July 22, 2009 ALP Total Solar Eclipse Expedition To Wuhan, China
by James Kevin Ty & Francisco Lao, Jr.
Images by James Kevin Ty  , Jett Aguilar,  Francisco Lao, Jr., Andrew Ian Chan , Chang Guo Qiang





The group were able to arrive at Jiangtan Park at around 4:00am but the gate was still closed but there were already a lot of people already ready to enter the park to get the best observing position at the park.  James was already anticipating the scenario yesterday and disagree with Zed that it was too early for them to be there at 4:00am.  true enough, the decision to be as early as possible to the site was correct and Zed later told James he did made the right decision to be there early.  While they were waiting for the gate to open, James and Jun had asked the other members of the Wuhan team who doesn't have heavy luggage to run for the team's observing site and secure it for the group because most of the research team's luggage are big and heavy :(  After securing the observing site of the ALP Wuhan TSE team, they started to setup their equipment as son as they laid down their equipment.  The sky that morning was a bit cloudy but no rains.  The group observe the cloud pattern and movement and was also able to see Venus in the eastern horizon amid the scattered clouds.  When the Sun rose  from the eastern horizon, it also carries a beautiful 22 deg Sun Halo.  They are  form when light from the sun or moon is refracted by ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds (like cirrus stratus clouds.)).At a point in time,  a faint display of a 46-degree halo was faintly visible as well, at the latter part of the morning.  But one thing not good about seeing a Sun Halo is that the weather is not perfect and might spell bad weather for Wuhan viewers :(  Nevertheless, the team was still hopeful that it wont affect the weather too much later specially during the crucial totality time :0

ALP Wuhan TSE Team waited patiently a the Jiangtan Park as early as 4:00am so they can secure their observing site.

A beautiful 22 deg Sun Halo was visible as the Sun rises from the eastern horizon.  The halo also spells bad weather for the Wuhan eclipse observers as well.

The ALP Wuhan TSE team brought along an assortment of astro equipment as well as still and video imaging systems to the trip. Team Leader James Kevin Ty brought along  a full frame Canon 5D Mark 2 DSLR on  a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5~5.6 IS lens with EF II 2x converter giving effective focal length of 800mm f/11 with ISO 800 and mounted on a Vixen GP-DX equatorial mount with Starbook-S controller tracking the Sun beautifully and accurately centered on th middle of the frame.  A Canon FS11 videocam as well as a digital 8 videocam was also installed on the mount to capture the eclipse in real time.  He also has a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 180 deg fisheye lens installed with the Canon 5D Mark 2 DSLR to capture the horizon "sunset glow" effect during totality.  Another Canon 300D DSLR with EFS 18-55mm f/3.5~5.6 lens set at 18mm to capture diminishing light on the entire eclipse sequence. This was later handed over to Jaime Quinto to handle.

ALPer Jett has a Canon 50D DSLR mounted to a Borg 77ED II refractor on a Takahashi Space Boy equatorial mount.  Another Canon 350D was also installed with a Canon EFS 10-22mm f/3.5~4.5 ultra wide lens to try also to capture the horizon  glow appearance during totality.  An HD videocam was also installed on Jett's mount to capture the flash spectrum during second and third contact diamond rings.

ALPer Jun Lao ,on the other hand has an Opteka 500mm f/6.3 Maksutov mirror lens on a DSLR on sturdy tripod while another Canon compact point and shoot camera with standard video set to capture the rapidly moving shadow bands (since it was a bit cloudy, shadow bands was hard to see even with the naked eye and in light of this, last minute change of plans shifted the camera to shoot the sky with the Sun centered in the frame a few seconds before totality begins to see the how dark the sky was.  He also have a HD videocam also mounted on a sturdy tripod to capture the surroundings as well as the crowd reactions during totality.  This was later handed over to ALPer Johnny Quinto to lessen his work load.

ALPer Andrew Ian Chan , on the other hand, brought along a Skywatcher 80ED refractor with a 10mp DSLR mounted on an EQ-1 equatorial mount. Zed brought along a Canon 30D DSLR with a 300mm f/4 lens with 1.7x teleconverter as well as another 300mm f/4 lens and wide angle 28mm lens on 2 film based SLR cameras. All 3 cameras are mounted on top of a sturdy Manfrotto mount with horizontal bar with heavy duty ball socket heads.

2 digital thermometer/hydrometer units were handed over to Jaime and Joanna Quinto to measure temperature and humidity during entire eclipse time.  The rest of the team members just  wanted to enjoy and experience the eclipse without fumbling on equipment.  This is also a good decision specially for first time total eclipse observer to get a feel of the event without the pressure of gluing their eyes on a camera and missing the beauty of totality :)

The group has an adequate amount of total eclipse experience leading the group.  ALP Wuhan team leader James Kevin Ty and ALPha Editor in Chief Francisco Lao, Jr. both has 4 total solar and 1 annular eclipse experience tucked on their belts while guest Zed has 1 total solar eclipse experience. The rest of the group are first time total eclipse chasers.

As time passed, more and more people are arriving at the site and by the time it was around 8:00am, the park was almost jam packed with people eagerly awaiting first contact which was estimated to be at around 8:14:55am. Mr Chou Guo Qiang of Wuhan Evening Post showed the group they were featured again in their newspaper as well as in Chu Tian Metropolis Daily and this got the group all smiles as well as happy :) LOL  ALP Wuhan TSE team is treated as almos like a celebrity with lots At around 8:15am, James was able to detect a subtle nip at around 2-3 O'clock position and started to shout in English as well as Mandarin to inform fellow ALPers as well as onlookers that first contact has already transpired.  during that time, clouds are getting a bit thicker but they can still see the eclipsed Sun though the clouds openings.

Wuhan Evening Post , July 22, 2009 Page 1

ALP Wuhan TSE team once again featured on the newspaper Wuhan Evening Post , July 22, 2009 Page 3 entitled " Filipino Astronomers / Eclipse Chaser rehearse at Jiangtan Park for the Total Solar Eclipse"

Another newspaper, Chu Tian Metropolis Daily page 1 shows a photo of the ALP Wuhan TSE team making an eclipse dry run at Jiangtan Park.

Chu Tian Metropolis Daily page 3 features ALP Wuhan team again entitled " ALP Eclipse Chasers globetrotting the world in search of total solar eclipse."

ALP Wuhan TSE Tour Guide / Asst. Manager Ma Cheng was the main man in helping the team in terms of helping crowd control during E Day as well as the rest of their stay in Wuhan.  Thank you very much for your great help!

ALPer Jun Lao is shown here preparing  his compact Canon digital camera to image the elusive shadow bands.

(L-R) ALPers Johnny Quinto and Andrew Ian Chan are all set and ready for the eclipse!

ALPer James Kevin Ty took some time off to posed for a posterity shot prior to first contact.  He is shown here manning 1 still and 2 video cameras in his imaging mount.

Crowd started to crowd the ALP TSE team as first contact nears.

Wake up Zed!  Its 7:30am already! You still look sleepy!

Thousands of people gather around the park to witness the main event!

ALP Wuhan TSE team all set and ready!

As the eclipse progresses more clouds started to come in and out of where the Sun was located and this worries the group.  As totality time comes nearer and nearer, more crowds poured in at the back of the group and Ma Cheng as well as Elaine who also speak good Mandarin and persuasively asked the crowd to stay behind the straw twine that the group has earlier cordoned off so that the group wont be disturbed during the crucial precious eclipse time.  Amid the cordoned area, a few news media photographers got to slip inside the cordoned area and silently shoot behind the group and they were later helpful as well to ask the crowd to give space and respect the space given to the ALP TSE group :)

ALPer Jun Lao brought along Eclipse chewing gum to bring good luck to the ALP Wuhan TSE team.

Jett (left squatting): Get ready guys!  First contact is about to start!

It was quite interesting to shout "filters off" typically reserved to the last few seconds before 2nd contact and after 3rd contact way ahead of time, because there were instances that the clouds were thick enough to allow naked eye viewing of the eclipsed sun, even with instruments (otherwise it was too faint viewing with solar filters – they had to adjust their exposures to compensate for some cloud cover), so they had images of the partially eclipsed Sun through solar filters and through natural cloud filtration. The presence of clouds, though, prevented pinhole projection of the partially eclipsed Sun on the ground, as the sunlight was becoming diffuse.

As the eclipse moved closer to 2nd contact,  one could start noticing the intensity and quality of light change over to a grayish light that felt eerie.  A cool breeze had also started to come in from the southwest, approximately where the shadow would be coming from. While these were tell-tale signs of the incoming shadow, they were also starting to feel more and more uncomfortable with the clouds not moving away too quickly – they spied an opening in the clouds to our north and it was not moving fast enough to get to our site.  As totality was about to happen, the clouds lingered in the area, but it was quite interesting to see the approach of the shadow across the clouds – one could see the darkness in the shadows approaching our area from the southwest.  The group got to see the last light get eclipsed by the Moon but without the drama of the prominences and chromosphere that normally highlighted the progression to totality.  Some small Bailey's Beads can be seen breaking up just before second contact.  Second contact was recorded in the video at 9:23:57am before lights out at 9:23:58am. The crowd roared as they were plunged into premature darkness. As they could not see the totally eclipsed Sun, some of the team members decided to take the time to take in the surroundings – it was not as dark as they were expecting – buildings and park lights were now open – but one can  feel the darkness all around  somewhat eerie – as all around you, you could see the yellow of sunsets all around, especially in the east, as we were plunged in the Moon’s shadow cone.


Totality image taken through thin cloud opening by James Kevin Ty.    A composite of 4 images totaling 20 seconds exposure to bring out the inner coronal streamers.  Image was adjusted to make it as realistic as possible to what he had seen through the viewfinder of a Canon 5D Mark 2 full frame image with a Canon EF 100mm-400mm f/4.5~5.6 IS lens with 2x teleconverter equivalent to 800mm lens.

ALPer Jett Aguilar combined James and his totality images to bring out even clearer coronal  streamers of the Sun during totality.

It was amazing to see the Moon's shadow travel quickly above the clouds, only this time, it was moving away from us.  Dr. Jett and James were able to eke out some inner corona during totality by exposing their tracked images for a few seconds (and the video showed there were quick openings in the cloud cover).  With the clouds, they couldn't see the planets during totality, but again, it was amazing to see the Moon's shadow move across the clouds. Going through the  wide angle videos from Jun Lao's digital camera, it was interesting to see the movement of the darkness (the Moon’s umbral shadow) across the clouds toward the Sun to 2nd contact, and then move away from the Sun at 3rd contact - quite a different experience that one would likely not have noticed if one had clear skies - so, it is a mixed bag - they were treated to a different spectacle of a very noticeable umbral shadow moving across the sky - but most of the members were not able to see the awesome total stage of the eclipse.

Fisheye Shot Of The Sky at Totality

Diminishing Light Progression Sequence





The horizon was light yellow orange in color and they could hear cicadas chirping during totality.  Multiple camera flashes can be seen on the stills and video from the crowds below the observing site.  It looks like the Sun was the star of the concert with lot of people howling and cheering for the Sun to come out of the clouds.  The atmosphere was tense and exciting indeed! After maximum totality, James got to see some breaks in the thick clouds and totality can be seen coming in and out of the this clouds. So James and Jett with  the advantage of having an equatorial tracking platform got to image the totality as it comes in and out of the clouds while the rest of the members just opted to see the totality with their naked eyes as well as try to image the totality with their cameras but unfortunately, the totality was dimmed severely by the clouds thus longer exposure was needed thus only James and Jett that has some good results to capture the inner corona.

A few seconds before second contact

Less than a minute past third contact

At around 9:29:23am, a small dot of light captured on video signaled third contact and end of totality. The diamond ring effect was not that great like before because the inner corona was not seen during that time except for the flash of light only.  Again, the earth shadow moving toward eastern horizon can be seen specially on video was captured by the group. Sky then started to brighten up to normalcy.  The more than 5 minutes 23 seconds of totality drama and excitement was over :(  During that time, people started to leave the park and didn't wait for 4th contact anymore.  Only a handful of dedicated eclipse observers and imagers stayed behind to monitor the eclipse till it ends at around 10:46:16 where the last subtle nip of the Moon's disk exits the Sun's disk.  Afterwards, some crowd is draws to the team's presence and chat with them  all through fourth contact, and it became much more relaxing to talk to them and take pictures with them.  In fact, it turned out that they became somewhat like local celebrities as local newspapers featured pictures of ALPers  and their equipment on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday . They  even had an interview on Tuesday afternoon to accompany an article that would appear on E-Day.

Taking the time to review the images of diminishing light, you could definitely see the difference in the light intensity through totality and back to full Sun.  The images were taken at 1/125 second at f/5.6 with a Canon camera.  The setting was fixed so that we would always have the same setting, and any changes in the light would really be coming from the eclipse.  The diminishing light camera was handled by Jaime Quinto, following a schedule of exposures prepared by Jun.

Analysis of the temperature and relative humidity showed the impact of the Moon’s shadow on the Earth.  Since there were clouds and the event started early enough in the morning, they did not see as dramatic a drop in temperature, but did see a dramatic rise in temperature as totality ended, and going to fourth contact.  What was probably more dramatic was the increase in relative humidity as the temperature dropped.  Many thanks to Jamie and Joanna Quinto for continuing to monitor and record readings from the hygrometer all throughout the eclipse. 


Happiness can be seen in Zed's face after the end of the eclipse!  James, lets set up another eclipse expedition asap! :) LOL

ALPer Andrew Ian Chan's mom Elaine treated the ALP Wuhan TSE Expedition Team a successful  eclipse lunch grand treat as well as also celebrate ALPer Andrew Ian Chan's birthday!

The group then take the traditional group shot to remember this important event in their memories and mind :) Afterwards, It took the group to break down their equipment and packed them up at around 11:45am and  they headed back to the hotel to unload their equipment and Andrew's mom Elaine treated the entire group for a great lunch at a good Chinese restaurant and eclipse discussion continued while they were having lunch  It was also done to celebrate fellow ALPer Andrew Ian Chan's birthday which happened yesterday!  After the great lunch, they all went back to the hotel and get the full needed rest as the group was obviously tired and exhausted due to the great heat!  As they head back to the hotel, James and Jun saw in the TV that Shanghai was greatly affected by the bad weather and rain and later confirmation from Armand that they were just able to get a few pics after first contact at around 8:38-8:40am and then got shut down by the weather and rained :(


As they reviewed the images and tapes, James was able to get the contact timings of for Wuhan as follows in China Standard Time (CST) +8 GMT :




( 30deg 36' N , 114 deg 17' E )



(30 deg 35.057 N , 114 deg 17.791' E)

FIRST CONTACT 08:14:54.6 AM 08:14:53 AM
SECOND CONTACT 09:23:59.9 AM 09:23:58 AM
THIRD CONTAC T 09:29:24.5 AM 09:29:21 AM
FOURTH CONTACT 10:46:17.4 AM 10:46:16 AM
EST.  TOTALITY DURATION 5 mins 25 sec 5 mins 23 sec

The group decided to sit out the dinner that evening and get full rest as tomorrow they wil have a whole day city tour of Wuhan.  Unfortunately, ALPer Johnny Quinto and family has to cut short their Wuhan extra day for tomorrow because they decided that they needed to spend extra day in Beijing to see Great Wall of China in Badaling so they will be leaving tomorrow morning. They lose their extra day hotel as well as airplane flight  but Johnny told James that is ok because they were able to experience the total solar eclipse and that was enough for them already.

Overall, the group was very excited and happy as Christopher Go called James and informed them hat they missed the time between 2nd contact and was able to see the 3rd contact dot of light coming out of the clouds :(  They were able to image the rest of the duration though. News reporters told James that Shanghai was totally clouded and rained out and without any contacts with ALP Jiaxing group led by Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson, they could just pray and hope they were able to capture the totality as well as they are leading a big group of eclipse chasers for Astronomy magazine so most probably being more of a professional eclipse tour group, they were even equipped and more  mobile than the Wuhan group in terms of logistics.


For more images of the total solar eclipse taken by ALP Wuhan TSE members, click here.




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