My Photos of the 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Eclipse

My photo of the sun in partial eclipse shows a few sunspots. I used a homemade filter with mylar, duct tape and a butter tub!
My photo of the sun in partial eclipse shows a few sunspots. I used a homemade filter with mylar, duct tape and a butter tub! | Source

O, Say Can You See...

Want to see what the May 20th solar eclipse looked like? Here's my photos plus a few gorgeous photos and videos by far better photographers than myself.

The May 20, 2012 solar eclipse was visible over western North America for a couple hours before (and/or during) sunset. It had already crossed southern Japan, Northern Taiwan, Hong Kong and parts of China at dawn on the other side of the date line, where it was sunrise on May 21st. (See NASA's map.)

Where I live in southern California, the eclipse was only partial, covering 84% of the sun, but it was still spectacular! My parents saw the full "ring of fire" effect in Utah, but weren't able to get pictures.

After my own photos, I've featured a few Creative Commons photos and videos of the annular eclipse from other photographers that are stunning! If you have uploaded any good photos, please share a link in the guestbook.

Note: Apologies if my chart got you outside too early! I didn't realize that the Solar Eclipse Calculator App I used to look up eclipse times gives "local times" without factoring in Daylight Savings.

Video: Path of Solar Eclipse Across western U.S.

My Own Photos of May 20th, 2012 Partial Eclipse

This isn't as exciting as a full solar eclipse, but it was exciting for me.

In fact, it was more exciting than expected, because of last minute weather problems. I had planned to view the partial eclipse from the cliffs of Corona Del Mar as the sun set over the ocean. I arrived early, at 2PM, to make sure I had a good spot for the show. As the hours ticked by, the marine haze thickened into clumpy clouds by late afternoon! Finally, I bundled up my camera and telescope and filters and rushed inland to the Orange County Great Park, getting set up just in time to see the first "bite" out of the sun.

For a homemade filter, I bought a solar mylar sheet at a telescope store, cut a hole in a butter tub, taped the mylar over the hole, and used it to cap my old TeleVue Pronto backpacker telescope. Unlike modern scopes, I have to aim it by hand.

I'm not equipped for and don't have any experience with astrophotograpy. So I held a point-and-shoot digital camera over the lens and prayed.

The fourth and fifth photos show sunspots, because I was able to fine-tune the camera settings a little, and because the thicker slice of atmosphere as the sun drew near the horizon filtered out a little more glare.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
5:57 PM. Taken from Orange County Great Park.6:09 PM 6:38:54 PM, pretty much maximum totality at my location. Wish I'd figured out this camera setting earlier. 7:11 PST. Click to view larger size with sunspots clearly visible!7:33 PM7:42 PM NOT through telescope. Hey, wait, why is it reversed? Actually, it's my telescope that's reversed. The configuration of mirrors and lenses inside my telescope flips the image left-to-right. (Some telescopes flip images upside-down, too!) 7:43 PM one final shot through the telescope.
5:57 PM. Taken from Orange County Great Park.
5:57 PM. Taken from Orange County Great Park. | Source
6:09 PM
6:09 PM | Source
 6:38:54 PM, pretty much maximum totality at my location.
6:38:54 PM, pretty much maximum totality at my location. | Source
 Wish I'd figured out this camera setting earlier. 7:11 PST. Click to view larger size with sunspots clearly visible!
Wish I'd figured out this camera setting earlier. 7:11 PST. Click to view larger size with sunspots clearly visible! | Source
7:33 PM
7:33 PM | Source
7:42 PM NOT through telescope. Hey, wait, why is it reversed? Actually, it's my telescope that's reversed. The configuration of mirrors and lenses inside my telescope flips the image left-to-right. (Some telescopes flip images upside-down, too!)
7:42 PM NOT through telescope. Hey, wait, why is it reversed? Actually, it's my telescope that's reversed. The configuration of mirrors and lenses inside my telescope flips the image left-to-right. (Some telescopes flip images upside-down, too!) | Source
7:43 PM one final shot through the telescope.
7:43 PM one final shot through the telescope. | Source

So, What's an "Annular Eclipse," Anyway?

A regular eclipse happens when the moon's path causes it to pass directly between us and the sun.

So, what does "annular eclipse" mean? That's a special kind of solar eclipse in which the rim of the sun is visible around the moon in a fiery ring. This happens when the moon is at the far end of its slightly off-center orbit, and appears smaller (from earth) so that it can't cover the whole sun. Annular comes from Latin anulus, "a ring, a circle."

For most places, this was a partial eclipse, meaning that the moon doesn't pass over the center of the sun from our viewpoint, but is off-center, creating a crescent sun. Only places in the direct path of the eclipse saw the full "ring" effect.

Below are a few Creative Commons photos from Japan showing the annular eclipse.

Full Annular Eclipse Photos May 20-21st from other photographers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This utterly gorgeous photo of the annular eclipse again comes from Tokyo. It was hard to see through clouds, but the final result is stunning!Awesome photo of perfect annular eclipse taken May 20, 2012 in Nevada.A stormy dawn over Tokyo did not prevent viewers from seeing the full "ring effect" of a rare annular eclipse. Here's a beautiful photo by Noboyuki Hayashi.Takuma Kimura captured a lovely sequence of photos of the annular eclipse in Japan. I'm guessing this may have been a little north of the annular eclipse path. Click for full-sized version!One of a stunning series of photos showing the while sequence from start to finish in Japan.Great view of crescent suns cast by the natural pinholes between leaves in Colorado.
This utterly gorgeous photo of the annular eclipse again comes from Tokyo. It was hard to see through clouds, but the final result is stunning!
This utterly gorgeous photo of the annular eclipse again comes from Tokyo. It was hard to see through clouds, but the final result is stunning! | Source
Awesome photo of perfect annular eclipse taken May 20, 2012 in Nevada.
Awesome photo of perfect annular eclipse taken May 20, 2012 in Nevada. | Source
A stormy dawn over Tokyo did not prevent viewers from seeing the full "ring effect" of a rare annular eclipse. Here's a beautiful photo by Noboyuki Hayashi.
A stormy dawn over Tokyo did not prevent viewers from seeing the full "ring effect" of a rare annular eclipse. Here's a beautiful photo by Noboyuki Hayashi. | Source
Takuma Kimura captured a lovely sequence of photos of the annular eclipse in Japan. I'm guessing this may have been a little north of the annular eclipse path. Click for full-sized version!
Takuma Kimura captured a lovely sequence of photos of the annular eclipse in Japan. I'm guessing this may have been a little north of the annular eclipse path. Click for full-sized version! | Source
One of a stunning series of photos showing the while sequence from start to finish in Japan.
One of a stunning series of photos showing the while sequence from start to finish in Japan. | Source
Great view of crescent suns cast by the natural pinholes between leaves in Colorado.
Great view of crescent suns cast by the natural pinholes between leaves in Colorado. | Source

2012 May 21 Annular Eclipse, Japan

How to Make a Solar Eclipse Pinhole Viewing Box

with help from my cat.
with help from my cat.

How to Safely View an Eclipse

DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN, even when it's mostly covered -- you will damage your eyes!

Yes, even with multiple layers of sunglasses, you will still damage your eyes! It's not worth it.

If you can get to a telescope store, you may be able to buy solar eclipse filters which are safe to use for solar viewing.

Otherwise, punch a hole in a stiff card or cardboard. This will create a natural pinhole lens that will focus the image of the sun on any flat surface: the ground, or (better) another piece of cardboard. Shoeboxes or shipping boxes are ideal, since the image will appear on the side opposite the hole.

Smaller holes make a sharp, crisp image. Larger holes make a larger but less-focused image (you might want to try a hole punch on a piece of cardboard that you can raise and lower until you get the best view.) I found that a pencil-sized hole is best for getting a solar disc without it going too fuzzy.

You can even make pinhole lenses with your fingers, creating a fascinating pattern of eclipse crescents on a piece of cardboard!

Another fun trick is to have kids prepare a message by punching holes in cardboard or a stiff piece of paper. See this cute example on APOD's (Astronomy Picture of the Day) forum.

If you are near trees, be sure to look down. The tiny gaps between leaves create natural pinholes, casting a lovely pattern of tiny eclipses on the ground.

Make your pinhole viewers the day before. You don't want to be rushing to create one when it's time.

Some people have reported usinh binoculars like a pinhole shoebox to project an image of the sun onto the ground. Don't look through the binoculars at the sun; instead, point them at the sun with their eyepieces aimed at a flat surface.

Some cameras can safely look at the sun without damaging their optics, but some will be burned just like human eyes. Photograph at your own risk! Again, don't look through a camera viewfinder straight at the sun. It IS safe to look at an LCD screen, but again, the sun could damage the camera unless you cover it with a solar filter.

Natural "Pinhole Lens" Effect Showing Solar Eclipse Cast by Tree Shadows

Leslie in San Francisco captured a great example of the natural pinhole effect showing crescent suns in the gaps of tree shadows.
Leslie in San Francisco captured a great example of the natural pinhole effect showing crescent suns in the gaps of tree shadows. | Source

Video: "Ring of Fire" From Japan

Eclipse Poll

Are you going to watch the May 20-21 solar eclipse?

  • 6% Not visible from my location
  • 9% Maybe
  • 82% Yes
  • 3% No
94 people have voted in this poll.

This poll is now closed to voting.

Next U.S. Solar Eclipse: August 21, 2017

Amazingly, a 2-minute TOTAL solar eclipse will cut across the United States diagonally from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21, 2017. Start making plans now!

May 20, 2012: Solar Eclipse from Space Station

More by this Author


Comments 14 comments

klarawieck 4 years ago

Well, that's just the coolest thing ever! I won't get to see it, but I'll just have to watch it on TV. Thanks for posting this informative hub. The video was amazing, too.


Greekgeek profile image

Greekgeek 4 years ago from California Author

Note the website I listed above that will be broadcasting the solar eclipse in a live video stream. Not quite like being there, but at least it'll be visible to everyone in some form!


jasonponic profile image

jasonponic 4 years ago from Albuquerque

I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I cannot wait for the eclipse! Vote up!


PWalker281 4 years ago

I was wondering if I'd be able to see it since Hawaii is that far from Japan, but the viewing path dips north of Hawaii. Oh well ... guess I'll have to watch it via video stream. Thanks for this informative hub and the instructions on how to make a viewing box. Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Greekgeek profile image

Greekgeek 4 years ago from California Author

jasonponic: Oh my gosh, you lucky person! I'm excited just to see any eclipse -- I think the last partial I saw was in '94, complete with a pine tree casting crescent suns on the sidewalk -- but to see a total annular eclipse? Aneurysm time! I'm almost tempted to hop in the car and start driving east. :)

Take pictures...enjoy the show!

PWalker: yeah, I was surprised: I thought for sure that Hawaii would get a good look, since the eclipse path hits California and Japan, but orbits cross the map in swoops instead of straight lines. Someday I need to sit down with a globe and try to understand why that happens.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

Heard about this yesterday, So excited you wrote this descriptive hub. Thanks, I have a shoe box in the closet to punch a hole in then will muster the troops to watch this specular solar event.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

Bit late to comment on this now, but it was useful of you to provide this guide to the path of the annular eclipse. I had considered flying to America for a holiday in the Grand Canyon area to see this eclipse, but it wasn't possible. I've seen total and partial eclipses, but never an annular eclipse. Oh well. One day.


PWalker281 4 years ago

It's cloudy on my side of the island (windward Oahu) today, so I wouldn't have seen it anyway.


eric-carter profile image

eric-carter 4 years ago from Fulham, UK

Beautiful ..


gabgirl12 profile image

gabgirl12 4 years ago

I would have given so much to have been there. The last time I was in the 'presence' of a solar eclipse I was about 8. That's 29 years ago. And that day..of course it rained. Oh well. Thanks for sharing! The pics are impressive, as well as the vids.


Greekgeek profile image

Greekgeek 4 years ago from California Author

Abby: Thank you! Now I'm wishing you could see one. Your comment reminds me of the Ray Bradbury short story "All Summer In a Day" imagining life on a planet where the clouds only clear once every 7 years, and seeing the sun is a very rare event. It's sad for those who miss it.

Maybe there's an eclipse due in your area in the future. Check out NASA's eclipse calculator -- http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html -- just in case.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 4 years ago

Thank you for posting the great photos! You got to see a lot more of it than we did. We were warned that we would see only a tiny bit here in Arkansas, and rushed outside as soon as it started. As soon as I grabbed the camera and ran outside, thick, heavy clouds covered the sun. No rain, just annoying clouds. It was a real disappointent, especially when the news didn't run but one photo. Voted you up, interesting and beautiful!


gabgirl12 profile image

gabgirl12 4 years ago

I checked, we're supposed to see a partial eclipse here out east in 2013. I hope I'll still be out east when that happens. It's an awesome event, if not a dangerous one.


sandonia profile image

sandonia 4 years ago

I remember making one of the pinhole observation boxes when I was a teenager. It was amazingly cool to see an eclipse occur. Sadly, I didn't have a chance to watch this most recent eclipse. Thankfully with the Internet, I can still see some amazing pictures of it. Thanks for the excellent hub!

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