2009/07/22 Total Solar Eclipse

This total solar eclipse is the longest eclipse in 21st century. The totality starts at India and crosses the most populated China (along Yangtze River) before heading off the Pacific Ocean. It is also called Great China Eclipse or Great Yangtze Eclipse). The path of totality covers some most populated cities, including Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Hangzhou, so hundred of millions people have a chance to view this rare event. Unfortunately it is also the monsoon season in Southern China so weather prospect is blink.

This is my first total solar eclipse adventure. Strictly speaking, it was not an adventure at all, since my in-law was located in the path of totality (Chongqing). I was so lucky that Chonqqing (which is known as FOG CITY) had the most favorable weather in China during totality. During entire my stay (~3 weeks) in Chongqing, there was only 2 clear sky, the eclipse day and the day after which was the clearest.

It was partly cloudy the day before eclipse, and started to clear out on the eclipse day morning. There were some broken clouds on sunrise, but it turned to clear sky when eclipse started. The sky was a bit hazy but I could not ask for more.

2009/07/22 Total Solar Eclipse composite

I did not have too many imaging equipments so I only took a ultra zoom camera and CG4 mount and tripod (with motor) with me. The CG4 mount and tripod fit nicely in suitcase, and the tracking was Ok for eclipse imaging, though it needed adjustment every 5-10 mins to put the Sun at the center. I also brought a Sony DVR to record the video.

I setup my equipments after having breakfast next to a smaller river. There were many restaurants but morning was very quiet. There were not many people when the eclipse started, but more and  more people paid more attention to the eclipse when it approached the totality.

Observing Location

Usually it was extremely hot (~80F even at night), but as the Sun was blocked, the temperature dropped and it became cooler and felt much comfortable, the sky became darker too. The Sun became smaller and smaller, from full disk to half disk, then to crescent.

Diamond Ring (Stacked from Video)

The moment before totality, the Sun became brilliant – here came the Diamond Ring, then suddenly the Sun was gone, the dark disk of the moon was surrounded by round, soft and white corona. There did not seem any detail in corona (maybe I did not pay attention, or it was hazy to discern any detail). People were screaming, shouting “diamond ring, diamond ring”, and there seemed a very short dead silence when the Sun suddenly disappeared, then people cheered. The birds, dogs barks, as they did not know why Sun disappeared in the morning.

09h11m56s 2nd Contact – Prominence and inner Corona

Nothing seemed changes during totality, the white corona surrounded the completely blocked Sun, however it was a scene that would never be forgotten. The sky was not completely dark, you could easily see people around you, the sky looked more like 30-40min after sunset. Venus was near Zenith and was brilliant bright.


09h13m30s Totality – Corona

3rd contact seemed come much faster than it was supposed to, 4min totality seemed only 1-2 mins long. A few seconds before 3rd contact, there was a very bright, pinkish red light visible on Moon limb (as shown in the next picture), it was Chromosphere of the Sun, the brilliant Diamond Ring of 3rd contact came, the Sun reappeared from the back of the Moon.

09h16m28m 3rd Contact – Chromosphere and Corona

After 3rd, people started leaving and soon there was only me alone taking picture. The temperature started climbing and it became scorching hot when the eclipse was over.

I took some pictures during totality, as well as the partial phase. My camera was not DSLR so the pictures were very grainy. And since I did not have remote shutter, lots of pictures looked blurry even with timer.

It seems that no matter how well they get prepared, and how many  pictures they have taken,  people always find something that something they regret (eg forgot taking off filter etc) during totality when they get so excited. Overall I was very happy with my 1st total solar eclipse expedition – I was so lucky that the weather was favorable, I witnessed the wonder of the sky, and I was also able to take some pictures of it. I was extremely happy because both my sons (7 years and 2 years) also saw the event, even though they may not remember or know what it was.


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