Hawaii’s Glimpse at the Great American Solar Eclipse

2017 Hawaii Solar Eclipse

Today's Solar Eclipse

By Melvin Ah Ching, Editor & Publisher, The Hawaii Files Blog

As solar eclipses go, yesterday’s partial one in Honolulu was adequately good. The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 was a huge phenomena and event throughout the continental United States as the path of totality traveled eastward in a narrow 70 mile wide band from the Oregon coast to the tip of South Carolina. Much of the continent had a good partial eclipse that covered most of the sun.

In a solar eclipse, the moon’s shadow blots out the sunlight as it passes between the sun and the Earth. During totality that shadow blocks out nearly all sunlight except for a narrow band around the perimeter that creates a remarkable and unforgettable view. Solar eclipses are rare occurrences that track within small and varied regions of Earth’s surface. Within the eclipse’s band, many areas get a partial eclipse while totality only occurs within a smaller zone.

Millions of people on the U.S. continent witnessed and captured images of the eclipse going into and out of totality including the 2 minute long phase of full shadowed coverage.

In Honolulu, my friend Lisa Davidson and I awoke early and trekked to the Waialae Kahala Beach Park an hour before sunrise to secure a good viewing spot that I scoped out the day before. Anticipating the eclipse, which started near Hawaii, Lisa and I both photographed the changing light around us as night receded into the new day. The rising sun was going to be in the eclipse process. I had to be prepared for that.

I had three cameras with me including my Canon 600D SLR with a 300mm lens set up on a tripod, Fujifilm HS10 EVF with a wide to long built in zoom lens, and a Samsung smart phone that can also do pictures. Lisa had her trusty little Samsung that she used to catch the “feel” of the moments. We both had protective eclipse viewers that I got last year from Bishop Museum. I used the 58mm screw on sun filter for the cameras to get eclipse images.

We were set. We waited. Talked. Photographed. The sunrise was pretty, but the clouds were getting in the way. I was wondering if the clouds would pre-empt my eclipse view.

Eclipse times for Hawaii from timeanddate.com.

Sunrise in Honolulu was at 6:11 am. Moonrise was 2 minutes earlier at 6:09am. The eclipse began at 5:50am before the sun rose. Everything was in motion for a good eclipse except for the clouds.

It was not until 7:16 am that I caught my first fleeting glimpse of the sun poking through the clouds. I fired the Canon for a continuous burst of images as the clouds slowly broke and the sun revealed its new face for a few moments. And then the clouds rolled back in.

I got a few images but I wanted more. My wish came true as the clouds slowly blew away and the eclipsed sun appeared again as I fired more frames off with the camera. I got my 20% or probably a little less than that. It was better than nothing and certainly better than the 10% that I got during last year’s eclipse from Magic Island.

I snapped more photos in the next 15 minutes of the waning spectacle.

Lisa was thrilled as she was able to see the eclipse through my camera’s LCD screen and the protective filters that allowed us to view the show with our own eyes. She was very thankful that I shared these moments with her.

One of Lisa’s most mystical experiences was viewing a total solar eclipse when she was nine, living in New Hampshire. “The intense darkness in the middle of the day fueled my fascination with astronomy and science fiction. I’ll never forget how all the birds suddenly went silent.”

By 7:30 in the morning the Hawaii eclipse was over. The sun was out, the day was bright and life would continue as it always does.

It turns out that this year’s solar eclipse is the last one to be visible in Hawaii until April 8, 2024, when another total eclipse will be viewable in the continental United States. The next total solar eclipse occurs in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and over the South American countries of Chile and Argentina on July 2, 2019.


Photos by Mel unless indicated.

Today's Solare EclipseThis is one of the best shots I got of yesterday’s solar eclipse. Investing in a screw on solar lens filter is worth the money!

Sunlit Clouds Over Koko HeadThe beautiful but sunlight blocking clouds over Koko Head

What To Watch
Catching a live video stream while waiting for clouds to depart.

Monday Morning SunriseThe beautiful Hawaiian sunrise and clouds blocked the sun for nearly 40 minutes after the eclipse began.

Streaming From OregonWatching a live stream from Oregon as we waited out the clouds.

Today's Solar EclipseYou can get a decent shot out of your cell phone camera if you put one of those protective eye safety filters in front of your camera lens. Lisa did that and it got her this picture with the tiny sun chopped slightly to the bottom left.

Eclipse 2017 - 1Solar eclipse view from Ontario, Canada. Keith Watson Photography.

2017 Aug. 21 ~ The Diamond Ring - total solar eclipseTotality, August 21, 2017 – Kansas, United States. Michael Watson, photographer.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse - ISS TransitInternational Space Station in transit ahead of the moon. NASA. You can also see sunspots in this excellent photo.


KHON TV’s McKenna Maduli reports on the eclipse from Waialae Kahala Beach park not too far away from where we were. There are 3 clips embedded in this video composite.

Additional Links:

Afternoon at the U.H. Institute For Astronomy

2015 UH IFA Open House

The University of Hawaii Institute For Astronomy celebrated “The International Year of Light” by celebrating this fact at its annual Open House. The event was held at the Institute For Astronomy’s complex at 2680 Woodlawn Drive in Manoa on April 12. This was my first time to attend the annual event which has been going on for at least the last seven years.

For a first timer, it was what I expected. Numerous exhibits, demos, films and lectures about astronomy, science and technology in general. It was a great place for people to seek knowledge about our universe with the experts who do this for a living every day.

I talked to this person (above) who turned out to be an intern at one of the observatories on the Big Island of Hawaii. He had a small collection of impressive time lapse photographs of the night sky and surroundings taken at the top of Mauna Kea Mountain. He and I talked briefly about the techniques and timing he used to get star trail photographs and expose the night time sky in a beautiful and dynamic way. In order to get s star trail photo one has to leave the camera shutter open for about an hour to get the circular effect created by the path of the moving star field. Needless to say, keeping the shutter open for a long time with a digital camera puts a lot of drain on the batteries. He said he can go through 4 or 5 batteries in one night.

This guy had a very impressive picture of the planet Saturn. He used a special type of camera connected to a telescope that did several hundred monochrome exposures of the planet. When the picture taking process was done all of the exposures were composited and colorized using computer software to create a sharp, beautiful picture (shown in background). Saturn is one of the most beautiful looking planets in the solar system because of its very distinctive rings.

He also informed me of an upcoming solar eclipse that will reach just over 50% of totality on March 8, 2016. That is more than a year earlier than the August 21, 2017 total eclipse over the continental U.S. Totality will be achieved from the eclipse’s origin in Indonesia and through most of the uninhabited part of the Pacific Ocean. Totality will occur a few hundred miles north of Hawaii.

He’s got the whole world in his hands…well in this case a globe of the planet Mercury. As everyone knows Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. It’s so hot there that led would probably melt. However at the north and south poles in craters where the sun don’t shine, water has been detected. This person was quite informative as he told us that Venus is an earth sized planet with “extreme global warning” and could only speculate as to why the near side of the moon was not as pitted with craters as the far side. One theory is that there were gigantic lava flows on the earth’s near side. Most of the craters on the moon are probably impact craters from falling meteorites.

While I did not attend all of the demos, the one dealing with the spectrum of light was most impressive. Astronomers spend a lot of time analyzing the color spectrum of light with computerized tools and visual observation. The color spectrum range from very hot to cool and includes all of the bandwidth including the visual part of the spectrum that we can see with our naked eyes as well as the invisible: radio waves, X-rays, infra-red and more. We were handed 35mm slide sized handheld spectrometer. The simple device was explained to us and we used it in the room where different types of light sources yielded their color spectrums when the device as well as a computer was used. I also shot a few images through the spectrometer with my Canon DSLR camera. The photos while not very clear appear below:

The color light spectrum of a white light bulb as taken through the simple spectrometer.

Other activities, demonstrations, displays and videos shown included the following:

Air-powered rockets
Ask an astronomer
Buy an IfA T-shirt
CAVE (3-D virtual environment)
Flight simulator
Hands-on physics
Infrared camera
LEGO Mindstorm robotics
Pan-STARRS virtual tour and operations
Short lectures
Spectroscopy school (learning with light)
Solar observing (weather permitting)
3-D printer demo
Voyager game
Walk on water
Wind tunnel

Astrophotography
Friends of the IfA
NASA Space Apps Challenge
Scale model of solar system
Science Fair exhibitors
Youth Color the Cosmos

I took more photos at the Open House and they can be viewed at my Flickr site.