Solar eclipses are amazing celestial sights, but they must be observed safely (with safety glasses) and can only be seen from specific parts of Earth. For die-hard eclipse fans planning trips to see a solar eclipse, SPACE.com asked veteran eclipse chasers for tips on how to make the most of an expedition to see the moon block the sun. See their advice in the following images.
This view of the sun’s extremely hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, was captured by Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson from the South Pacific during the total solar eclipse on July 11, 2010. Note the moon's pitch-black silhouette and the corona's fine structural details.
As the last vestiges of the sun’s disk was covered by the moon, a solitary bead of sunlight remained shining briefly through a deep valley along the moon’s rugged edge, creating this spectacular “diamond ring” effect during the total solar eclipse of July 11, 2010. Soon the bead was extinguished, marking the beginning of totality.
A close-up view of the diamond ring and pink solar prominences protruding from behind the moon’s disk during the July 11, 2010, total solar eclipse. Prominences are immense glowing features that extend many thousands of miles from the sun.
Total solar eclipse expedition (July 11, 2010): After 4 1/2 minutes of darkness, the moon uncovered the sun’s disk and a second, long-lasting diamond ring burst forth on the opposite side of the sun, signaling the end of totality. By this time clouds began to roll in, and the sky quickly became overcast.
This close-up view of the July 11, 2010, total solar eclipse's second diamond ring reveals a number of prominences as well as the pinkish layer of the sun’s atmosphere called the chromosphere.
Veteran eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre observed the July 11, 2010, total solar eclipse from Tatakoto, a tiny isolated atoll in French Polynesia’s eastern Tuamotu Archipelago about 800 miles (1,200 km) east of Tahiti. Due to strict size and weight limits on luggage for the chartered flight from Tahiti, their photographic gear had to be light, compact and portable.
Veteran eclipse chaser Edwin Aguirre’s imaging setup for the July 2010 total solar eclipse consisted of a Canon EOS 7D digital SLR camera attached to a Takahashi FC-60 f/8.3 apochromatic refractor, which was fitted with a Baader solar filter and mounted on a Bogen geared-head tripod. The telescope’s optical tube assembly measures only 17.5 inches long and weighs 2 pounds 13 ounces.
Before packing their gear for the July 11, 2010 solar eclipse, Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre like to lay out all their telescopes, lenses, cameras, tripods, laptop computer, and accessories on the floor. This makes it easier for them to see if there are any pieces of equipment missing. This photo was taken the day before their departure for Page, Arizona, to observe the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012.
For a total solar eclipse, eclipse chasers can bring along a portable hydrogen-alpha telescope to get unique views of the partial phases as well as see and record prominences along the sun’s edge before totality. This H-alpha image of the partially covered sun was obtained by Edwin and Imelda during the May 20, 2012 annular eclipse.
Veteran eclipse chasers Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson used this Coronado SolarMax II 60 Double Stack telescope from Meade Instruments to capture the H-alpha sun in May 2012 annular solar eclipse. Unlike ordinary, unfiltered light from the sun, also known as “white light,” H-alpha is the red light emitted by hydrogen atoms in the sun’s chromosphere at a wavelength of 656.3 nanometers.
Eclipses are a great way of introducing astronomy to people. During the July 11, 2010, total solar eclipse, veteran eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre distributed eclipse glasses to residents of Tatakoto Atoll in French Polynesia so they could safely enjoy the celestial show.
As part of their astronomy outreach efforts, before leaving for Tatakoto Imelda and Edwin were able to convince California-based telescope manufacturer Celestron to donate a telescope for the island’s primary school. Right after the eclipse, Imelda and Edwin presented the AstroMaster 90AZ refractor to the mayor, the school’s headmaster and the children of Tatakoto.
Imelda and Edwin assembled the telescope and showed the schoolchildren how to use it. The kids then eagerly waited in line to take their very first look through a telescope. It was only a distant coconut tree — but they were all very excited and happy. The island is blessed with some of the clearest, darkest, and most pristine skies Imelda and Edwin had ever seen, and thanks to the generosity and support of Celestron, the children of Tatakoto now have a superb tool for exploring the beauty of the night sky.
During the annular solar eclipse of May 20, 2012, Imelda and Edwin shared the experience with some local Navajo residents in Arizona, providing them with eclipse glasses and explaining what solar eclipses are and why they occur. In response, the residents shared with Imelda and Edwin their beliefs, superstitions, and folklore regarding such events. (For example, many believed that looking at an eclipse is bad for one's health.)
Depending on your time and budget, you can arrange your vacation around the eclipse so you can watch not only the celestial show but also explore new, exciting destinations. For example, after successfully observing the annular eclipse of May 20, 2012, in Page, Arizona, Imelda and Edwin stayed two extra days to visit the region’s world-famous slot canyons.
This is just one of the innumerable fantastic vistas that Imelda and Edwin photographed inside the Upper Antelope Canyon near the Arizona-Utah border after the annual solar eclipse of May 20, 2012. Expert guide Charly Moore of Overland Canyon Tours led them to the best spots for shooting the red sandstone formations.
A shaft of sunlight penetrates Arizona's Upper Antelope Canyon through a gap in the walls, bathing the interior in a rich, warm glow of yellow, orange, and red. Eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre explored the canyon as a side trip after the May 20, 2012, annular solar eclipse. Sightseeing can augment a solar eclipse expedition trip.
The Antelope Canyon is one of the most-visited and most photogenic slot canyons in the American Southwest. Its deep, narrow and winding passageways were formed by rushing waters eroding the rocks, leaving behind naturally sculpted walls of various shapes, textures and hues.
Some sections of the Lower Antelope Canyon are wide, flat and sunny, while others are much narrower and darker like a cave, with barely any light reaching the sandy floor. One has to be physically fit in order to hike and navigate the canyon’s trails, go up and down ladders, and squeeze in tight spaces while lugging the camera and tripod.
Depending on the season and the weather, the Antelope Canyon can get pretty crowded inside, with hundreds of tourists and photographers jockeying for position inside cramped spaces, making interior shots quite a challenge. This photo was taken by veteran solar eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre during a May 2012 expedition.
The Antelope Canyon showcases the natural beauty of planet Earth, giving visitors a glimpse into the planet’s geologic past and a demonstration of the dynamic processes of sedimentation and erosion. This photo was taken by veteran solar eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre during a May 2012 expedition.
Depending on the time of day and the season, light filtering inside Arizona's Lower Antelope Canyon produces a constantly changing interplay of light, shadow and colors, from yellow and red to brown and purple. This photo was taken by veteran solar eclipse chasers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre during a May 2012 expedition.
Imelda and Edwin emerge from the bowels of the Lower Antelope Canyon. Visiting the canyon requires a licensed guide since there is a high risk for flash floods, especially during the monsoon season. In 1997, 11 tourists from Europe and the United States drowned when a thunderstorm dumped large amounts of rain into the canyon basin several miles upstream and the resulting raging waters swept away the unsuspecting tourists.