Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Big Eclipse - Part 3: What to bring

Like the Boy Scouts, the eclipse chaser's motto is "Be Prepared."  Totality lasts a very short time, at most about 2.5 minutes depending on where you're viewing.  You won't have time to make decisions or wish you had another piece of equipment once the eclipse starts.  So it's important to have a checklist of what to have with you (this post), and a complete, well rehearsed plan for what you're going to do during the eclipse (a future post).

You probably have some of this already, but other specialty items like the solar filters and maybe even binoculars or telescope or camera lenses may need to be purchased in advance.

We've already covered the basic items for safe viewing in the previous post.  You'll need one or more of the following:

  • *Cardboard solar viewing glasses or #14 welders glass for direct viewing
  • Pinhole viewer of some kind such as described in my previous post
  • *Binoculars (both for projecting the partial phase, and direct viewing of totality).
  • Solar filters for binoculars
  • Solar filter for camera lens
  • Solar filter for telescope
* Must-have items in my opinion

In addition, you may want to consider the following additional equipment for viewing and imaging the eclipse.  I'll talk about photography in more detail in an upcoming post.
  • Small (40-80mm) telescope with solar filter
  • Camera with appropriate filter, ideally a DSLR with a 200mm or longer lens.  A focal length of 400 to 500mm is ideal. 
  • Video camera
  • Tripods for the cameras
  • A white sheet or tablecloth for viewing shadow bands (more about this in a future post)
  • Printed timetable of the eclipse customized for your viewing site.  Remember that the different parts of the eclipse happen at different times depending on your location.  Use the NASA map (http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2017Aug21Tgoogle.html) and zoom in on your viewing location.  Click on the map at your location and a pop-up will display all the important info for that location.
  • Accurate time source (most cell phones are good enough).
  • Sketchbook.  Some people like to draw what they see during both the partial phases (sunspots) and totality.  
Finally, there are several items you might want to bring to help you stay comfortable during the eclipse.  They include:
  • Chairs or blankets to sit on.  Remember that the eclipse lasts about 2 and a half hours from first contact to last contact.  A reclining lounge chair is a comfy way to view the whole eclipse.
  • Shade (an umbrella or canopy).  
  • A straw hat.  One reason for this is to keep the sun off your head, but the other reason is that straw hats form tons of pinholes for viewing the partial phases of the eclipse.
  • Plenty of water.  Hey, it's August and likely to be hot.  Snackage too.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses (duh).  But remember, it's not safe to look directly at the sun through sunglasses.
That's pretty much all I can think of at the moment, but I'll go back and add things as I think of them.  As always, if you have questions or want advice about equipment, feel free to contact me.

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