Rotating Crescents of Fire!
Optics:   Takahashi FS 102mm F/8 (820mm FL) Processing:   PixInsight, Photoshop
Camera:   Canon EOS 30D Date:   October 14, 2023
8.2 Megapixel (3504 x 2336 12-bit sensor) Location:   Columbus, Texas
Exposure:   1/250 sec Imager:   Kent E. Biggs
These images of the Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14, 2023 were taken from my roof patio in Houston, TX. They show the moon eclipsing the sun. Here in Houston, the sun was nearly 90% covered! What makes the above crescent of fire rotate? Simply, the moon passed in front of and to the side of the sun, so that it appears to rotate. Neither the sun nor the moon actually rotated significantly during these 3 separate images each taken 11 minutes apart. We merely see different parts of the sun as the moon passes in front of it! Note in the right image of the sun above, a sunspot is visible at the top right "horn" of the crescent, and not visible in the other horns since it was then covered by the moon.

Solar eclipses are very interesting phenomena in that they happen more frequently than we think (about 200 times per century). A total solar eclipse, however, is relatively rare when the moon completely blocks the sun. The same point on earth will only experience a total solar eclipse about once every 3-4 centuries. Furthermore, lunar eclipses, where the moon passes into earth’s shadow, are more frequent since the earth is larger than the moon and therefore casts a larger, longer shadow. While solar eclipses are very narrow and only visible in certain paths of the moon’s shadow across the earth, lunar eclipses may be viewed by all inhabitants on earth that happen to be in their night time when the eclipse occurs. One way to think about it, is that every night, we all experience the earth eclipsing the sun, but some nights while we are eclipsed, we see the moon also eclipsed!

Eclipses also happen 6 months apart when the moon’s orbit crosses the plane of the ecliptic at full or new moon! More precisely, after 6 full revolutions of the moon around the earth, the sun and moon aligned to a point to create another eclipse. Weather is also a factor in eclipses. Of course, it should be relatively clear (cloud free) to view or image the ellipse, yet the eclipse itself can also change the weather! In Houston, the temperatures dropped by more than 10 degrees during the eclipse. It felt warm at the beginning and end of the eclipse, but chilly during eclipse maximum. Also 20 minutes or so before the maximum, as the moon’s shadow crossed Texas, a strong but steady 2-3 minute wind gust formed, likely due to rapidly falling temperatures a hundred miles away and moving 20-40 miles per hour away from annular totality.

In the above image, if you look closely or zoom in you might notice the edge of the sun is relatively smooth as would be expected, however, the edge of the moon appears a bit ragged due to mountains and craters visible at that edge. Furthermore, the below image shows the sun and moon at near maximum eclipse with around 90% coverage.

Annular Eclipse at Maximum ~ Crescent of Fire!