How to Photograph the Eclipse

Robert Vanderbei, professor, Operations Research and Financial Engineering and associate faculty member in Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University

I am hoping to witness and photograph the total solar eclipse in August 2017. I have taken photographs of many celestial objects over the years, including, occasionally, pictures of the sun and even including two rare events when Venus passed in front of the sun—a so-called Venus transit—back in 2004 and again in 2012 (see picture). Photographing the sun isn't too difficult, given the right equipment. First, of course, one needs a camera—any modern DSLR camera should be fine. Second, one will need either a relatively big telephoto lens or an equivalent telescope. An equivalent telescope, one made with mirrors instead of lenses, will be smaller and cheaper than a comparable lens. A third required item will be a sturdy tripod, because any jittering would blur the pictures. Lastly, one will need one or a few filters to control how much sunlight enters the camera. The filters will be the tricky part. Before totality, the sun will be overwhelmingly bright. During totality, the sun's corona will be visible but much less bright. The choice of filters and having a simple and quick way to change them will be the trickiest part of getting good pictures. I plan to have a few different types, including, for example, a narrow-band Hydrogen-alpha filter. This filter will produce images that are significantly more intricate than what we get with a broadband filter.

AKA Coronado ASP-60 ©Robert VanderbeiRobert Vanderbei with Questar Solar Observatory (AKA Coronado ASP-60)©Robert	Vanderbei Mobile	Observatory	 Features: mobility, weather protection for electronic gear, a place to sleep, zero marginal costRare event of Venus as it passed in front of the sun—a so-called Venus transit. Photograph by Robert Vanderbei, 2012

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