Total Solar Eclipse - 13 November 2012 UT
Maitland Downs,  Far North Queensland, Australia
 (longitude: 144° 43' 33.0"E, latitude: 16° 14' 30.0" S)

Glenn Schneider
Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy, The University of Arizona

All images on and linked from this page © Glenn Schneider,
please contact for reproduction/rehosting.

All underlined text on this page, are links to other images or pages.

The 13 November 2012 total solar eclipse (TSE 2012) was visible from land only across the northern regions of Queensland and the Northern Territory in Australia.  Because totality was (a) very low to the horizon and (b) logistically more difficult in the Northern Territory, TSE 2012 saw a huge influx of both fledging, and hard-core, eclipse chasers concentrated in a very small geographic region along the east coast of Cape York from Cairns to Port Douglas.  For TSE 2012, I traveled to Trinity Beach with Joel Moskowitz to meet up with Joe Cali and a host of other like-minded umbraphiles from around the globe.  Our "baseline" plan was to observe TSE 2012 from an ultralight landing strip on the Cavallaro family farm just a few kilometers inland from Port Douglas.  The (anticipated) weather predictions the evening before the eclipse, however, dictated otherwise.  So, at midnight 13-14 November (local time), we struck out for a previously scouted alternate observing site inland at Maitland Downs, appx. 63 km NW of Mount Olive (~ 5 KM SE of the Maitland Downs airstrip).  Arriving at about 3 AM, we spent the next three hours setting up equipment in a cow paddock rich with natural fertilizer (i.e., cow manure).  A number of others elected to fly on a standby chartered aircraft to the west coast of Cape York (e.g., see THIS REPORT by Geoff Sims).  From our site at "Cow Poop Paddock" (below), the Sun would rise just at 1st contact, but (as a priori known) obscured by low hills to the east, and then climb through a surrounding canopy of ghost gum trees during partial ingress, clearing the highest branches just prior to totality from some parts of the observing field (a photographic esthetic opportunity, for this eclipse, I took advantage of).

Single frame during totality from an HD video* by Joel Moskowitz (left) as he and Glenn Schneider (right) bask in the lunar umbra.
*Sony HDR-CX550 frame extract (digitally composited with coronal image from the "wide field" camera as shown in more detail below).

For TSE 2012 I used three cameras to image totality, simultaneously providing a wide range of image scales and dynamic range.  Camera operations during totality were fully automated, permitting me to fully enjoy the passage of, and immersion in, the lunar umbral shadow.  "Hands-off and eyes to the sky" is  truly the only way to go...

With the usual disclaimer that NO photographs can capture the magic of totality and grandeur of the celestial spectacle of a total solar eclipse, below are a few images derived from the three-camera imaging sequences (with some technical and other details).  I hope these, in some small way, will begin to convey a glimmer of what was witnessed - but pale in comparison to the actual event itself.  I now cannot wait for "the next one" on 03 November 2013!


The view of TSE 2012 was magnificently framed by the ghost gum trees surrounding our site at "Cow Poop Paddock".
Click HERE to see a 2x larger scale rendering of the above mid-totality image.
Four-frame spatially-filtered composite image.  Nikon D3000 DSLR (2/3 frame sensor). ISO 200. 55 mm EFL f/5.6.
"Wide field" images acquired in this camera using X. Jubier's Solar Eclipse Maestro (SEM) S/W (thanks, Xavier!) with This Script.

For this, my 30th total solar eclipse, given the anticipated visual reduction in coronal extent due to sky conditions, I advantageously used the local flora to provide foreground context for both the wide-field camera (above), and intermediate image scale camera (see immediately below).  My thanks to Joe Cali (also see bottom of page) for the use of his precision inclinometer in setting up these images.  This was something a bit different for me, but post priori, quite happy with that decision.


Coronal "streamers" magnificently framed the totally eclipsed Sun low in the sky.
(To best see low-contrast features in this image, view from at least a meter from your screen).
 Seven-frame spatially-filtered composite image.  Kodak Elite Chrome (ISO 200) film.  400 mm EFL f/6.3

The corona beyond about four solar radii was visually obscured due to atmospheric extinction with the Sun only 13° above the horizon and from scattering lowering corona-to-sky contrast by very thin, high clouds (visible in the wide-field image at the top of this page).  The structure of the corona to the full radial extent seen was quite complex and typical of a "solar maximum" corona with streamers radiating circumferentially at all heliocentric azimuth angles  (and it was pretty too!). 

The fine-structure of the inner corona and solar limb dotted with prominences.
Captured with the "lug-a-scope" eclipse camera used also to image several prior TSEs.
Five-frame spatially-filtered composite image.  Ektar (ISO 25) film.  1200 mm f/12.

The mid/outer corona (above/top) and inner corona with prominences (above/bottom) were imaged on 35 mm film using two synchronously exposing cameras (Pentax ZX-30 and ZX-50).   During totality, log-normal exposure time ramps with exposures ranging from 53 ms to 993 millisecond were executed from  C2 to mid-eclipse, and symmetrically inverted to C3 with an inter-frame cadence of 4.3s. 


Contact 2 and 3 limb phenomenon: Baily's beads, chromosphere, and prominences (chronologicaly right to left).
Click HERE or on the above image to see at 2x scale and resolution.
Eighteen frame composite image.  Ektar (ISO 25) film.  1200 mm f/12.

The above montage, captured as individual frames with the lug-a-scope eclipse camera, progresses from right to left with (first) the shrinking and breaking of the pre-totality photospheric arc into Baily's beads and the emergence, then disappearance, of the ruby-red chromosphere with solar prominences dotting the solar limb.  The eight composited images on the right of the totally eclipsed Sun (showing inner corona and prominences) were exposed at -6, -4, -2, 0, +4.3, +8.6, +12.9, and +17.2 seconds with respect to the predicted time of second contact at 20:37:42.8 UTC.   A symmetrical third contact sequence appears to the left of the totally eclipsed Sun with respect to the predicted time of C3 at 20:39:46.3 UTC.  The image of the eclipsed Sun is a two-farme composite from images taken +/- 19.2 seconds with respect to mid-eclipse (20:38:46 UTC) reveal the array of prominences distributed around the periphery of the Sun visible near the time of mid-eclipse.


Visualization of the solar chromosphere at Contacts 2 and 3 combined.
Weighted, digitally-masked, combination of  four  C2 and four C3 frames from "Transition to/from Totality" sequence.

The Sun's chromosphere, an appx 20,000 km thin layer glowing in the ruby-red (at 6563Å) light of singly ionized hydrogen atoms, immediately surrounds the solar photosphere (1,391,000 km in diameter). The Moon's apparent angular diameter, as seen from Maitland Downs was appx 3.7% larger than the Sun's, so completely obscured the chromosphere for most of totality (see 'Transition to/from Totality" and Inner Corona  images above). Chromospheric arcs, however, alternatively visible for a few seconds at the east/west limbs of the Sun, became visible just as the silhouette of the over-sized Moon covered those respective  hemispheres of the Sun's photosphere immediately adjacent (interior) to the respective solar limbs.  The image above digitally combines the contact 2 and 3 chromospheric arcs to show the appearance of the chromosphere as it would have appeared - except at the solar poles - if the Moon had been a little further away from the Earth.  The chromosphere (also punctuated by hydrogen-alpha red prominences) is "broken", in many places, many small beads by the irregulaities in the lunar limb profile.


Chromosphere (top) and inner corona (bottom) remapped to a rectilinear projection.

Our view of circumsolar features is, naturally, in a polar coordinate system with the polar "view point" along the line-of-sight to the heliocenter. Above is an alternate visualization, into a rectangular coordinate system where the heliocentric gravity gradient is "up" at all circumsolar azimuth angles.  Such a polar de-projection gives a locally "linear" view of the chromosphere tangent the limb and coronal structures "evolving" vertically in the Sun's magnetic field, but against  the gravity gradient that is (everywhere) orthogonal to the photosphere.


And then, at 20:39:48.6 UTC, totality was over as the first bead of photospheric light appeared flanked by ruby-red prominences.
Single frame capturing the instant of the end of totality.  Ektar (ISO 25) film.  1200 mm f/12.

All film-camera exposures were autonomously acquired (as detailed HERE ) using G. Schneider's UMBRAPHILE automated eclipse imaging software, following a similar inter-camera relative sensitivity paradigm as detailed for imaging TSE 2006.  

Imaging Totality: "hands off" for 2m 02s of totality – enabling eyeball eclipse viewing with automated imaging.

All three cameras were run by a single Macbook Pro 17" laptop computer running MacOS X 10.6.8 simultaneously with UMBRAPHILE controlling the two film cameras on one USB port, and SEM controlling the DSLR on a second USB port.  The high-resolution/narrow-field camera ("C1") uses a Nippon Kogaku 120 cm diameter f/12 apochromatic refractor objective and is fed by a 5-3/4 inch diameter optically flat mirror on a coelestat (solar tracking mirror).  This "LUG-A-SCOPE" eclipse camera (white box) is described HERE.  The mid/outer-coronal camera ("C2, lower right in above picture) does not track the Sun since the longest individual exposure times are 1s, and the FOV is compliant with the overall solar/lunar motion in this 2 minute duration totality.  The "wide-field" D3000 DSLR camera ("C3") is not shown in this picture (as it was used to take this picture), but plugged-in to the USB cable resting on the roll of  tape on top of the lug-a-scope.  The wide-field camera simply sat on top of the lug-a-scope, with the lens propped up by the roll of tape, and pointed at the Sun.   The Questar?  With all cameras fully automated, I reveled in the ability to sit back and WATCH the eclipse without distraction! 

The automated exposure sequences executed by the three cameras are graphically depicted above.  The two film cameras, C1 & C2, fired their exposures identically, but with the mid/outer coronal camera, C2, having ~ 29x greater sensitivity w.r.t. C1 (inner coronal / chromosphere /prominences camera) due to their respective f/ratios and film speeds.  The wide-field DSLR camera C3 was asynchronous, but encompassed  the exposure sequences with C1/C2.  Exposures flanking totality (in C1/C2) of uniform exposure time (53 ms) are designed (for C1) to capture Baily's beads, chromosphere and prominence, exterior and interior to totality, respectively.  The log-normal exposure ramps (flanked by the shorter uniform exposures) are designed to provide a wide dynamic range for later multi-image combination.  C1 and C2 together, over the full range of exposures, provide a dynamic range in per-exposure sensitivity of appx 20,000.  The latitude of the films(s) provide an appx additional order of magnitude of linear dynamic range.


Second (left) & third (right) contact diamond rings, and coronal multi-image composites (middle), simultaneously imaged in two cameras with UMBRAPHLE.
Click HERE or on the above image to see at 2x scale and resolution.
TOP: Camera 2 (400 mm f/6.3, Kodak Elite Chrome 200).  Bottom: Camera 1 (1200 mm f/12, Ektar 25).


 • Ektar 25 (C-41) and Elite Chrome 200 (E-6) film development by Jones Photo Lab (Tucson).
 • 35 mm films digitally scanned at high resolution to 60 Mby TIFF files by Two Cat Digital (thanks, Howard!)

Special Acknowledgment: I would like here to publicly to express my deepest thanks to Joe Cali for all of his tireless, and heroic, logistical/organization efforts leading to the successes and enjoyment of TSE2012 by so many eclipse chasers - including myself!  THANKS JOE! for making it "easy" for us (though I am sure with many headaches for you).

For those who may not know Joe, that's him BEFORE totality, in middle, looking tired (as we all were) but grinning with expectation of the big event along with a few of the other umbraphiles (left to right: Steve Kolodny, Joel Moskowitz, Joe, myself, and Jay Friedland) at "Cow Poop Paddock" shortly before sunrise.  (Joel: You owe us some egg creams!)


-Glenn Schneider (24 December 2012)