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1995 Total Solar Eclipse
1995 Total Solar Eclipse
The diamond ring effect at 2nd contact and solar corona.
(click for larger image)

Report on the Total Solar Eclipse of 1995 Oct 24

by Fred Espenak (Dundlod, INDIA)

In 1995 October, I traveled with Ken Willcox and the Astronomical League's expedition to India for the total solar eclipse. After some intensive site-seeing in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, our group of thirty-two traveled north to the small town of Dundlod which was located near the center of the narrow path of totality in Rajasthan. There, we stayed in a tent camp especially arranged for our group. We had the option of observing the eclipse from the tent camp or from the roof of Dundlod Fort in the center of town. I chose the tent camp since it gave me unlimited access to my equipment and plenty of space for setting up.

This was my twelfth total eclipse and it was unique for its low altitude (23 degrees) and short duration (40 seconds). The brief total phase was due to the fact that the Moon was only 1.1% larger than the Sun. As a result, the limbs of the Sun and Moon were in close proximity to each other over a rather long arc at second and third contacts. Since this geometry suggested an intense and active display of Baily's beads, I hoped to make a detailed record of the beading morphology to test and improve my prediction software, and to assist in the development of an animation program for predicting Baily's beads at future eclipses. Although two deep valleys along the Moon's east and west limbs meant a shorter duration of totality, they also promised unusually long diamond rings at the contacts.

In addition to the beading phenomena, I was eager to take advantage of the aesthetic opportunity offered by the Sun's low altitude to include interesting scenery and architecture in the foreground for wide field photography during totality. I planned to run five 35mm cameras and two video camcorders during the eclipse. Fortunately, two of the 35mm cameras were automated and the camcorders could be left unattended during totality. Still, it was a very hectic schedule I had designed for myself.

My prime instrument was a 105 EDT Astrophysics refractor (4" f/6) with a 2x converter to give a focal length of 1230 mm. The second camera used a Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11. I planned photo sequences during totality with exposures ranging from 1/15 down to 2 seconds. Since each camera was motor driven and equatorially mounted, I could concentrate exclusively on varying the exposures during the brief seconds of totality. I also planned to shoot sequences during the 30 seconds before and after totality to study the timing and morphology of Baily's beads.

A wide field video camcorder was set up behind us looking into the Sun. This would record our activities and reactions during totality. A second camcorder was equipped with a 4X extender lens which yielded an image scale comparable to a focal length of 1500mm on a 35mm format. Several 35mm cameras with programmable data backs were also set up to photograph the landscape with the eclipsed Sun in the frame. All these cameras and camcorders were to run unassisted during totality.

As usual, I slept very little the night before the eclipse as my mind raced along with the Moon's approaching shadow. To help pass the time, my roommate Ken Bertin and I took a walk around 1 AM and did a little star gazing. It was one of the clearest, darkest skies I've seen since Ayes Rock, Australia during a Comet Halley expedition in 1986. We enjoyed binocular views of the Andromeda galaxy and its companions as well as the Orion Nebula and other favorite deep sky objects. The quality of the sky promised good weather on eclipse day. I was far more concerned about the ambitious schedule I'd planned and whether all equipment would function correctly.

After loading fresh batteries and film in all my cameras and equipment, I managing a few brief hours of sleep, I was up before the Sun to confirm that the sky conditions were still excellent. Then, I carried the remainder of my equipment to the observing site to finish setting up. One of the problems with an early morning eclipse is that it does not give you much time to get ready. I could easily have used another hour or two as I frantically set up my cameras and checked alignments.

Time seemed to accelerate as the umbral shadow approached. During the last five minutes, the landscape took on the familiar yet bizarre appearance I've seen at past eclipses. I could feel my heart racing but I tried to remain calm. My actions during totality had been carefully planned, orchestrated and rehearsed weeks before to take advantage of every precious second of totality. Now it was time for the actual performance. As an added precaution, all my instructions were recorded on a micro-cassette which was synchronized to my watch and played back through earphones. I've found this system to be invaluable for reminding me what needs to be done and when, especially during the chaos surrounding totality. With sixty seconds remaining, I removed the solar filters from my telescope and lens. Proceeding to the video camera, I removed the solar filter at T minus 45 seconds and was rewarded with a faint but clearly distinguishable image of the corona on the video monitor. At T minus 35 seconds, I began my photo sequences. As the glare of the shrinking crescent diminished, the corona grew brighter producing a beautiful diamond ring effect. Eight seconds before contact, the crescent broke into a series of beads who's number and morphology changed continuously during the remaining seconds. Finally, only one bright bead remained and lingered for three or more seconds. As soon as it was extinguished, I let out a 'Whoop!' and began executing my corona sequences on two cameras. I finished them just in time to see a bright bead forming at the Moon's west limb. It was quickly joined by 5 or 6 more beads as I pounded away on the remote buttons of two motor driven Nikons. The beads continued to multiply and brighten as they began to merge into a thin long crescent. Two more beads appeared beyond the north horn of the crescent before it grew too bright to watch. It was absolutely awesome!

With the heavy photographic schedule I had during totality, there was no time to observe. I did steal one or two glances at the sky during totality and my video confirms that the corona was a classic solar minimum corona. Lots of fine polar brushes with an elongation of the corona in the equatorial plane. There were no particularly strong streamers like the ones in 1991 and 1994, so the 1995 corona was relatively boring by comparison (if one can ever call the solar corona boring!). A number of people observed two or three prominences, but I never had the opportunity to look for them. However, photographs taken through my refractor show a very long prominence north of the third contact limb. I also had the impression that the sky was brighter than at previous eclipses, probably due in large part to the small size of the umbral shadow.

My two strongest impressions from this eclipse are the fabulous display of Baily's beads at both contacts, and the brevity of the event. Forty seconds is much too short! A two or three minute eclipse now seems leisurely long by comparison. As we packed up our equipment, a smile was on our lips and Mongolia 1997 was on our minds!

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The Taj Mahal
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

The Taj Mahal

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Indian Woman
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

An Indian woman sells flower blossoms at the gate of Ghandi's grave.

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"Indiana" Espenak
©1995 Photo by Ken Bertin

Fred Espenak is embraced by a "friendly" python in New Delhi.

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Sipping Port in New Dehli
©1995 Photo by Pat Totten

Fred Espenak, Chris Halas and Bob Shambora taste a bottle 30 year old port while discussing eclipse plans under the stars of New Dehli.

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Fashion Show
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Expeditioners Pat and Chris model lovely silk sari's in New Dehli.

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Astronomical League at the Taj Mahal
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

The Astronomical League 1995 Eclipse Expedition poses for a group photograph at the Taj Mahal

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Jaipur Astrological Observatory
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

The Jaipur Astrological Observatory includes the world's largest sundial.

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Anderson and Espenak in Jaipur
©1995 Photo by Ken Bertin

NASA eclipse bulletin authors Jay Anderson and Fred Espenak meet in the most unusual places. Here the two eclipse afficianados hold a brief reunion atop the world's tallest sundial at the Jaipur Astrological Observatory.

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Ken Willcox & Questar
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Ken Willcox sets up his Questar and video camera to capture Bailey's Beads.

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Bertin and Cannon L1 Camcorder
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Ken Bertin checks the view through his Cannon L1 Camcorder during the eclipse.

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Espenak and Refractor
©1995 Photo by Ken Bertin

Fred Espenak readies his 4 inch AstroPhysics refractor in preparation for the impending eclipse.

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The Diamond Ring
©1995 Photo by Pat Totten

After two previously clouded out eclipses, Pat Totten sees and photographs her first total solar eclipse. Her reaction: "I'm hooked! Sign me up for Mongolia in 1997!"

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Wide Field Corona
©1995 Photo by Bob Shambora

Bob Shambora captures a wide field view of the solar corona during totality.

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Dazzling Diamond Ring
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11, exposure 1/500 on Royal Gold 100.

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Diamond Ring Effect
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11, exposure 1/125 on Royal Gold 100.

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Espenak and telescope during totality
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Nikon 8008, 16mm Nikkor, auto-exposure on Elite 100.

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Scenic view during totality
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Nikon 6006, 50mm Nikkor, auto-exposure on Elite 100.

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Totality - Solar Corona
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11, exposure 1/15 on Royal Gold 100.

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Totality - Solar Corona
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11, exposure 1 second on Royal Gold 100.

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Third Contact Diamond Ring
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Sigma 400mm APO f/5.6 lens with a 2x converter to give 800 mm at f/11, exposure 1/125 on Royal Gold 100.

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Baily's Beads Sequence at Third Contact
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

AstroPhysics 105EDT f/5.8 refractor with a 2x converter to give 1260 mm at f/11, exposure 1/125 on Kodak Elite 100.

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Baily's Beads at Third Contact
©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

AstroPhysics 105EDT f/5.8 refractor with a 2x converter to give 1260 mm at f/11, exposure 1/125 on Kodak Elite 100.

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Composite Image of the Solar Corona
©1995 Photo by Wendy Carlos and Fred Espenak

The solar corona exhibits a tremendous range in brightness which cannot be captured photographically on any single exposure. Fortunately, the computer can be used as a tool to combine a series of images taken at different exposures into a single composite image which more closely resembles the corana's appearance as seen by the human eye.

This image of the Sun's corona was made from a composite of eight separate photographs made by Fred Espenak from Dundlod, India during the total solar eclipse of 1995 October 24. The photos were made on Kodak Royal Gold 100 with a Nikon FE w/MD-12 motor drive, a Sigma 400mm f/5.6 APO telephoto and a Sigma 2X teleconverter. Exposures were 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/15 and 1/125 seconds. After development, the images were transferred to Kodak photo-CD. Wendy Carlos then used Abobe PhotoShop and a Macintosh IIfx to combine the eight images into one composite image.

The techniques used were orignally developed over a period of a dozen years, using traditional photo darkroom tools then available. Each images was masked to allow only that portain which contained real image data to contribute to the final composite. So the usual burned-out or underexposed coronal portions were removed. The good parts were graded to fit the dynamic range of final print materials, darkening the bright inner portions, while lightening the outer dim parts.

These same hand-tuned processes were adapted to computer image software, with added features, like checking that the allignment between original frames is exact, enhancing low-contrast differences, and removing glitches and grain noise. It still requires many hours and a deft experienced hand to pull it off. Observing many total eclipses gives you the memory of what the desired goal ought be: a natural portrait of what your eye and brain see during totality!

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©1995 Photo by Fred Espenak

Expeditioners begin the celebration after a very successful eclipse.

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Totally Zonked!
©1995 Photo by Bob Shambora

Fred Espenak falls asleep on the long bus ride back to New Dehli after a very successful eclipse. Meanwhile, Ken Bertin watches his eclipse video for the umpteenth time!

Copyright Notice

All photographs, text and web pages are © Copyright 2006 by Fred Espenak, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. They may not be reproduced, published, copied or transmitted in any form, including electronically on the Internet or WWW, without written permission of the author. The photos have been digitally watermarked.

The photographs may be licensed for commercial, editorial, and educational use. Contact Espenak (at MrEclipse) for photo use in print, web, video, CD and all other media.

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Last revised: 2007 Jan 20