flash spectrum ...photography by Robert B Slobins
Home Astronomy Total Solar Eclipses Image Reference: 1998-906-05

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Stellium, Seroe Colorado, Aruba - Netherlands Antilles       26 February 1998

Stellium, Seroe Colorado, Aruba - Netherlands Antilles       26 February 1998

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A close conjunction of a total solar eclipse and a planet is uncommon. We may see planets close to the sun with our eyes, but we edit the scene with our minds. A lens of normal focal length gives disappointing results with small scale images and much blank space between the eclipse and any planets.

A stellium is a very close group of at least four major solar system bodies. They are rare enough to make news without a total solar eclipse involved. In the 20th century, this previously occurred with eclipses in 1901, 1936 and 1962. The next total eclipse with this added attraction will occur in 2027, the first of nine such groupings this century.

However, photographing an eclipse stellium requires clear skies, excellent and fast optics to render the planets as clean points even at the edge of the frame, and sensitive and low grain film or low-noise sensors. It also requires no clouds anywhere in the frame unless all the bodies are in clear gaps. The technology to do this was unavailable in 1901 and 1936, and the eclipse of 1962 occurred in areas affordable only to professional expeditions that were appearently lucky to have seen anything of totality, let alone five planets grouped around the sun. Therefore, it was worth my investing time and effort to capture this scene.

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