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Total Solar Eclipse Report - April 2023

Total solar eclipse April 2023

Our thanks to Nick James​ for this report from the Exmouth Escape Resort - Nick travels regularly with Astro Trails as one of our tour leaders and expert lecturers. 


This was not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most relaxing eclipses that I have experienced!

The Solar Eclipse of 2023 April 20 was unusual in that it was an annular at the beginning and end and total in the middle. This was because the Moon and Sun had nearly the same apparent size and so the total eclipse would be short. The maximum duration of totality was around 1m 16s near to East Timor but the best weather prospects were in northwest Australia where the umbral path fortuitously crossed a spit of land called the North West Peninsula and the town of Exmouth, around 1,100 km north of Perth. Here totality would be less than a minute. Conveniently there was an airport nearby (RAAF Learmonth) so it was possible to fly from Perth to the eclipse path.

I was with the Exmouth Stay group consisting of around 80 people and we flew up two days before the eclipse. We stayed at the Exmouth Escape Resort for three nights and this meant that eclipse day would involve getting up, eating a leisurely breakfast at the on-site Whalers Restaurant, and then getting set up in time for first contact at just after 10 am. Compared to the normal 2 am start and long journey on eclipse day this was absolute luxury!

The day before the eclipse there was a lot of cirrus cloud in the sky but this would probably not have had a significant impact on the eclipse although it would have reduced the contrast of the corona. I spent a few hours in the bar diligently studying the weather prospects and sent some pictures of the sky down to John Mason who was still in Perth since the larger group would be flying up on eclipse morning. On the evening before the eclipse, I walked into Exmouth town (around 15 minutes) to meet up with the Overland group led by Mike Frost where they were camping (glamping?) at a rather nice camp site. Exmouth was really buzzing that night with a big eclipse festival and many other events underway.

On eclipse morning I got up around 7 am and walked over to breakfast. The sky was almost completely clear except for a few clouds low in the west and these had gone by the time the eclipse started.

This was a short eclipse and so I was determined to watch it and not spend time fiddling with cameras. I had three cameras that I planned to leave running during the eclipse. For widefield video I had a GoPro HD Hero which would hopefully record the sky effects and Jupiter and Venus. For high resolution I had a Sony alpha 7s camera which was mounted on a William Optics Megrez 72 with a Barlow giving a focal length of around 1250 mm. This would shoot video in a High Dynamic Range mode called s-log2. The camera was connected to a laptop via USB so that I could monitor the video and focus on a big screen. This was really useful. I also had a Sony FDR-AX700 camcorder which would shoot wider field of view video at 4K. An advantage of being right next to the accommodation is that I could run a mains power cable from the room and get shade and drinks as needed.

When it arrived, totality was gorgeous. There was a very large prominence and several smaller ones, including a detached prominence near the third contact point. The corona was beautiful. It was a symmetric solar maximum corona with multiple streamers. Jupiter and Venus were easily visible in the very clear sky. I didn’t get a chance to look for shadow bands but there is no sign of them on my widefield camera shots.

My Youtube video of the event is here:

After the eclipse had finished, I headed to the Whalers for a celebration drink and discussions with fellow eclipse travellers before preparing for the celebration meal in the evening. I met up with experienced eclipse imagers Andreas Möller a and Werner Varnhorn who had been watching from the beach and also saw some early results from the Southwest Research Institute group who had set-up their equipment at the resort and had obtained some spectacular images showing the polarization of light in the corona (see their press release here

The evening celebration went well with a special eclipse cocktail and a number of people tried out their moves on the dance floor (I understand that photos and videos of this do exist). The following day we flew back to Perth after an amazing experience. Total eclipses tend to take you to very special places and Exmouth certainly counts very highly on my list.

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