Sunday, August 13, 2017

Opportunists Charge 1800% Markup for Last Minute Solar Eclipse Supplies on Amazon

I thought this was newsworthy! A commenter on one of my most popular blog posts of all time "$10 DIY Solar Filter for DSLR Camera" pointed out that the solar filter I link to was being sold on Amazon for a huge markup! I noticed that just a few days ago the 4"x4" solar filter was out of stock, but it looks opportunist are swooping in to flip these unavailable items at astronomical rates as third party Amazon sellers. Eclipse glasses, only $3.54 on July 24, are offered at $69.95, that's an 1876% increase!!

huge price increase in solar eclipse glasses on amazon
Price trends from Honey plugin for Chrome

I use the Chrome plugin called Honey to get price graphs for the items on Amazon that show obvious trends upward as the Great American Eclipse approaches. 

Not just eclipse glasses, but the solar filter I recommend in my blog post is no longer $7.35, it's now being offered by a third party seller for $134.85 (that's a 1735% increase!). 

huge price increase in solar eclipse glasses on amazon
Price trends from Honey plugin for Chrome

This is making me a little worried. I have all my gear already, but it could be the early signs of what the BIG DAY is going to be like. I'm picturing myself out on the road trying to get food, water, bathrooms, all being at the mercy of supply and demand. If tens of thousands of eclipse viewers are going to be descending upon little towns, gas stations, and rest stops all across America - who could blame them for getting the most they can out of it, knowing it's unlikely these 1-day tourists become regular visitors. 

I guess all we can do is wait and see. As for the stuff on Amazon, there are plenty of alternatives - you don't need THAT pair of eclipse glasses, and I know that the black polymer filter comes in different sized sheets (that are also marked up, but not as bad). Stay safe out there, and remember to take in the full experience - possibly including the over priced goods along the way! It just adds to the story of the event that you can tell your friends and family years from now. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Celestron EclipSmart 10x25 Solar Eclipse Binoculars

I just received my Celestron 10x25 solar eclipse binoculars in the mail from Amazon. I must have ordered these last minute solar observing eclipse binoculars at just the right time, because now they are saying "usually ships within 1-2 months" on Amazon. I got mine in 2 days. Are they really out? No idea, I got mine, if you want to order some before the big day you might want to look around quickly! I ordered these because I knew in the time leading up to totality I would want to play with more than just some cardboard eclipse glasses.

testing out small eclipse binocularstesting out small eclipse binoculars

celestron objective lens solar binocular
They are listed as a best seller on Amazon, perfect size for under $40

I think these 10x25 binoculars will give me a good view. Hopefully there is something interesting like a sunspot on the sun that day, because you can indeed see large sunspots with these binoculars. I spotted one just yesterday that looked like a little black freckle on the sun. Here are some photos of my eclipse binoculars unboxing. It's a little weird at first, pointing binoculars toward the sun. I'm glad these solar filters on the ends are NOT removable, just in case!

eclipsmart or eclipsemart packageeclipsmart or eclipsemart package
 
celestron small binocular carrying pouch


The shiny black surface is cool and reflective. These will come in handy for more than just the eclipse, as I mentioned you can absolutely use them to see large sunspots too.

solar safe binoculars

The color of the sun through the binoculars is a pleasing yellow/orange, it looks very natural - not that I can really stare at the sun to compare.

under side of binoculars

size of 10x25 binoculars

Bigger isn't always better with binoculars. I like that these will fit in my pocket, or even (gasp) on my belt because of the handy belt-loop on the case. Oh my, I would be the most fashionable at the solar eclipse viewing party.

reflective black lenses

binocular eyepiece

The first number (10) in "10x25" means the magnification, or how many times closer an object will appear compared to the naked eye - so these are 10x meaning the sun will appear 10x closer. The second number (25) in "10x25" is the diameter of the objective lens (bigger lens on the front) so the lens is only 2.5 cm across. This would be no good for viewing the night sky, with such a small light-gathering diameter, but for the sun it's no big deal. Bigger objective lenses are bigger light-catching buckets, and images will appear brighter - since this isn't important for daytime viewing of the sun, I'll trade size for portability. These 10x binoculars actually provide more magnification than my 7x50 binoculars I got for observing the moon and stars, even though they are much smaller.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Huge Sunspot, Active Region 2665 on July 9, 2017

I don't have amazing solar imaging gear - just a DSLR and a home made solar filter - but when there is a sunspot or active region large enough, it's always worth taking a look to see if I can 'spot' it! 😂 But seriously, when I started seeing photos of active region ("AR") 2665 show up on my social media feeds, I had to grab my camera. 

Active Region 2665
Single frame with Canon T5i, black polymer solar filter, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

My lens isn't quite sharp enough to really pull out all the detail, and who can compete with the Solar Dynamics Observatory with crystal clear live images of the sun. 

Active Region 2665
Image above compared to the SDO HMI Intensitygram

Nevertheless, I've found over the years that my best chances are to focus the camera while it's tethered to my laptop, rather than relying on the auto-focus or trying to focus by hand looking through the viewfinder. 

taking photos of the sun
If you stop and think for a second, it's pretty darn cool to be able to see a sunspot like this with very little equipment. Controlling my camera from my laptop makes me feel super cool, as if I have my own observatory at my disposal. 

tether control DSLR with laptop
Love being able to control my camera using the EOS Utility app

tether control DSLR with laptop
My laptop perched on a chair near the sliding door so the USB cable can reach the camera.

DSLR with solar filter
My camera slowly following the sun so I don't have to keep re-adjusting it.

DSLR with solar filter
DIY solar filter on DSLR on motorized mount

I don't think it's my best sunspot photo, but it definitely was an honest attempt. If you take a look at the weather conditions, they were just okay I guess. I've tried stacking solar photos before and it just doesn't boost the clarity as nicely as moon photos. I'll quit moaning and just enjoy this sunspot the size of Earth, captured on my DSLR in my backyard. 

summer sky
Weather conditions, Noblesville, IN July 9, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Do Solar Eclipse Glasses Fit and Work Over Regular Glasses?

Yes, traditional cardboard solar eclipse glasses fit over regular prescription glasses. Yes, solar eclipse glasses work over prescription glasses, and allow you to see the sun as a crisp orange circle (or blue/green depending on the eclipse glasses). I wanted to post about this because I wear regular prescription glasses everyday and I want to assure people that they will have a comfortable and enjoyable view of the solar eclipse with the cardboard total solar eclipse shades directly on top of their regular eyewear. See photos!

I know this can be a concern for people, because you don't want to sacrifice the clarity of viewing with your prescription, but you also don't want to hurt your eyes duh! As someone who used to buy contact lenses just so I could go to 3D movies, I'm always worried about whether or not the additional eyewear will go over the top of what I'm already wearing!

looking up at the sun with eclipse glasses
Testing out my eclipse shades over my Rx glasses for the total solar eclipse
front view eclipse glasses over regular glasses
Front view eclipse glasses over regular
side view eclipse glasses over regular glasses
Side view solar shades over regular glasses
These particular eclipse glasses I ordered from the St. Joseph, MO Convention and Visitors Bureau online store on their event page for the 2017 eclipse. I got a 6-pack for $10+$4 shipping. St. Joseph is where I'm going to view the eclipse, so I figured it would be nice to have souvenir eclipse glasses to save in my memory box to mark the event.

You can also get eclipse glasses on Amazon for cheap, and you'll probably see more and more of the custom printed ones popping up closer to the event. These were actually printed by Rainbow Symphony, which is the exact same ones they sell on Amazon, and if you wanted to really wow your neighbors or co-workers you could order your own custom printed ones.

how sun looks through solar eclipse glasses
The sun appears as an orange dot through the glasses. It doesn't provide any magnification, but remember the sun is the same apparent size as the full moon during an eclipse, so you'll be able to see enough of the disc of the sun to notice a huge slice covered on its way to totality. 

6-pack of glasses came in the mail
6-pack arrived in the mail in a couple days

instructions inside eclipse glasses
Some safety instructions printed right on the inside of the glasses

souvenir eclipse glasses custom printed
These are branded for the specific event I'm attending so it will make a great souvenir!
I have my itinerary narrowed down with my sister. We have our hotels booked, and our driving route planned. If you're going to be in St. Joseph let me know in the comments, and if you have any tips for a first-time-total-solar-eclipse-viewer let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cassini's Grand Finale Teaser Trailer Gave Me Chills

artist concept surface of saturn
Illustration from the Cassini Grand Finale trailer. I legit teared up a little at the end. 

After 20 years in space, Cassini deserves this cinema quality teaser trailer for its upcoming 'Grand Finale' death dive into the gas giant (oops, spoiler alert). Cassini is one of my favorite missions, especially because of the quality and abundance of images that are being sent back. I didn't really get into space or the night sky until after Cassini was well on it's way to the outer solar system, so I can't really remember a time when we didn't have Cassini images.

Illustration from the Cassini Grand Finale trailer
Illustration from the Cassini Grand Finale trailer

The images in the video are obviously computer generated, but they are easily recognizable and they feel very familiar because they are based on actual Cassini photos, so they are at least science-adjacent and seemingly real-ish. In fact, some of the images have direct connections to actual famous Cassini photos from the Hall of Fame.

Let's watch! Go HD and full screen!



As you can see, the trailer gives sort of a highlight tour of some famous Cassini moments. But the illustrations from these moments aren't completely fabricated, they're all based on available photos that you can see online. Check out the illustrations from the trailers vs. some actual Cassini photos...

saturn backlit artist vs actual
Illustration from the trailer vs. the actual backlit Saturn photo composite

enceladus illustration vs actual
Illustration from the trailer vs. a now rather famous photo titled Encroaching Shadow from July 28, 2014

saturn illustration vs actual
Illustration from the trailer vs. Saturn approaching northern summer in this Hall of Fame photo

haze of titan
Illustration from the trailer vs. an actual photo of Titan with it's iconic "smoggy, golden murk"

If you're wondering, here is my best photo of Saturn that I took with my iPhone through my Meade refractor telescope. I recorded a short video through the eyepiece and stacked it in Registax to clean up the image.

my best image of saturn

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