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Diamond ring effect
The “diamond ring” effect sparkles just before the total phase of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, as captured from Madras, Ore. (John E. Hoots via YouTube)

MADRAS, Ore. – Some skywatchers spend thousands of dollars on telescopes, cameras and other hardware to document a solar eclipse. John E. Hoots did it with a Sony Handycam video camera.

Hoots, a semi-retired corporate scientist from Batavia, Ill., was part of our merry band in Madras, watching totality unfold today with thousands of others during Oregon Solarfest.

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He attached the video camera to a tripod, secured a pair of eclipse glasses in front of the lens, and manually tracked the sun as more and more of its disk was covered up by the moon.

When totality was just about to begin, Hoots removed the solar filter and set the exposure to capture the delicate glow of the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona. The soundtrack for the resulting video consists of whooping and hollering from the crowd that was spread out at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds (including yours truly, who can be heard remarking over the three main lobes of the coronal emissions).

“I adjusted the exposure during the middle to get more of the corona,” Hoots said. “The crowd did the rest.”

This was Hoots’ seventh total solar eclipse, and he’s already giving serious thought to what may well be the eighth: a blackout in 2019 that will last more than twice as long as today’s, and should be visible from parts of Chile and Argentina as well as a long, thin slice of the Pacific Ocean.

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