Total Eclipse of the UART

When it comes to astronomical events there’s nothing on earth that beats a total solar eclipse, so when I heard about the total eclipse in Northern Australia on the 14th of November, 2012, I started planning, years in advance of the event.  As a keen amateur astrophotographer I decided to drive (a two day journey each way) rather than fly so I could take as much gear as possible.

Photographing a total eclipse is very challenging.  The period of Totality is very brief and there are many different phenomena to capture, some extremely fleeting.  Lighting conditions vary hugely from levels that would destroy an unfiltered camera sensor to twilight darkness and back again.  Accurate timing and determination of location are critical.  Serious eclipse photographers use a laptop computer and special software in an attempt to automate their image capture and guarantee perfect results (ha ha!)

While automation doesn’t guarantee perfect shots, it can help.  At the very least you might get to watch the eclipse even if you don’t come home with award winning images.  The requirements for controlling a DSLR camera like mine include: cellular interface with GPS for accurate location and time; USB and asynchronous serial interfaces for driving the camera; WiFi for convenient control from a smartphone; non-volatile storage for images; and a CPU and operating system capable of running a camera control library and scripting.  Hmmm… sounds just like an Opengear ACM5504-5-G-W-I with the addition of libgphoto2!

Automated solar camera setup – testing at home

 

To cut a long story short, the trip was a great success despite dubious weather and the inevitable gear mishaps.  I took some nice images and got to enjoy the eclipse visually as well.  I look forward to finding further applications for Opengear products in my spare time.  One of these days I hope to have a home observatory that needs automation!

Wide angle view of Totality

 

The “Diamond Ring” effect just as the sun disappears completely behind the moon

The Solar Corona – a composite of more than 100 images