Sun pictures


During the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, telescopes looked up; I looked down.

Well, fair’s fair, I looked up also, but I concentrated on the ground. Let me explain. 

I leave it to the folks with good equipment in the path of totality to take the inspiring images of the corona. However, my title, Sun pictures, does not refer to such pictures of the Sun, itself, but to pictures made by the Sun. 

The first hint I had that the Sun could paint pictures on the ground came from a book I read as a student. M. Minnaert’s book, Light and Colour in the Open Air, told of the way the gaps between tree leaves behave as pinhole cameras and projected images of the Sun on the ground. Normally when projected on a horizontal surface, these images would be elliptical. However, during a partial solar eclipse, they match the appearance of the Sun and become crescents.

I first saw these crescent Sun pictures during the solar eclipse of 1970. I wanted to see them again.

Sunlight passing though the gaps between tree leaves normally project elliptical Sun pictures on the ground. The lawn provides an uneven screen.

This is a shot of the Sun just as the partial eclipse was ending (the Moon still takes a tiny bite out of the Sun at seven o’clock), but the Sun is essentially circular and would produce elliptical images on a horizontal surface. The picture shows both sunspots and limb darkening.

Here is the Sun at about the greatest extent of the eclipse at my location.

Sun pictures are projected through the gaps between tree leaves during a partial solar eclipse. A less cluttered image was obtained by placing a kitchen mat on the grass.

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3 Responses to Sun pictures

  1. Bravo, Alistair! This is a wonderful perspective. There was quite a gathering at Pulpit Rock yesterday. One young man I know took a common kitchen colander and paper plate up with him and allowed the light to pass through all the pinholes onto a plate. Similar effect, yet not as dreamlike as yours. Thank you…..

  2. Marie says:

    In Vancouver, I too looked down and saw the effect you illustrate. I believe we reached 86% maximum sun coverage. It was strangely quiet in the bustling city; as if everyone paused to marvel. The quality/quantity of light was also unique, rather like a cosmic dimmer switch.

  3. Norm Babcock says:

    Great photos. The scenes look similar to our 92% coverage. As the sun began to disappear, the myriad of birds collected at the head of our harbor all became quiet..ospreys, sea gulls, ducks and geese all apparently retiring for the “night.” In fact the entire island seemed to become strangely quiet. The only sound, oddly out of place, was the barking of dogs from one house to another. When I went back into our home, I had to turn the lights on, although you could see brief splotches of sunlight were the non-shadowed rays still made their way to earth. How spectacular.
    Norm and Micki

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