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Last solar eclipse of 2021 today: How to capture the celestial event

Ajay Talwar, an astrophotographer and Vice President of the Amateur Astronomers Association Delhi shares his tips on how to capture a total solar eclipse.

By: Science Desk | Kochi |
Updated: December 4, 2021 1:55:46 pm
Solar Eclipse21st August 2017, Total Solar Eclipse at Redfish Lake, Idaho, USA (Neelam and Ajay Talwar)

On December 4, a total solar eclipse, the last of the year, will be visible from Antarctica. The southern tip of South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand can also see partial phases of the eclipse but it won’t be visible from India.

Meanwhile, Ajay Talwar, an astrophotographer and Vice President of the Amateur Astronomers Association Delhi in an interview with indianexpress.com shared tips on how to capture a total solar eclipse.

On October 24, 1995, he shot his first total solar eclipse from Barkakana in Jharkhand and in 2006, he travelled to Turkey to capture it again. On August 21, 2017, he was in Idaho, US to take a snap of the total solar eclipse dubbed the ‘Great American Eclipse.’

Is there an ideal focal length to capture the solar eclipse?

If you want to click a photo of the Sun with good details, then the focal length of the lens or the telescope should be more than 1,000 mm. During a total solar eclipse, the action is not on the Sun but around the Sun. The sun is covered and you can see the Corona or the Sun’s atmosphere which can extend up to two or four solar radii. The question is till where do you want to actually capture the Corona. If you want to capture the innermost Corona, you need a focal length of 1,000 mm. If you want to progressively capture the outer parts of the Corona, you can go lower to 800 mm, 500 mm or even down to 200 mm.

What is the ideal range of exposure?

The human eye can see Corona from the brightest to the dimmest. But the camera is not able to capture all of this brightness range because the equipment’s dynamic range is limited, compared to the human eye. So all exposure settings are good to capture a total solar eclipse.

With less exposure, the inner Corona will be properly exposed and if given more exposure, the outer or outermost Corona will be properly captured. Astrophotographers use a range of exposures starting from 1/100th of a second depending on their focal length.

The secret to good astrophotography is planning and preparation. What are your planning tips?

I arrive at the exact location about three days before the eclipse and carry out a full rehearsal. For the June 21, 2020 eclipse, my wife and I traveled across Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan before finally picking a small resort in Sirsa as the perfect spot to shoot the Annular Solar Eclipse.

We usually programme all our exposures beforehand. All the equipment are controlled by a computer, even our cameras. At what exposures the photo should be taken and at what particular time, down to a second, are all programmed.

The most important thing is you should watch this grand spectacle with your eyes and if you are busy photographing, you might not be able to experience it. So we automate all our cameras and immerse ourselves in the view.

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