The 2nd Great American Eclipse - 2024

Monday, April 8th, 2024

This is our impression of the Total Solar Eclipse which we observed from a lakeshore rental house on Lake Erie, in the city of Erie, Pa.

Friday afternoon, 4/5/2024, we arrived onsite at our rental located a couple of miles from downtown Erie on a bluff above the lake shore and across from Presque Isle.
At the time it was cold, rainy, and spitting sleet!! I decided to wait till the next day for sunny weather to setup the telescope.
My usual deep-sky EAA kit: 8" SCT optical tube @ f6.4 & ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera, 50mm EVO refractor & ASI294MC camera, my guidescope (which went unused), and my little Canon 5m-55mm zoom lens & ASI290MC camera, all on a polar aligned Atlas German Equatorial Mount (Gem). Also had my DIY AllSky cam (ASI224MC camera & fisheye lens).

Saturday & Sunday were both beautiful clear days, but soon after sunset Sunday evening, clouds began to roll in from the southwest. Monday morning dawned chilly & wet. After a few anxious moments checking the weather forecasts, it turned into a waiting game to see when the clearing line in central Ohio would arrive.
By noon, the sprinkles had stopped flying and the sky had begun to brighten. I uncovered the telescope and powered up the mount and cameras and attached the solar filters, but waited till after 1pm for the Sun to cross the meridian before slewing the telescope over to it. While waiting, we headed indoors to watch a little of the national TV coverage of the eclipse from locations in Mexico, Texas, and elsewhere along the eclipse shadow path. We also read reports online of huge traffic jams along I79 from people making a late dash towards Erie.
After returning home the next day, my neighbor shared with me a "traffic" photo from Monday around 1pm. (see below). A family friend told us that they were stuck in that traffic jam, bumper to bumper going 4 MPH. They bailed off I79 at Cranberry and took the back roads into Ohio and made it into the path of totality just in time. Outside our rental, we could see other neighbors out in lawn chairs with several large parties in progress.

At 2pm, we headed back outside to view the start of the eclipse for our area. Unfortunately, with lingering thick clouds the Sun was blocked from view and did not dissipate enough in time to see first contact. But soon, the Sun broke thru the thinning clouds and we enjoyed the partial phase with an occasional passing cloud adding interest thru our eclipse glasses and white-light and Ha solar telescopes. It was fun watching the Moon slowing covering a large Sunspot group near the center of the disk.

By 3pm, the sky had taken on a weird color, or more like a washed-out lack of color. The outdoor temperature had begun to drop and the readings on a watt meter we had setup to monitor the Sun's energy output was beginning to bottom out. Within the few minutes before totality, you could see the clouds & haze darkening to our SW as the umbra shadow approached, and the sky along the visible horizon to our west and north displayed sunset colors.
With our solar eclipse timer app giving us notifications, we had in advance laid-out a white plastic table cloth on the ground in hopes of seeing shadow bands, but we didn't see any visually. Could be the thickening haze blocked out the subtle effect from our view. (later I did discover that we had one cell-phone photo taken that faintly showed what looks like the shadw band pattern)

We also noticed at least one jet at high altitude doing loops underneath the Sun. We had read that the Eries airport was expecting around 50 jets flying in that day. A few were in the air looking for cloud-free views. (photo below). Around 3:12pm, the quality of sunlight rapidly began to change, colors washed out. The planet Venus appeared thruu the haze. At 3:15pm the western sky looked like sunset and you could see the Moon's Umbral shadow approaching thru the clouds and haze, like a darkening storm-front.

Then at 3:16pm, Totality! The wonder & awe of the moment of Totality is hard to describe! The Sun disappeared into the hazy sky and in place was a jet-black disk with several little red 'flames' surrounded by a diffuse halo of white silky light. We did not notice any long coronal streamers like in 2017, just a thin ring around the Sun. This might have been due to the slight thickening of haze at our location blocking the view, though I seem to recall reading that with the Sun's 11 year magnetic cycle being close to Solar Max this time that the corona would look different. In looking to either side of the eclipsed Sun for bright planets and stars, all that was visible to the naked eye was Venus to the lower west. (had binoculars available, but once again during a total eclipse I forgot all about them, lol). Afterwards, flipping thru the AllSky captures, I did find one image that showed both Jupiter and Venus in the same frame. The haze blocked everything else. My plan for using the Canon 5mm zoom camera for the planets & stars was a bust, no usable images.

The Horizon visible around us took on the orange-red glow of sunset. The deck and patio that we were standing on and the yard around us became dark. We could hear shouts of joy and awe from around the neighborhood, which we joined in and added our voices too. Then in what seemed like a blink of the eye, (a long 3 minutes & 42 seconds blink), a brilliant Diamond Ring appeared on the black disk and totality ended. Sunlight began to illuminate the deck and world around us. Everyone again shouted out in joy!
Off in the distance from the Erie Harbor, several ships sounded their horns. A rousing end to the celestial event that had just occurred over our heads. We continued to monitor the partial phases for the next hour using our equipment while enjoying a few Corona Beers. At 4:30pm it was a wrap, with the last trace of the Moon gliding off in front of the Sun's disk. The eclipse of 2024 was over.

Totality was over!!! It had been an awesome, incredible site to see, and the best 3 minutes & 42 seconds ever!

Glad we stayed overnight Monday in Erie. On the drive back mid-morning Tuesday (~10am), the southbound traffic on I79 towards Pittsburgh was moderate to heavy at times, starting right outside of Erie, past I80, nearly all the way to the Zelienople exit. (about ~130 miles).
Lots of RV's heading south slowing down and congesting the traffic in spots. Couldn't really drive using cruise-control for very far until you had to tap the brakes. We pulled in to the rest-stop past Grove City and could barely find a open spot to park.

Eclipse YouTube Video's:

Here's a short slow-motion time-lapse clip during Totality from my AllSky cam: AllSky Totality 04082024
(Monday Afternoon - Total Solar Eclipse in Erie, Pa, overlooking the shore of Lake Erie. Somewhat hazy with scattered clouds that afternoon. Clip from about 3:12pm to 3:24pm.)

Time-lapse slow-motion using my Skywatcher 50mm EVO refractor & ZWO ASI294MC camera: EVO50mm Totality 04082024
(Watch for giant sunspot AR3628 near center disk, a brief appearance of Bailey's Beads right before Totality begins. Then once Totality starts, the ghostly glow of the corona forming a halo around the eclipsed Sun with tiny flickering red prominences around the edge of the disk. Moments before Totality ends, a bright sliver of Chromosphere appears and then a Diamond Ring sunburst.)

Another slow-motion Time-lapse using my 8" SCT optical tube @ f6.4 & ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera on an Atlas Gem: 8SCT Totality 04082024
(Watch for giant sunspot AR3628 being covered by the Moon, Bailey's Beads and red chromosphere right before Totality begins. Then once Totality starts, bright prominences appearing and the ghostly glow of the corona forming a halo around the eclipsed Sun. Moments before Totality ends, a bright sliver of Chromosphere appears and then a Diamond Ring sunburst.)

Finally, here's the entire eclipse (minus 1st contact which was clouded-out). This gives you an idea of how lucky we were to even see Totality! A 2.5 hour eclipse condensed into about 2.5 minutes!
8SCT FullEclipse 04082024

Erie, Pensylviania, along the shore of Lake Erie:


8" SCT optical tube @ f6.4 & ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera, 50mm EVO refractor & ASI294MC camera, my guidescope (which went unused), and my little Canon 5m-55mm zoom lens & ASI290MC camera, all on a polar aligned Atlas German Equatorial Mount (Gem). Also had my DIY AllSky cam (ASI224MC camera & fisheye lens).
Additionally, for visual use we had a Celestron SmartEclipse 50mm white-light filter refractor and a Coronado 40mm PST HA refractor
A BTU/Watt meter to monotor the Sun's energy output and digital thermometer to record the outdoor temperature (in the shade & Sun), during the eclipse.
Finally, we had a white plastic tablecloth spread out on the ground to look for Shadow Bands, along with the usual eclipse glasses & viewers.

eclipse related signs, events, and swag around Erie and Western NY:

Eclipse 'Phenomena' from Monday 04/08/2024:
rainrain on the morning of the 8thrain
I79 Traffic Jam prior to 1pmErie Jet circling overhead - 3:01pm Sunlight beginning to fade, colors washed-out - 3:12pm
Shadow Bands at 3:14pm Shadow Bands at 3:14pm (close-up)Umbral Shadow approaching at 3:16pm
Umbral Shadow - 3:16pm, light fading fast Venus appears at 3:16pmSunset colors around horizon at 3:17pm
Totality - 3:18pmfull darkness at 3:18pmSunset all around horizon at 3:18pm

ZWO AllSky Camerta: ASI224MC & Fisheye CCTV lens in a DIY dome:

3:19pm (Totality)3:19pm (cropped)

8" SCT optical tube @ f6.4 & ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera & IR filter pics. (White-light Baader solar film filter used during partial phases)

3:16:31pm (Bailey's Beads)3:16:36pm (Chromosphere)3:16:49pm (Prominences)
3:19:20pm (Prominences)3:19:55pm (large Arch Prominence)03:20:08pm (Chromosphere)
3:20:14pm3:20:20pm (Diamond Ring)3:28pm

EVO 50mm refractor & ASI294MC camera & IR filter pics. (White-light Baader solar film filter used during partial phases)

3:16:35pm (Bailey's Beads)08:18:42 (best Corona)3:19:54 (Prominences)
3:20:12pm (Diamond Ring)3:21pm3:38pm

BTU / Watt and Temperature readings:


Our 'citizen-science' experiment with the BTU/Watt meter and digital thermometer was fun! The BTU's on a normal 'sunny' day should read over 400+
But on the partly cloudy/hazy eclipse day, the readings started off at 300, slowly dropping as the partial eclipse progress, to zero at Totality, then slowly rising back to around 275 by eclipse end.
The digital temperature started off at 57 / 63 degrees (shade/in-sun), dropping to 48 / 50 at totality.( -9 / -13 difference). Then recovering back to 50 / 56 at the end of the eclipse.

Hope you enjoyed the visit. Come again soon!
Larry McHenry,   Pittsburgh, PA. USA

Astronomical Webportal: