To record a total solar eclipse event involves more than one click of the camera shutter; the camera is actually a combined camera-telescope that can continuously record the event from dimming light to darkness and back to full sun, which can take up to 7 minutes. Scientists often plan their next expedition for several years to find just the right location on the path of the eclipse that they hope will give them a clear sky on the big day—it could just as easily rain or be cloudy!

NCAR’s solar eclipse instrument on display is called the Newkirk White Light Coronal Camera. (Remember, scientists want photos of the white light, or corona, that is visible around the sun during an eclipse.) It was named after one of the scientists who designed and built it in 1966, and has since been taken around the world on nine successful expeditions. After more than three decades of distinguished service, the instrument was retired after 1998, when use of new technology successfully proved the next generation of solar eclipse photography: from now on, scientists will be using digital photography on their field expeditions.

To learn more about the division at NCAR that studies solar eclipses, the High Altitude Observatory (HAO), go to http://www.hao.ucar.edu.

To read more about eclipses and to see 1998 and 1999 eclipse images, go to HAO’s Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) at http://mlso.hao.ucar.edu/, and click on "Eclipses."