2024 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE CRUISE RESULTS 2024-05-04T03:23:39-05:00

2024 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE CRUISE RESULTS

by Paul D. Maley

A shot capturing eclipse watchers, the end of totality symbolized by the sunset colors in the southwest horizon, Venus (to the upper right of the Sun) and fainter Jupiter (to the lower left). Michelle Hillmeyer photo.

The total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024 was one of the more interesting and unique eclipses of the 21st century.  First it was almost exclusively visible over the USA which made it visible to a very large number of people, many of whom would likely never have traveled to one voluntarily. Second, it was relatively long in comparative terms: roughly 4 and one half minutes in length. Further to this, it provided an opportunity to organize two very large geographically separated expeditions that were both entirely successful and to have a forum to describe to large national audiences what an eclipse would be like.

Planning to get into the path of this eclipse was easy enough but being lucky with the weather is always a challenging aspect. There is never a guarantee that on land or sea that one will achieve clear sky at eclipse time. This becomes even more complex when you add an aircraft intercept.  As an example Delta Airlines organized two ‘eclipse flights’ that were supposed to get inside the path of totality and allow passengers to witness the total eclipse. One flight reportedly was never given clearance to make the proper turns to enter the path of totality while the second did get into the path but they got into the Moon’s shadow but were not guaranteed to actually see the eclipse itself.

Our cruise charter plan was straightforward: to sail into the path, witness the eclipse and continue on with an enjoyable cruise. It worked.

FANTASTIC STARLINK LAUNCH SIGHTING

An unexpected bonus occurred that was not planned.  When it comes to announcing the possibility of a rocket launch ahead of time there is always the chance it will be delayed or canceled. This was one of those events where neither happened and our eclipse team was treated to a spectacular sight on April 6.  The ‘wow factor’ was really off the charts as the Starlink 8-1 rocket appeared about 5 minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg AFB to the north northwest of our ship which at that time was situated at the lower end of the Baja peninsula. The track of these launches almost always passes over all of Baja California and that is where we happened to be at the right moment.

The announcement. Lynn Palmer photo.

THE RESULT: Frank Albi image at ~7.30 PDT. Photos in this sequence were all taken by smart phones.

 Rene Schneeberger photo. Note the rocket’s reflection in the sea on this and other images.

Sandi Schnall photo.

Marcia Arem photo.

Frank Albi photo.

Jim Thompson photo of Diane Birnbaumer.

SpaceX launch trajectory map and the ship’s location during the sighting.  Sent to me by Marlene Kirton.

THE ECLIPSE!

Heading for a good place where it might be clear was tough in the 24 hours prior. The most useful final image in my tool bag was this one that indicated where we finally ended up. It was a prediction at T-11 hours.  As it turned out the Mazatlan group had high cirrus but that did not prevent them from getting great views, but we were completely in the clear.

White indicates clear sky, blue indicates clouds from this screen capture. Pivotalweather image.

My crude drawing of how the ship needed to be oriented for totality.

Our actual eclipse position as shown in the rundown after the eclipse was over. This yielded 4 m 25 s of totality.

Paul Maley identifying the track location to Swan Hellenic DIANA’s captain. Lynn Palmer photo.

Members of the eclipse team on deck 8 observing the partial phases. Even at the high solar elevation of 68 degrees we had plenty of lounge chairs.  Lynn Palmer photo.

Robin Manteuffel, Tom Manteuffel and David Agard watching and photographing the partial phases. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Sun crescents produced by a deck chair. Bill Van Antwerp photo.

Sun crescents through interlaced fingers. Ship’s photographer Linn photo.

Bridge team ready for the eclipse. Ship’s photographer Linn photo.

The ease in which the partial phases could be viewed is illustrated in this photo of Teri Belli.  Lino Belli photo.

As we neared totality time the few clouds remaining were far off in the distance.

Depending on the weight of the lens it was relatively simple to shoot the partial phases hand-held. Leslie Strike photo by Lynn Palmer.

More Sun crescents. Jan Hellemans photo.

And yet more of the Sun crescents. Margaret Joyce photo.

Deck chair crescents. Marilyn Go photo.

We tried a real plant and a plastic plant bought at Walmart. The plastic plant projected Sun crescents while the real plant did not. If you look closely above you can see crescent shapes.  Lynn Palmer photo.

Three plastic plants used to project Sun crescents. The blue plant had correct leaf size, shape and separation. The others failed.  Paul Maley photo.

Shadow bands captured on video (link not established so the above is a still capture) by Francis McClain and Sandi Campbell-McClain. THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT PHENOMENON TO CAPTURE. IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY YOU WILL SEE parallel FAINT LINES  (upper left to lower right direction) SEPARATED BY SMALL SPACES AT AN ANGLE ON THE SUNLIT SURFACE OF THE DECK BUT TAKEN ON THE BALCONY OF CABIN 621–actually on the white rail base and wood colored deck just inboard of the white rail base. They lasted for a good 2 minutes plus and were seen both before and after totality. Video was captured on an Iphone 12 mini. Lesson learned for the next eclipse.  How were the shadow bands seen by these two guests and not mentioned or documented by others? By plan? No, in fact, because of a rotavirus spread on the ship a number of guests were confined to their cabin. Those on the starboard side were fortunate to face the eclipsed Sun. So, by being confined to their cabin Fran and Sandi accidentally witnessed the bands and were sharp enough (and fortunae enough) to spot and record them.

Members of the crew watching the partial phases. Peter Alley photo.

The captain and ship’s officers observing the partial phases.

More crewmembers pointing at the partially eclipsed Sun. Tim Gulick photo.

The Moon begins to encroach on the Sun with a couple of sunspots clearly visible.  Albert Wang photo.

Two contrails are visible prior to totality and are believed to be from NASA aircraft intercepting the eclipse.  Paul Maley photo.

The NASA WB-57 aircraft based at Ellington Field near NASA. I have seen this aircraft flying over our house many times when we lived in Houston. NASA file photo.

A closeup photo of one of the two aircraft above. This proves it is a NASA WB-57 airplane. Bob Hulse photo.

Two of three ships observed near us during the eclipse. Paul Maley photo.

GOING INTO AND OUT OF TOTALITY

The edge of the Moon’s shadow as it approaches the ship. Paul Maley photo.

2nd contact. Leroy Maxfield photo.

Prominences becoming visible. Leroy Maxfield photo.

Baily’s Beads disappearing at 2nd contact. Jan Hellemans photo.

Last Baily’s Bead. Leroy Maxfield photo.

Last Baily’s Beads at 2nd contact. Ship’s photographer Linn photo.

Prominences after 2nd contact. Leroy Maxfield photo.

 

What the corona (and the lunar surface) was predicted to look like. Courtesy Predictive Sciences Inc.

The corona with spikes. Sandi Schnall photo.

The corona. Ruth Hamori photo.

The corona. David Agard photo.

The corona. Ship’s photographer Linn photo.

The corona. David Wells photo.

The corona. Jay Sisco photo with a gimbal head.

The corona. Fritz Kleinhans photo with Canon 70 – 300 L IS lens on Canon 60D hand held on deck.

The corona. Chris Faser photo.

Montage by David Agard.

Montage by Chris Faser.

Telephoto and smart phone totality photography side by side. Nola Van Vugt photo.

Sarah Gittzus and Gage Pollard watching totality.  Jen Gittzus photo.

Four planets identified. Bob Hulse photo.

Photo of Jupiter with a 600mm lens during totality showing the four Galilean satellites. Below the image is the predicted location of those moons and the photo matches precisely. The moons are around 4th magnitude. Left to right: Callisto, Ganymede, Io and Europa. The blur is due to the exposure time.  Bob Hulse photo.

Totality over the ship’s bow.  Ship’s photographer Linn photo.

During totality it was easy for smart phones to capture the corona. John Pankiewicz photo.

Tim Gulick photo showing Venus to the right and Jupiter to the lower left of the eclipsed Sun.

Venus (upper right) and Jupiter (lower left) appear in this image from Kevin Winter.

Sunset panorama. Diane Birnbaumer photo.

In totality the smart phones were clicking. Erik Tingelstad photo.

Looking at totality. Albert Wang photo.

Reddish prominences near 3rd contact. The one in the 4 o’clock position was startlingly visible to the naked eye.  David Agard photo.

Baily’s Beads and prominences at 3rd contact. Jay Sisco with gimbal head.

If you are on a moving ship, this gimbal head —ProMediaGear GKJr Katana Pro–was used successfully by Jay Sisco to enable his sharp imagery.  Jay Sisco photo.

The elongated diamond ring and prominences at 3rd contact.  Mike Bertin photo.

Corona nearing 3rd contact. Steve Pucci photo.

3rd contact photo by Tina Greene-Bevington

Baily’s Beads merged into the diamond ring plus prominences.  Jay Sisco photo with gimbal head.

Baily’s Beads embedded in this image. Shane Kurzenbaum photo.

Second of three images as the Sun was beginning to reemerge. Shane Kurzenbaum photo.

Third image with prominences still visible and 3rd contact in progress. Shane Kurzenbaum photo.

Sunset colors to the west. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Diamond ring at 3rd contact. George Fairey photo.

Edge of the shadow as it recedes from the ship. Paul Maley photo.

Peter Alley and Carolyn Strange. Peter Alley photo.

A unique mask for partial eclipse viewing worn by Lupe Severson. Lynn Palmer photo.

Jay Sisco and Jan Hellemans using dark cloth material to shield eyes during partial phase photos. The 68 degree solar elevation made things challenging. Sandi Schnall photo.

_____ and ______ getting set for the eclipse.  Lisa McConlogue photo.

Champagne after the eclipse

More drinks around the ship on deck 9 between C1 and totality. Erik Tingelstad photo.

Series of weather satellite images showing the Moon’s shadow moving southwest to northeast during totality. Courtesy NOAA.

Power usage in Los Gatos, California during the partial solar eclipse (left) and on a normal day (center). The gap in the gray curve on the left indicates that charging was reduced due to the loss of sunlight during the eclipse there. At maximum 36% of the Sun was covered. Joyce Kobori data.

Group photo taken after the eclipse. Ship’s photographer Linn image.

ECLIPSE IMPRESSIONS

Ruth Hamori’s Experience

“It was phenomenal. What everybody says is true: there is a quantum leap between a very full partial eclipse and a total one.  Like two different entities altogether.  Everyone has seen countless photos of totality with the corona.  What I didn’t expect was the suddenness of it. At the instant that totality hits, it’s like something popping into place or a balloon that was slowly inflating suddenly exploding. The corona bursts out in all its glory and the black moon covers the orb of the sun.  Everyone reflexively gasps. The temperature drops (jackets necessary), the skies assume twilight coloration. We were surprised that it didn’t start to get dark or chilly until the sun was about 2/3 eclipsed.

The 4 minutes and 25 seconds went by very fast.  We were advised to spend at least the first 30 seconds just looking, before fiddling with cameras.  I wish I had been able to make myself follow that advice. I did get some good exposures but I would have loved to spend more time just reveling.”

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Annette Gulick April 8 2024 Eclipse Experience

The morning of the eclipse I missed seeing the green flash. Every sunrise and sunset during the eclipse cruise off the coast of Mexico, my husband Tim and I fixed our eyes on the horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of the well-documented, but elusive phenomena. As the sun glides across a clear horizon an attentive observer may glimpse the first or final ray of light showing only the green part of the spectrum.  Tim and I were standing on the back deck with a few other passengers who had their cameras posed to catch the flash when a friend walked up. As I talked with him I heard someone exclaim, “There it was.” Another said, “It was really clear this morning.”

I missed it!  I got distracted and lost sight of why I was awake so early in the first place. By losing focus, I missed out. Frustration turned into irritation with the person I had been talking with. In time I was able to listen to the part of me that reminded me that if I had simply said, “Just a minute, I want to watch for the green flash” they would have happily let me. It was my responsibility to stay focused on my goal.

Whenever the morning’s frustration came to mind, I channeled it toward the goal of our trip: viewing the eclipse. I forged a commitment not to lose focus and miss out. I wanted my full attention to be on the experience from beginning to end.  But for a first-time eclipse watcher, the big question was what to pay attention to.

I had listened to podcasts that detailed the changes that happen during a total eclipse, like the fact that the temperature drops as most of the sun is blocked. I had taken notes during Paul Maley’s presentations about what to look for, things I’d never heard of like “Bailey’s beads” and “prominences.” And I had read accounts of experiencing an eclipse, curated by Maria Popova in The Marginalian(.org). What stuck with me was Maria Mitchell’s 1878 description of watching an eclipse with the first academically accredited women astronomers in America (The World’s First Celestial Spectator Sport: Astronomer Maria Mitchell’s Stunning Account of the 1869 Total Solar Eclipse). Mitchell and company chose Denver as “a most favorable part of the shadow” because of its weather. (The same reason Paul Maley chose to host trips to the coast of Mexico.) Each person in Mitchell’s company had a role. One called out the seconds as they passed, a few people were posted at telescopes, someone else watched “general effects,” and an artist sketched the views.

The crew we were traveling with also had specializations. For most of them, this wasn’t their first eclipse. They came with all the equipment to take top-quality photographs. Some brought material to make filters for cameras, phones, and binoculars. (Bob spent the whole day before the eclipse custom-fitting those filters to other people’s devices.) I’m a writer, so I decided to take my notebook out onto the deck and record my experience.

Maria Mitchell’s insistence on registering the time stamps of the different phenomena inspired me to note the time from beginning to end. The first contact between the moon’s shadow and the sun was scheduled for 9:44 AM. A full hour before that Tim headed out to the “Swan’s Nest,” the area above the prow of the ship. There we set up camp with towels, sunscreen, water bottles, and binoculars.

I made my first journal entry at 8:49 AM and wrote The Long Wait.

Throughout the next hour, people joined us in the Swan’s Nest. Good company made the wait fun. Craig played Bob’s ukulele and sang “Pearly Shells” with Jan. Tim tried out his binoculars with their filter improvised from the iPhone filter Jean gifted us and was delighted to clearly see the sunspots.  As the time for first contact neared, I was not going to be distracted. I laid back with my eclipse glasses on and watched and waited. When I saw the first sliver of black on the sun I sat up and wrote: 9:44, First Contact, and drew a circle with a black bit on its edge, trying to reflect the position of the moon as it edged in front of the sun.  For the next hour and fifteen minutes, I noted the time and described or drew what seemed like a change in the appearance.

9:57 The sun looks like a glowing cookie with a bite missing. 

10:23 The sun looks like the crescent shape we associate with the moon.

The moon slid forward. The ambient light looked increasingly odd. The temperature dropped. People wrapped themselves in coats or towels.  As totality crept nearer, I stopped making notes but afterward wrote:

11 something, the sliver of the crescent disappeared into a blip, then totality, like a ring of fire, black in the middle, white flames around it, ruby red prominences, Venus and Jupiter on either side. 

I’d hear about people becoming overcome by emotion, laughing, crying. I didn’t record how I felt during the four minutes and 28 seconds of totality. I remember Tim and I squeezing each other’s hand, amazed that we had the privilege of experiencing this unique event so perfectly in such a privileged setting.  In her invitation to a livestream called “Totality,” Maria Popova ponders the magnitude of the event:

“Consider the dazzling odds: Out of the billions upon billions of possible combinations, a planet whose sole satellite is exactly 400 times smaller than its star and exactly 400 times closer, so that each time it passes between the two, it covers the face of the star perfectly, thrusting the planet into midday night, into something surreal and sublime.

Randomness seems too small a word for the staggering improbability that is a total solar eclipse. We may call it wonder. We may call it mystery. We may just fall silent before its brutal beauty…”

My sense of wonder at the magnificence and beauty was sweetened by the sense that this perfect fit is like the fit of a key into a keyhole: an intentional design. In my pre-trip study I read about the many ways that eclipses have allowed humanity to learn and predict things about the planets and the sun we couldn’t have known without this “stunning, strange” event.

11-Something someone broke us out of our reverie by calling out that we should put our eclipse glasses back on and I began making notes and drawings again.

11:11 Thumbnail crescent, drawing showing the darkness on the opposite side than before totality

11:20 The shape looks like a round, pregnant belly instead of just a crescent.

11:30 The outer point of the belly of the shadow is to the middle of the sun

11:40 The intersection of the two spheres looks like the Easter drawings of the round stone half-rolled away from a round tomb with light streaming out. 

After the tension and thrill of totality, people relaxed. They put down their cameras and binoculars, stretched, and started talking. The daylight came back and life felt normal again.

I knew it would be easy to lose interest after totality but I had fixed in my mind that the march of the moon across the sun was the same after totality as it had been before and I had committed to watch the whole eclipse from the first contact until the last.

I’d been out on deck for three hours but missing the green flash in the morning cemented this commitment. People drifted out of the Swan’s Nest but I stayed put, periodically lifting my eclipse glasses up to make notes in the blazing sun.

11:48 The black makes it look like an eyeball looking ahead

11:57 The black is less rounded, more of a slice

The ship intercom had announced the group photo on the back deck but I wasn’t about to leave before the contact had finished. Tim went to be in the picture. I was the last person staring at the sun. My notes reflect that I was ready for it to be over.

12:05 The slice of the moon doesn’t look like it is moving

12:12 Just a divot out of the sun

12:17 The tiniest sliver, hardly noticeable

Too late I realized that I should have kept the binoculars with me. All I could see was brightness. I felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me and seeing a dark silver where there was none. So I made my final entry:

12:22 Gone – maybe with binoculars I could see better but I can’t discern a change in the sphere of the sun. 

Missing the green flash in the morning helped me not miss the complete eclipse from first to last contact. As I look back on the experience, what stands out is how it was made possible and enriched by the passions, perspective, and generosity of others, as Maria Mitchell herself pointed out, “No one person can give an account of this eclipse, but the speciality of each is the bit of mosaic which he contributes to the whole.”

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Lisa McConlogue’s experience

“There is nothing like being at sea, chasing the Moon while it hunts the Sun. Of the five eclipses as I have seen, this was the best. The Moon was very close to the Earth, almost at its closest approach. The moment the Moon grabbed the Sun, it became deep, deep, deep, dark. The lightless black of the Moon was surrounded by shimmering silver strands of the Sun’s corona. A hole in the sky commanding awe. Beautiful pink prominences were visible on the left side of the Moon, until halfway through as the Moon moved to cover those initially visible flares, on the right appeared an enormous hot pink prominence. Everyone on the ship gasped together.”

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MISCELLANEOUS IMAGES

Green flashes were seen with some level of difficulty for both the visual observer and those taken photos. The following give the reader an idea of that.

Green flash. Leroy Maxfield photo.

Green flash. Jay Sisco photo.

Green flash. Jay Sisco photo as the Sun in the first frame sets.

Green flash at first light. Bob Hulse photo.

Green flash. Bob Hulse photo.

Fritz Kleinhans on deck.

Sun crescents through a Ritz cracker. Lynn Palmer photo.

Solar eclipse cake. Erik Tingelstad photo.

Eclipse cake close up. Chase Huneke photo.

Eclipse pizza phases. Erik Tingelstad photo.

Presentation room lights that looked like a total eclipse. Dace Roll photo.

Eclipse socks. Mary Arneson photo.

Karen and Michael Parry at the Houston IAH GlobalX airline counter with no markings that confused some people.

Last morning Moon sighting April 5. Mary Arneson photo.

First sighting of the Moon April 9. Paul Maley photo.

 

Mike Shara presenting one of his impressive talks. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Michal Peri’s presentation on the Parker Solar Probe. Ship’s photographer Linn image.

Bob Hulse giving a talk on the green flash. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Jim Kelley’s talk on the green flash. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Mike Bertin presentation

Final eclipse weather briefing by Paul Maley pointing out the area we were targeting to station the ship. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Paul Maley presenting the sky view during totality. Of the major objects in the vicinity of the Sun only Jupiter and Venus were seen/photographed.  Comet 12P was not seen.  Bob Hulse photo.

Simulated eclipse (center of image) on the beach by a parasail in Ixtapa MX. Paul Maley photo.

Closeup of the parasail elliptical shadow on the beach mimics the Moon’s shadow on the Earth. Paul Maley photo.

Post eclipse proposal. Shane Kurzenbaum proposes to Yolanda Janson. This is not the first time on one of our eclipse trips where this has happened.  It was supposed to occur during the eclipse at the diamond ring.  Marilyn Go photo.

Solar eclipse quilt. Mary Kerr photo.

The 9th deck on the ship is normally off limits because of radiation from navigation radars but was the best spot on the ship for open horizon. Erik Tingelstad photo.

A nautical sunset.  Ruth Hamori photo.

Auctioning of the navigation chart. Lisa McConlogue photo.

Pelican from an excursion. Ruth Hamori photo.

A flying fish almost caught. Leroy Maxfield photo.

A flying fish taking off. Bob Hulse photo.

Flying fish take off pattern. Bob Hulse photo.

California sea lions at Isla San Jose. Ship’s photographer Linn image.

Great blue heron. Stacy Kozel photo.

Crested caracara bird. Stacy Kozel photo.

Star gazing on deck. Ships’s photographer Linn image.

Eclipse coverage in my town of Cave Creek, Arizona where 40% of the Sun was not eclipsed.  Paul Maley scan of local article.

UNEXPECTED ECLIPSE PUBLICITY

During past solar eclipse expeditions I have never been hounded by the press for interviews. This year it was a wild exception. I was contacted by USA Today, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, BBC News, CNN domestic, CNN International, Fox and Friends, Fox Business, Fox Weather Channel, The Weather Channel and others all wanting to know why this eclipse was so interesting. It was a chance to promote our ongoing public education solar eclipse activity of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society that I have represented since 1969.

I inserted these examples of interviews that were intended to help promote the total eclipse experience. These news organizations reached out to me and not the other way around.  For a few days this was front and center in spite of all the other stories being pushed by the media. I believe it really helped to get people out and into the path to watch what we all saw. Post eclipse we have had a big rush of new folks whose names were unknown to me wanting to join us in Spain, Egypt, the Mediterranean and Australia for the next “Big Three Eclipses”.

Eclipse day live interview with Kate Bolduan

Eclipse day live interview with (left to right) Lawrence Jones, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade

Fox Business Channel interview with Neil Cavuto on the business aspect of eclipse tourism

CNN International edition with Richard Quest

Pre-eclipse interview by the Fox Weather Channel

The Weather Channel pre-eclipse interview April 1 with Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams.