sun in Luxor! I expect to shroud my gear with a reflective "Space Blanket" to keep it from boiling in the 100+ degree sun.

(I will have to experiment to make sure it doesn't block wifi or bluetooth signals as they are aluminized.) 

5. MAC insists on AC power so a battery powered inverter is necessary. (Too bad that Apple still has nothing to match all the small 12VDC operated "miniPCs" that have become available.)   

 

This system will allow me to quickly and easily set up in the day time, no pole finding and mount alignment necessary other than leveling. 

I have confidence in this gear selection for the reasons stated above. The MAC to PC communication is my major unknown. If I have problems I suppose I can always buy an iPad and control the MAC Mini that way. I did look into Hackintosh approaches but they look like too much work and they're "buggy". If anybody has gotten Eclipse Maestro to work reliability on a PC, chime in! Thoughts/comments welcome!


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#15 bookemdano

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 04:49 PM

I relate to all of this so much. I had some major SNAFUs with my rigs this go around. My MacBook Air running SEM completely crapped the bed at the worst possible time and both my cameras stopped taking pics at totality (one camera got me 9 precious photos at C2 before it quit, the other cam didn't take a single shot during totality). I had fully tested the entire script with a dry run a couple days before the eclipse, batteries were all good, cables secured, etc, so I have no idea what happened. I still need to see if there are log files I can dig into to help try to figure it out.

 

Even without that major issue, I felt overwhelmed with too much equipment to set up and babysit (I also had a scope on an AltAz mount for visual, a temperature logger, a camera shooting a wide-angle time lapse, etc. It's the double-edged sword of having a TSE within driving distance--I *could* bring the kitchen sink so I did. Thankfully, due to the automation (and not knowing SEM had quit controlling the cameras) I spent the entirely of totality looking at the eclipse with my eyes, binoculars and my 90mm Mak. So absolutely no regrets about how I spent those wonderful 4 minutes and 13 seconds.

 

Looking forward, all the eclipses in the near and medium term will require air travel... which stinks due to the cost and hassle involved, but also a blessing in that it will force me to eliminate all the excess and simplify everything as much as possible.

 

I don't know what scope I will bring yet, but I'm intending to use my Canon EOS 70D (crop sensor) so I can get away with a smaller focal length and let the crop factor get me closer. I used a 420mm scope this time which I think was perfect. If only I'd gotten any extended corona shots foreheadslap.gif

 

I really love Solar Eclipse Maestro as far as software goes--it's incredible. You download it with the intention of using it to automate your cameras and then you realize how much other stuff Xavier put in there. Baily's beads simulations at your location, overlay showing the proper camera orientation, exposure calculations for the different eclipse phenomena, and so much more. 

 

But the fact is that SEM (and any other external control software) introduces a bunch of additional points of failure. Now you've got another battery to manage, additional cables, worrying about what the OS might be trying to do in the background while totality is going on--it's just added complexity.

 

Since my Canon bodies are all older generation, they can run the bolt-on software called Magic Lantern, which adds a lot of useful tools alongside the normal EOS feature set. One of those tools is LUA scripting, and back for the 2017 eclipse, a member here wrote a script to control the camera during a total eclipse. It's certainly not as fancy as the external control programs (for instance it won't calculate your contact times for you--you have to edit the script once you're at your final location and tell it when C1-C4 are), but what is appealing to me is that it's all self-contained. Less cables, less points of failure, less complexity. My camera even has GPS so it should be able to have a reasonably accurate clock. It can also show its live view screen over WiFi on an iPad/iPhone, so I may be able to use that to aid in focusing. 

 

It's funny, I find my mind wanting to spend time getting all of this figured out and set up, but these events are so far away that it would be silly to spend any serious time on it now. A lot can change in the next three years, so there isn't much use in devising an actual plan at this point. Such is the nature of eclipses.

 

Anyway, great thread!


Edited by bookemdano, 14 April 2024 - 04:50 PM.


#16 Diana N

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 05:17 PM

Another suggestion to think about: if you give up the requirement for planetary viewing, a Coronado PST or Lunt 40 mm hydrogen alpha scope would make a very nice travel scope for an eclipse. You could pair it with ordinary binoculars for viewing during totality (when no filters are needed) and for rich field dark sky viewing.


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#17 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 05:51 PM

I’d recommend a 50-70 mm short refractor.
You don’t need humongous aperture to view the Sun, and the wide field of short refractors are so convenient for the corona.
I don’t see the point of travelling with an H-Alpha telescope, the corona and prominences are visible in white light during totality.
I did this eclipse with my 70 mm F/6 refractor, my 1.25" wedge, an AltAz tripod and a 32 mm Plossl. Great views, easy to carry around, zero electronics to tinker with.

Edited by Sebastian_Sajaroff, 14 April 2024 - 05:54 PM.

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#18 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 05:53 PM

Stabilized binoculars (with filters) like Canon 15x50 IS or 18x50 IS would be an excellent idea as well, and they’re more portable than any telescope. Just bring a few AA batteries.

Edited by Sebastian_Sajaroff, 14 April 2024 - 05:53 PM.


#19 The Raptor

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 07:07 PM

New forum member here.  We drove from La Crescenta, CA (suburb of LA) to Dallas, almost 3,000 miles round trip, and stayed with friends in Frisco (suburb of Dallas) to see the eclipse through my 8" Meade LX200 with 2" 31mm Nagler eyepiece and shoot with a Nikon 3400 and a Tamron 150--600 zoom (@ 600) plus matched Tamron 1.4x teleconverter mounted on the LX200. Also had Celestron 9x63 binocs.  ND filters on everything, of course.  A lot of driving, but well worth it.  A few patchy clouds, but totality was completely clear.  Our 10th total and annular solar eclipse (Roundup, MT; Cabo San Lucas; Catalina Island, CA; Aruba; Munich; Puerto Vallarta; St. George, UT; Salem, OR; Richfield, UT; and Frisco, TX).  LX200 and accessories and luggage fit neatly in my wife's Acura RDX.  A lot of driving but well worth it.


Edited by The Raptor, 14 April 2024 - 07:49 PM.


#20 Wolfwatcher

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 07:55 PM

My advice is simple. Keep it simple! I flew to Boston from Denver and drove to Plattsburgh NY. Carry on only. Packed a Slik lightweight tripod and a HelioFind Skywatcher mount. Worked. Mounted a 40mm SolarMax H-Alpha and had wonderful partial eclipse views with bright ruby prominences, including through totality. All went in carry-on luggage. KISS principle works! Backup was a pair of binoculars with white light filters, and my aging eyes. Could not be happier! 


Edited by Wolfwatcher, 14 April 2024 - 08:15 PM.

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#21 zman2100

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 08:19 PM

I had to fly for this eclipse because I was traveling with my 3-yr old, 6-month old, and pregnant wife, so a flexible and multi-day road trip was not an option. For getting optical equipment onto the plane, I chose to pick up a pair of Oberwerk 15x70 LW and also took the Oberwerk pistol grip monopod on which to stabilize them (although I admittedly cheated a bit with that by stashing the monopod with the stroller bag when I gate-checked it; it otherwise would maybe be a tad long to fit in most carry-on size bags but could likely fit in a checked large suitcase). I 3d-printed a storage case and filter rings to install Baader film for viewing during the partial. I have to say that the set-up was a smashing success. The prominences were spectacular in the binoculars and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having any of my telescopes with me. If I was getting on a plane to hop over to Africa for 2027, I’d use the same set-up again.


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#22 Diana N

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 11:12 PM

II don’t see the point of travelling with an H-Alpha telescope, the corona and prominences are visible in white light during totality.

But not during the partial phases, which make up most of the eclipse time.  It’s a lot more fun to view the partially eclipsed sun in hydrogen alpha than in white light with a solar filter.


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#23 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 05:22 AM

Don't underestimate the beauty and splendor of watching totality with just your eyeballs !


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