Report on the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

©2017 by Fred Espenak

The path of the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017 crossed the USA from Oregon to South Carolina. EclipseWise's 2017 total eclipse page has detailed predictions and maps of this astronomical event.

In 2013, I reveived an invitaion to speak at the Astronomical League's AstroCon 2017 convention in Casper, Wyoming to be held on the days preceding the 2017 eclipse. This location was on the central line of the eclipse and had good highway access east and west to chase better weather prospects, if necessary. So I accepted the invitation. The AstroCon 2017 convention was attended by nearly 1000 people and it gave me a chance to reconnect and catch up with many old friends.

The eclipse day weather forecast in the week leading up to the eclipse was initially discouraging. But in the final two days, it settled down and gave me confidence that Casper would be clear on eclipse day. I chose an eclipse viewing site at Casper College and arrived at the site at 3:30 am on eclipse morning. This allowed me to polar align the two Losmandy equatorial mounts using Polaris. I also had an assortment of 17 cameras (9 Nikon DSLRs, 2 Sony A6000s, 2 video cameras, 2 Go Pros, and 2 360 degree action cameras) that took me 5 hours to set up.

I finished camera setup about an hour before the eclipse began and had a brief rest. At first contact (C1 = 10:22:15 am MDT), the sky was completely clear except for a low band of cirrus cloud in the northwest. Unfortunately, the cirrus moved closer and filled more of the sky as the eclipse progressed. It was already too late for me to change location so I just kept an eye on the cirrus. In the last 15 minutes leading up to totality, the Sun intermittently passed through bands of cirrus. However, the cloud was thin enough that it never completely blocked the Sun.

In the last five minutes before second contact (C2 = 11:42:37 am MDT), the sky had taken on that familiar steely gray color as the lunar shadow approached. I began removing solar filters on my four refractor telescopes and two video cameras in the final 60 seconds before totality began.

Since most of my equipment was automated, I was able to watch the diamond ring form with the naked eye 10 seconds before totality.

Then the lunar shadow swept over us and totality began. After starting my corona bracketing sequences, I had time to reach for my 8 x 40 Nikon binoculars and take a close look at the corona. Regulus was easily seen 1 degree east of the eclipsed Sun.

An eclipse app running on my iPhone gave me audio announcements including a countdown before third contact (C3 = 11:45:03 am MDT). It worked well but totality is always much too short. At least the automation of most of my equipment allowed me an extending period to view totality. Within 1 minute after third contact, filters went back on all cameras.

I shot a wide angle video of my activities with my telescopes during totality. The video also shows the changing sky conditions as well as capturing the excitement in our voices. It starts about 1 minute before second contact the start of totality.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse and Fred Espenak from Fred Espenak on Vimeo.

I continued to shoot the partial phases after totality even though it always seems so anticlimactic. However, these images were needed later to produce composite sequences showing the eclipse from start to finish.

After forth contact (C4 = 01:09:25 pm MDT) it took another two hours to break down all the equipment and pack in securely in my SUV. By the time I returned to my hotel in Casper, I was completely spent. After packing the car, I had a quick sandwich dinner and went to bed. I would start my long drive back to Arizona early the next morning.

In retrospect, it was a wise decision to delay my departure from Casper until the next day. Friends who left Casper right after the eclipse were caught in an enormous traffic jam. The normal 4-hour drive from Casper to Denver took them nearly 13 hours.

It has taken a month to process my eclipse photos but I've finally managed to get a selection of them posted on the following page:

2017 Total Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery

According to a preliminary report a survey conducted by the University of Michigan, the August 21 solar eclipse was viewed by 88% of adult American population (18 years or older). This corresponds to 215 million people making it the most widely viewed eclipse in history.

I am particularly honored that my eclipse image on the U. S. Postal Service's Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever Stamp helped educate of millions of Americans about this remarkable astronomical event.

Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp
Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp

The next total eclipse of the Sun will occur on 2019 July 02 and will be visible from Chile and Argentina. I will be leading an eclipse trip to Chile with Spears Travel.

The next total solar eclipse visible from the USA takes place on 2024 April 08.

2017 Eclipse Links

2017 Total Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery

EclipseWise 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Books about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Eclipse Bulletin:
Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

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Road Atlas for the
Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

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Totality - Great
American Eclipses
of 2017 and 2024

Click for more
Get Eclipsed

Click for more

More Eclipse Books at Astropixels Publishing