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  1. July 22 Eclipse Day
    1. Introduction
    2. 4 AM
    3. 7 AM
    4. Eclipse Site Panorama
    5. Best Laid Plans...
    6. 8 AM
    7. Second Contact minus 5 minutes
    8. Conclusion
    9. Copyright


Well the day had arrived.  The weather had been generally clear (but crushing hot) on the 19th and 20th.  On the 21 the sunny weather was replaced by hazy clouds.

Our meteorologist, Jay Anderson, had been watching the weather forecasts.  It looked like a weather system was going to move into Shanghai the day of the event. This is the IR Satellite image from 8 AM (0 UTC) on the day of the eclipse.

The maps indicated that the further south we were the better.  Unfortunately there is only so far south you can go and still stay in the band of totality. 

On the 21st Jay set out with the tour company and located a new spot.  What  they discovered was a rest stop on the south side of the Hangzhou Bridge. We could set up on a grassy area near the buses.  A newer building is on the west side of the grassy area not shown below.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

4 AM

Bus A at 4AM in the morning.  Where is the coffee?

click for a larger image

We encountered heavy rain on the trip south.  Not the weather you want to see on eclipse day!

7 AM

When we got to the site the sun was just rising through the lower clouds.  Everyone started setting up.  I kept reminding everyone of some of my past experiences and that it was never over until it was over.

By 7:14 the sky had clear enough to make a test shot

Eclipse Site Panorama

Many of the Bus A people set up around me on the grassy area.  This is a panorama of us setting up.

This "movie" is really a series of still pictures Photoshoped together. Click here for a full size copy of the panorama.

Best Laid Plans...

courtesy of Kerry Patt
All set up and ready to go.  Some friends did a coffee run into the rest stop.

I did not have the sophisticated (and fully automated) equipment that I took to Libya.  I also left my DSLR at home for this trip.  Fortunately the small camera I had a 10x zoom.  Test shots showed I would get some acceptable pictures.  I had planned to shoot multiple frames at 1/1600 ISO 200 to try to catch the diamond ring, then switch to binos, then back to the camera at about 3 minutes in to see how much corona I could get.  I knew that the 1/5 sec shot I got of the moon in 2006 was well beyond what this setup was capable of. But I thought that 1/320 sec shots of the inner corona were well within the capabilities of this setup.

Since I could very precisely adjust the aim of the camera I could even deal with intermittent clouds.

8 AM

courtesy of Danni Armstrong
But then the rain came....

By the scheduled start of totality everyone was throughly wet and my optimism was starting to look hollow.  I put most of my equipment back on the bus and just sat there hoping our luck would change.

I kept my dark adaptation patch on for a while, but there reached a point where doing so seemed a little silly.

Second Contact minus 5 minutes

9:35 AM

Then something funny happened.  I know eclipses cause their own weather.  I experienced this in 2005 when a completely clear sky became clouded over by 2nd contact.  In Russia the reverse happened.  As the sky cooled, the clouds over the lake dissipated (just as Jay predicted).

Once again Jay bet correctly.  The rain stopped.  The low clouds shifted direction from traveling north to traveling along the eclipse path. The sun reappeared, albeit behind thick clouds.  As the shadow moved over us the sky turned as black as midnight (see my images from Russia for what the sky more typically looks like). And we got to see at least the inner corona.  I abandoned my photography plans and just watched with my binoculars.

Even then observing was a challenge.  The sun was fairly high in the sky at this point. I kept getting rain drops on my objective.  Thus I ended up observing the sun in one corner of my binos while balancing the drops to another corner!

Another person on our bus was more persistent.  Mike Mayda captured the corona during totality. Normally photographs do not capture the range of brightnesses that can be seen visually.  In this case our view was attenuated by the clouds so this is identical to what I saw.

NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory
Had I been in space this is what I would have seen. This picture was taken as the shadow was over us.


So I would not declare this to be a full success, but we were not skunked either.  Had Jay and TravelQuest not made the change we certainly would have been.  This is yet another reason I will be traveling with them again.

So that is it for 2009.  I sort of regret not trying some pictures, but I made a rule early on in my eclipse chasing that my first priority was to enjoy the eclipse.  I met that goal.

Next Year Easter Island!!


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The China 2009 pages by Robert J. Hawley are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. This permits the non commercial use of the material on this site, either in whole or in part, in other works provided that I am credited for the work and you apply this or similar license to the result. Some of the included works bear a similar copyright. Contact Me.

rjh 8/3/09