Solar Eclipse – Post Processing

With the eclipse behind us, and all the gear put away it’s time to transfer and process the images to create something memorable.  I decided to make a mosaic with some of the photos of the eclipse, as well as the visible sun spots. Click on the image below for a high-resolution version.

August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse

The weather cooperated and I had the right gear to get some decent photos. Before the start of the eclipse, the sun presented two observable active sun spot regions: 2671 and 2672. This helped in achieving a proper focus and gave something to observe prior to the start of the eclipse.

Sunspot Region 2671 (right) and 2672 (left)

Sunspot Region 2671 (right) and 2672 (left)

As I had installed and aligned my Vixen equatorial mount the night before, once I had proper focus with the camera, it was child’s play to start an automatic sequence of images every 60 seconds. Hence for the entire solar eclipse, it was hands-off and automated. I could simply glance once in a while at the screen or grab one of the hand-held solar viewers to look up.

58% Cover from the Montreal, Canada Location.

58% Cover from the Montreal, Canada Location.

While the effect was nowhere near that of those in the path of totality, the light level and heat did drop at the peak of the eclipse. The brightness was lower, not like when there are high altitude clouds as the shadows were still sharp and well-defined. And the sun’s rays did feel cooler, a welcomed relief from standing under the sun for the last hour.

In the end, it was a fun experience, especially with the kids. And with over 150 images taken I decided to compile them into two formats. A time-lapse video and a mosaic as seen above.

The video was actually the quickest thing done. With Microsoft Movie Maker, it takes the Canon CR2 RAW files directly and stitches them together into a video. It actually took me longer to find a suitable soundtrack to the clip.

With that experience under my belt, I’m looking forward to April 8th 2024 total solar eclipse that will pass close to home.

Telescope: Skywatcher 80ED with Thousand Oaks R-G solar film
Camera: Canon Rebel XTi (450D)
Setting: 1/1000s at ISO 100

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Partial eclipse and sunspots

As the moon moves out of the path of the sun, it exposes the sunspots AR2671 adding some interest to the show as it comes to an end.

With over 150 photos taken during the eclipse, time to create a time lapse video.

Eclipse viewing with a pasta strainer.

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Multiple projections of the eclipse.


Something is taking a bite out of the sun!

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What could it be?

Getting Prepared for the Eclipse

With the time approaching, I installed the telescope such that it can get up to temperature under the sun. I used an old cardboard box as a sun shield around the laptop for better viewing. I still have a good hour before it starts, so might as well have lunch and then set-up the camera.

SW80ED on Vixen GP mount.

SW80ED on Vixen GP mount.

Thin high altitude clouds and high humidity will muddy the view a bit, but other than that looking good.

For the Montreal area the maximum coverage will be 58%.

Polar Align the Night Before the Eclipse

The telescope mount is aligned and ready for tomorrow. While you may think that you’ll have plenty of time to setup your telescope gear in the morning before the solar eclipse starts. If you are using an equatorial mount, you need to polar align the night before.

Polar alignment in the daytime is possible, however it’s much easier to set-up the night before with the help of Polaris. No rain in the forecast tonight and the sky was clear enough to align the mount.

Don’t forget to charge your camera and check that you have enough storage space for the images. And lucky for us, there are sun spots which will help get the focus right. Not always obvious when all you see is a bright disk over a dark background.

William Optics GT71 f/5.9 Triplet Refractor

My last telescope purchase goes back to about 11 years when I upgraded from a beginner 130mm Newtonian to the 80ED bargain APO refractors launched by Syntha (Orion/Skywatcher) that everyone was raving about. I got one of the light metallic blue Skywatcher (SW80ED) and have been happy with its good optics and versatility for both visual and photographic use. Well actually, I upgraded the focuser as the stock unit didn’t do well with the weight of DSLR, often sliding out of focus or shifting when the tension was adjusted.

Over the past few years I’m been evaluating what should be my next move. From the 80ED there are many possibilities in the $800-$1200 CDN price range:

  • An 8in or 10in fast newton; a good bargain when it comes to pure light gathering power, and the fast ratio is great for photography. However collimation needs to be spot on, and will require frequent adjustments.
  • A 100-110mm doublet refractor will also gather more light and retain the easy of use like the 80ED.
  • Some entry-level catadiaoptric like Ritchey-Chrétien or Schmidt-Cassegrain are interesting with longer focal lengths for planets and galaxies

But with any of these options, the weight of the optic increases, and my current Vixen GP will start to struggle. Changing both telescope and mount was out of the question. I wanted something that could go well with my current gear. Hence a 70-80mm APO triplet started to look interesting, especially the small packages offered by some of the fast ones. After a week under dark skies without my telescope, I decided I needed something portable.  That’s when I jumped on an occasion to grab one of the star party demo units from William Optics: the Gran Turismo 71mm APO Triplet Refractor.

davIt may be a demo, but it looks brand new. Not a scratch on the powder-coat finished white optical tube or even the gold-colored dove-tail. Everything feels solid and the focuser looks like it can easily handle the heaviest DSLR. The SW80ED focuser is screwed to the back of the optical tub while the GT71 is one CNC machined unit, eliminating mis-alignment. As this is designed to be a travel scope, the soft-case that comes with it is very nice, much more portable than my current Orion hard-case. And at 2.2kgs, the weight is well within the range for the Vixen GP mount.

To compare the size, I’ve set it up next to my SW80ED, where it comes to almost half its length. The 80ED shares the same tube as the 100mm version, hence it’s bigger than it needs to be and the dew shield does not retract. Overall, the GT71 is more compact and will pack just about the same viewing power as the SW80ED.

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Below is a view of the optics.  While the SW80ED only has about 5 baffles within the tube, the GT71 has a good 30 of them to keep any stray light from ruining the view.  While both use FPL-53 glass, the SW80ED only has it in the rear element, while the GT71 is used for all three optical elements.  The SW80ED provides views free of chromatic aberration, however it’s designed to perform well in the blue and green part of the spectrum.  Anything is the deep red was falling out of focus, especially if a focal reducer was used.  The GT71 will perform better over a wide range of spectrum.

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I didn’t travel with my SW80ED, but now with a more compact telescope, I’ll be inclined to simply grab it during for my outings.  I just now need a light alt-az tripod to go with it.