WARNING: When observing the Sun, be sure to use only equipment designed specifically for that purpose and produced by reputable manufacturers. Follow their directions closely. Do not improvise your own filter material for solar observing. If you are careless, you risk instant and permanent injury and/or vision loss.
For quite some time, I had been looking forward to observing the annular solar eclipse that was due to sweep through my corner of the Pacific Northwest on October 14, 2023. As the date got closer, I was dismayed to see weather forecasts pointing to unfavorable conditions. I wasn’t really surprised considering that mid-October can be a dicey time of year for any kind of astronomical observing. But you never know, I thought to myself, we could get a break in the clouds.
That’s precisely what happened. As the Sun rose in the east, a broken deck of cloud cover gave way to a clear patch of sky right where the Sun and Moon were converging.
With my 1962 Questar and Canon EOS M200 mirrorless camera on photographic solar eclipse duty, I spent my time between tending to that rig and my 90mm f/11 achromatic refractor equipped with a Herschel wedge for visual use.
On the Way to Annularity
It took a bit of time for the Sun to clear a row of trees to my east. But that wasn’t too much of a worry since the cloud cover that was present at the start of the eclipse at around 8:05 AM was fairly dense in that direction. There wasn’t much to see until the cloud cover largely lifted precisely when the Sun cleared those trees.
It was awesome to watch the slow movement of the Moon in front of the Sun. There were a few pleasing sunspot regions to use as reference points as the Moon slipped across the Sun. And a few faculae regions near the Sun’s limb added more interesting things to observe.
As the eclipse unfolded, the same effect that I witnessed when I saw the August 2017 eclipse happened again. This time, however, there was no climatic totality to see.
I knew that my particular location was right on the very edge of the path of annularity. But rather than seek out a spot on the dead center of that path, I decided to embrace what my location offered and watch for a sharp crescent.
Through my refractor equipped with a Herschel wedge, I could see the thinnest area of illumination between the limb of the Sun and the limb of the Moon at the peak of the eclipse. But my camera attached to my Questar telescope did not pick that up.
Maybe about five or ten minutes both before and after annularity, nature clearly got confused. Numerous birds started singing and chirping. Everything was bathed in an eerily dim illumination.
Moving Away from Annularity
After a little over a minute of annularity, the reverse of what I had just seen unfolded.
Clouds Roll In
With about an hour left in the eclipse, cloud cover began to grow denser until it totally obscured the Sun.
In the end, I wasn’t sad to see those clouds move in. Quite the opposite: I felt like I had struck an incredible stroke of good luck by watching the eclipse unfold with clear skies that lasted just long enough for me to observe most of it.
After the event, I must have spent the better part of two days processing all the images I took. Half the fun of taking these kinds of images comes from all the different ways you can slice and dice them.