University Lowbrow Astronomers

A Serendipity Photo.

by Bill Stegath
Printed in Reflections: June, 2005.

Lunar Eclipse

During a recent trip to Florida to watch the Dexter High School Marching Band perform at Disney World during Spring Break the first week of April, we extended our stay to include a week at Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island off the coast of Bradenton, where one can view the spectacular Gulf of Mexico sunsets. As a long-time amateur photographer of the sky and water (I’m a “Yooper” from Escanaba), I went to the beach late in the afternoon to assess the cloud formations... or if it was clear, to perhaps catch the “green flash.” Some low cumulus clouds had begun to develop with variable density which obscured the sun but would make great coloring when the sun got close to the horizon. Suddenly, there was a moment when the sun became visible through a portion of the cloud with just enough haziness to act as a filter... and I was startled to see that the sun had a “bite” out of it. I had forgotten that it was April 8 and that a partial eclipse was visible that day from the mid-to-southern portion of North America, thus excluding Michigan so it wasn’t on my mind... hence, the surprise. When I returned to Ann Arbor, I verified the latitude and percentage from Sky and Telescope magazine. This image appears to be very close to the maximum of 40% of the sun eclipsed judging from the magazine prediction for Miami which was about a degree and a half of latitude south of my location (Bradenton 27.50, Miami 26 degrees).

The filtering effect was just right for a photo without eye damage through the camera viewfinder and this photo was the best of three I was able to get before the sun was again obscured. Here is the exposure data:

Nikon SLR Digital Camera (D 70)

Date and Time: 4/08/05 6:30:21 EDT

Resolution: 2240x1488

Lens: 220 mm (Sigma Zoom Telephoto)

Mode: Program (Auto-focus)

Exp: 1/8000 @ f.8

Exposure compensation -0.67

The image is stored on Google’s Picasa software (excellent and free) which allows some adjustments in quality. This image has been enhanced with the “auto contrast” and “sharpen” tools to help compensate for lack of “tack sharpness” due to the camera being hand-held and hastily used to capture what I call my fleeting “serendipity” moment.


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