May 20, 2012 Solar Eclipse

MrPogi

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On May 20, 2012 the Western United States will experience an annular solar eclipse, on the path shown below.


Since this eclipse occurs near sunset and the eclipse track passes over some spectacular scenery, it should present some great opportunities for stunning photographs.

WARNING!
The only time that the Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is during a total eclipse, when the Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques. Even when 99% of the Sun's surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn, even though illumination levels are comparable to twilight [Chou, 1981, 1996; Marsh, 1982]. Failure to use proper observing methods may result in permanent eye damage or severe visual loss. This can have important adverse effects on career choices and earning potential, since it has been shown that most individuals who sustain eclipse-related eye injuries are children and young adults [Penner and McNair, 1966; Chou and Krailo, 1981].
From NASA:
The same techniques for observing the Sun outside of eclipses are used to view and photograph annular solar eclipses and the partly eclipsed Sun [Sherrod, 1981; Pasachoff & Menzel 1992; Pasachoff & Covington, 1993; Reynolds & Sweetsir, 1995]. The safest and most inexpensive method is by projection. A pinhole or small opening is used to form an image of the Sun on a screen placed about a meter behind the opening. Multiple openings in perfboard, in a loosely woven straw hat, or even between interlaced fingers can be used to cast a pattern of solar images on a screen. A similar effect is seen on the ground below a broad-leafed tree: the many "pinholes" formed by overlapping leaves creates hundreds of crescent-shaped images. Binoculars or a small telescope mounted on a tripod can also be used to project a magnified image of the Sun onto a white card. All of these methods can be used to provide a safe view of the partial phases of an eclipse to a group of observers, but care must be taken to ensure that no one looks through the device. The main advantage of the projection methods is that nobody is looking directly at the Sun. The disadvantage of the pinhole method is that the screen must be placed at least a meter behind the opening to get a solar image that is large enough to see easily.

The Sun can only be viewed directly when filters specially designed to protect the eyes are used. Most such filters have a thin layer of chromium alloy or aluminum deposited on their surfaces that attenuates both visible and near-infrared radiation. A safe solar filter should transmit less than 0.003% (density~4.5)[1] of visible light (380 to 780 nm) and no more than 0.5% (density~2.3) of the near-infrared radiation (780 to 1400 nm).
One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is shade number 14 welder's glass, which can be obtained from welding supply outlets. A popular inexpensive alternative is aluminized mylar manufactured specifically for solar observation. ("Space blankets" and aluminized mylar used in gardening are not suitable for this purpose!) Unlike the welding glass, mylar can be cut to fit any viewing device, and doesn't break when dropped. Many experienced solar observers use one or two layers of black-and-white film that has been fully exposed to light and developed to maximum density. The metallic silver contained in the film emulsion is the protective filter. Some of the newer black and white films use dyes instead of silver and these are unsafe. Black-and-white negatives with images on it (e.g., medical x-rays) are also not suitable. More recently, solar observers have used floppy disks and compact disks (both CDs and CD-ROMs) as protective filters by covering the central openings and looking through the disk media. However, the optical quality of the solar image formed by a floppy disk or CD is relatively poor compared to mylar or welder's glass. Some CDs are made with very thin aluminum coatings which are not safe - if you can see through the CD in normal room lighting, don't use it!! No filter should be used with an optical device (e.g. binoculars, telescope, camera) unless it has been specifically designed for that purpose and is mounted at the front end (i.e., end towards the Sun). Some sources of solar filters are listed in the following section.

Unsafe filters include all color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Most of these transmit high levels of invisible infrared radiation which can cause a thermal retinal burn . The fact that the Sun appears dim, or that you feel no discomfort when looking at the Sun through the filter, is no guarantee that your eyes are safe. Solar filters designed to thread into eyepieces that are often provided with inexpensive telescopes are also unsafe. These glass filters can crack unexpectedly from overheating when the telescope is pointed at the Sun, and retinal damage can occur faster than the observer can move the eye from the eyepiece. Avoid unnecessary risks. Your local planetarium, science center, or amateur astronomy club can provide additional information on how to observe the eclipse safely.

You can find safe Solar Filters for both direct viewing and photography, and to fit your telescope, on Amazon: Solar Filters. You will also find commercial Astrononomy Software helpful in planning for the eclipse.

The sites below link to some of the best astronomy software available:

Astronomy Software List - Freeware, Shareware, Commercial
Best Free Astronomy Software
App Store - GoSkyWatch Planetarium - the astronomy star guide
Amazon.com: Open Star Map: Appstore for Android
 

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