Totality at Clifton Beach, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Spencer Young. Nikon D7000, 80-400mm@400mm, 1/640th sec., f/8, ISO 320.


This wonderful image above is representative of the visual perception and also the drama at Mount Carbine, Ausralia.  It reveals the threatening cloud mass low in the east and a few drifting clouds that posed a challenge, but did not hurt our observation. Photo by J Darryl Droddy. Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 50mm f1.4, stack of two exposures: f5.6 / 1.5sec & 3 sec/ ISO 400  .

Ring of Fire Expeditions conducted its 40th solar eclipse adventure to observe the 2 minute long total solar eclipse on land in northeast Australia and on the water from the Coral Sea.  There were three separate groups: the first group of 17 led by Paul Maley observed from about 5 miles north of Mount Carbine, Australia; the second group of 16 led by Claude Nicollier observed from Clifton Beach, Australia; the third group of 42 led by Dr. Pat Reiff observed from the cruise ship Dawn Princess.  A fourth group of 15 chose to remain at the Mercure Hotel in Cairns and was clouded out during totality.

Eclipse advertising in Cairns. L. Palmer photo.



Our team drove over 150km from Cairns, departing at 2.30am promptly in order to get to a clear site prior to totality which was set for 6.38am locl time.  Clouds and rain had been prevelant in Cairns for days and the forecast was more of the same for eclipse morning.  Heading out on one of the two possible roads we encountered virtually no traffic despite warnings to the contrary and dire predictions that up to 250 buses and 6000 passengers would be covering the same road(s).  Heading west to Mareeba, then north to Mount Molloy we stopped there as overcast sky turned clear. We were able to enjoy the Milky Way from horizon to horizon at a cemetery close to the town.


The predawn sky from Mount Molloy. Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are both in the photo. Canon 20D, 17-85mm @ 17mm, f4.5, 30 sec, ISO 1600; B.Reyna photo. Camera was on the ground propped up with a wallet. Dark object in the lower left of the all sky image is the bus.


The team posed for a group photo at the cemetery.

Photo of the Mount Carbine team by B. Reyna.

Left to right: Paul Maley, Mia Lindholm, Jeff Burrell, Brandon Boger, Wynne Lienhardt, Carol Watts, Chris Faser, JD Droddy, Lynn Palmer, Mickie Grace, Paul Grace, Terry Eggleston, Diana Bort, Daniel Bort.

As we watched clouds began to move from the east towards us in the west, so we kept going to Mount Carbine traveling about 5 miles farther west until reaching the contract mileage limit.  The location was obtained by JD Droddy as 16 deg 30m 12.21s South, 145 deg 01m 27.64s East, elevation 1141 feet.


Map of the Mount Carbine site provided by B. Reyna

We stopped on the west side of the highway and began to deploy. Clouds moved sporadically across the Sun and were able to see some partial phases beginning about 20 minutes after sunrise (at 5.45).  But as the minutes ticked down to 2nd contact at 6.38 clouds sporadically moved in and out from in front of the solar disc. One particularly bad cloud appeared below about 10 minutes before totality.


A scary cloud as photographed by B.Reyna.

As totality approached I shot the photo below with a hand held Panasonic Lumix camera. Venus is clearly seen in the upper center part of the photo.

Then totality was upon us for about 2 minutes 00 seconds. Carol Watts took the image below, also with a point and shoot camera.  Note the edge of the Moon’s shadow on the right side. Both thin high cloud and middle cloud can be discerned.



Inner corona and prominences. Photo by B. Reyna.

The photo above is fairly representative of the images taken by the land groups. Focus was disturbed perhaps by seeing conditions and/or thin cloud in most cases even though the camera operator took pains to focus properly on sunspots and on the lunar disc during the partial phases. However, in more than one instance a  photographer forgot to remove the neutral density filter at 2nd contact but realized it part way through totality.

Photo  A above by E. Stansbery (Nikon D300, 40mm lens, ISO 3200) at 2nd contact followed quickly by the next two images.  Note the large Baily’s Beads, the pink chromospheric arc and prominences in all images.  f/29, 1/3200 sec.

PhotoB  by E. Stansbery. (f/29, 1/3200 sec)

 Photo C by E. Stansbery. (f/22, 1/2000 sec)

In photo D above (f/6.3, 1/60 sec), also by E. Stansbery you can see many ‘spike-like’ features in the middle corona (the inner corona is overexposed).

Photo E above (and below) by G. Stansbery Nikon D800, 1000mm at f/22.  This exposure was 1/4000 sec.

Photo F above by G. Stansbery (1/5000 sec).  Contrast with preceding photos A, B, and C. Photos below show bead evolution with time. He used bursts of 3 images such that although there is a small separation in time between each shot and the exposure has changed, there is also some evolution going on in terms of bead size as well. It is a little difficult to correlate that change unless all exposures are identical. Nevertheless, as the Moon moves slowly across the sun, the brightness of the  beads diminishes as the partial phase converts to the total eclipse phase.

Photo above by G. Stansbery. (1/4000 sec)

Photo above by G. Stansbery (1/8000 sec).

Photo by G.Stansbery (1/8000).

Photo by G. Stansbery (1/8000).

Photo by G. Stansbery (1/1000).

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In the interesting image above, notice the parallel lines, the thin cloud and the diamond ring. G. Stansbery photo.  Later, compare the above image with those of Barger and Braswell in the Clifton Beach team.

Stacked images in PhotoShop. F/8, ISO 100, Canon 50d by Chris Faser.


Partially eclipsed sun projected through a straw hat. L. Palmer photo.

Following the eclipse, most of the group took the customary team photo at the site.

Photo by P. Maley

Pictured above from left to right: Eileen Stansbery, Terry Eggleston, Diana Bort, Daniel Bort, Paul Grace, Wynne Lienhardt, Mickie Grace, Bill Reyna, Carol Watts, Lynn Palmer, Tahleen Nabors, Jeff Burrell, Chris Faser, Mia Lindholm, Paul Maley.  Not pictured: JD Droddy, Brian Boger because they were about 0.5 mile north of our site taking the ‘big picture view’ in the 2nd photo on this site.

Eileen Stansbery. P.Maley photo.


Paul Grace. P.Maley photo.

Bill Reyna. P.Maley photo.



Lynn Palmer. B.Reyna photo.



Chris Faser. P.Maley photo.


Daniel and Diana Bort. P.Maley photo.


Terry Eggleston. P.Maley photo.


Mia Lindholm and Jeff Burrel. P.Maley photo.


Tahleen Nabors. L.Palmer photo.


Paul and Mickie Grace. L.Palmer photo.


Paul Maley with Meade 2045D using a borrowed box from the Hotel Mercure and a tool crate from the bus driver. L. Palmer photo.



Totality at Clifton Beach captured by Debbie Moran

As clouds continued to envelope the espalande area in Cairns, Claude Nicollier took the second bus and as many of our group that wanted to try to make a dash for it.  They drove north until arriving at Clifton Beach where Claude deployed the team. Coordinates of the site were -16° 45′ 3″ latitude, +145° 40′ 17″ east longitude.


The shoreline where Claude’s group observed totality.


Even intially at the start of totality there was very thin cloud.  Rheineheardt Barger captured this image showing Baily’s Beads, inner corona and several prominences.

2nd contact by Rheineheardt Barger. ISO 1600, Canon EOS40D,Canon EF100-400 F4.5-5.6 L IS,all hand held 400 mm focal length (with 1.6 X due to APS sized sensor so 35 mm equiv of 640 mm) and image stabilized, f10 at 1/800sec.


The clouds eventually cleared and he took a longer exposure revealing more of the corona.

Photo by Rheineheardt Barger. Camera, lens specs are the same as previous image but the f/stop and expousre were F5.6 and 1/25sec.



Byron Braswell and his instrument. Sheila Stephenson (in pink) on the beach. Photo by S.Braswell.

In the series of images below Byron Braswell used the following:  Nikon 600mm f4 lens with Nikon 1.7 multiplier resulting in a 1000mm focal length at f6.3 (1500mm equivalent DX format Nikon D7000 camera).  All shots are at ISO 400. Shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 to 1/1000 second.

2nd contact by B.Braswell.

Photo above exposure 1/200 second.

The next two images show how quickly the Baily’s Beads and (pinkish areas) chromosphere change in a matter of a second.  Even through the very thin cloud you can see incredible detail. Exposure times for the first photo was 1/500 second; for the second photo 1/400 second.

3rd contact by B.Braswell.

A bright prominence can be seen below on the very top portion of the chromosphere.

3rd contact diamond ring and chromosphere. B.Braswell photo.

Exposure time for the photo below was 1/60 second.

Corona by B. Braswell


Claude Nicollier and his photo setup. On the ground are Victor and Janelle Monell. B. Braswell photo.

Even a Canon Powershot can take a decent photo of the eclipsed sun and corona.  J. and V. Monell photo.



The Clifton Beach Team (above). Left to right: Byron Braswell, Erik Moeser, Janelle Monnell, Spencer Young, Vic Monnell, Sheila Stephenson, Richard Campany, Carol Moeser, Gene Stansberry, Leslie Strike, June Campany, Linda Heim, Rheineheardt Barger, Debbie Moran, Claude Nicollier.



Although there was a group that stayed at the Hotel Mercure that did not see the eclipse, some of them made it to the beach and attempted observation from there.   In the direction of the sun (east southeast) lay a couple of large hills and over the hill air was moving that was constantly generating cloud which was the primary reason it remained cloudy at the site. But the photo above  (by Paul S. Kao), shot from the beach in front of the group hotel,  is unique in that it shows street lights that came on during totality.  If you look in the background there are two hills (one on the right and one on the left) in the photo that are sunlit which shows one nearby area where totality was visible.


The Dawn Princess decided not to sail along the path of totality since it would put all the viewers into the wind; instead, it headed south starting just after first contact so that the eclipse would be off the port side and more folks could see iit, even from inside their cabin balconies. They said the position was 17deg 5.3 min S  147deg 5.2′ E producing a totality time of 2m 04s.  The map below shows where the ship should have been located.

Dawn Princess location during totality

How did they do? The next photo says it all!

Yleana Martinez (left) and Cathy Gretencord (below). Photo by E. Cox

 Crescent sun projection below by Brian Verkaart


Comparison between diamond rings by Ken Offit


Comparison between coronas by Ken Offit


Composite image below by Brian Verkaart

  Composite image below by Brian Verkaart

 Outer corona photo below by Ken Offit

Prediction of the corona appearance issued November 6.

 Outer corona image below by Catherine Stauffer

 Wide angle shot above by Pat Reiff

 Prominences and inner corona (above) by P. Schwanke.


 Dawn Princess team photo above taken by B. Verkaart.

Top row, left to right: Alexander and Patricia Swistel; Emily Offit;   Gary Rose (above); Ken Offit (lower); Saraj Cory; Gary and Liam Roberts; Chris Cory; Alan and Carol Eshleman; Barbara Verkaart (blond) with Marysa; Synnove Lindbjorg (hat); Keith Gunderson; Sue Yee Duong

Lower row, left to right:
Susan Goldberg, Wesley Verkaart, Evelyn Cox, Yleana Martinez, Cathy Gretencord, Tomomi Nakamoto-Verkaart; Jason Verkaart; Patricia Reiff
Bottom Row:  Dylan and Aeryn Verkaart, Trigger MMS.  Not pictured Brian Verkaart.

Brian Verkaart and Su Duong became engaged during the eclipse. P. Reiff photo.


Saraj Cory:

“This was my first total solar eclipse and I’m still pinching myself.  I know what I saw, all those prominences, the glow of the corona, and what I felt, the drop in temperature, the shift in the winds, the stillness, even on the ocean, but Wow, I’m still just heart/spirit rendered by it.  What a miracle, what a totally cool marvelous thing to get to witness.  I’m hooked!”

Dan Bort:

“I’ve seen pictures of total eclipses before.  I’ve also seen pictures taken from the surface of the Moon and from the surface of Mars.  Seeing the eclipse in person felt as different from looking at a photograph as I imagine it would be to actually stand on the surface of the Moon or the surface of Mars.  It felt, for those two minutes, like being on another planet.”

Actually, compare this photo of Mars

The real Martian surface.

 with our actual observing site below!

The Mount Carbine eclipse viewing site. Photo by B.Reyna.


Uluru. Denise English photo.

Most of the photos here are self-explanatory but the one above of Uluru (Ayers Rock) has its own story similar to the eclipse chase.  It does not look it, but the sky is completely overcast in this image!  Our group experienced almost constant cloud cover during the 5 days at Ayers Rock.  Scheduled sunrise and sunset observations of the rock all ended miserably except for the last night where we were supposed to be only at Kata Tjuta. However, I wanted to see if I could exploit temporary breaks in the clouds and try to ‘read’ a situation where Ayers Rock might possibly be in the Sun late that afternoon. As the group came down from the Kata Tjuta formation, I revised the tour plan and asked the driver to make haste for Ayers Rock in the hopes that a narrow gap in the clouds which had been visible for a while might swing eastward at the critical time.  After a 30 minute dash toward Uluru, we arrived with a mass of buses and tourists already in place.  We stopped at the end of the line and walked past the end to an area which had an unobstructed view of the rock with the sun about 4 degrees above the west inside a cloud with a small gap underneath.  The Sun burst through slowly but finally made it into the gap and reflected off the the rock creating a pink glow (see photo below).  Everyone was really happy!

David and Denise English left are amongst our group of 11 who were focused on Ayers Rock just as the Sun burst through the small gap in an overcast sky. P.Maley photo.

One of the cave-like structures within Uluru. Denise English photo.

The eclipse 5k runners. Left to right: Lynn Palmer, Paul Maley, Daniel Bort. Photo by Tom Stephany.

A kangaroo swimming as seen from our balloon. P. Maley photo.


Lois Richards, Space Shuttle pilot Dick Richards, Astronaut Claude Nicollier after a great balloon ride.
P. Maley photo.

The elusive Australian solar eclipse stamp we never saw.

A field full of kangaroos. P. Maley photo.

A platter of nibbles: kangaroo and crocodile meats. P.Maley photo.

Native birds. B.Braswell photo.

Koala photo by R. Richards

Crocodile image by R. Richards.

A lorikeet. J. Monell photo.

Post eclipse photo sharing session at the Hotel Mercure (Cairns). Tahleen Nabors photo.

One of the fabulous views from our balloon. P.Maley photo.

Wish you had seen the total solar eclipse? Take a look at this upcoming 2016 Solar Eclipse Cruise!

Ring of Fire Expeditions (ROFE) is the longest consecutive astronomical tour organization in the United States. ROFE specializes in astro-tourism since 1970 with expeditions organized and led by Paul D. Maley of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society and arranged by Future Travel in Houston, Texas USA. These include tours to observe such events as Halley’s Comet, the Leonid meteor shower, transit of Venus, spacecraft reentries, solar eclipses, grazing occultations, and occultation’s of stars by minor planets.
We are a public outreach effort of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society led by amateur astronomers and welcome all persons who are interested in astronomy and the natural sciences. You do not need to have a science background or any prior experience to join us! Contact us to set up your perfect astronomical tour and/or cruise today!

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