2917: Types of Eclipse Photo

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Types of Eclipse Photo
The most rare, top-tier eclipse photo would be the Solar Earth Eclipse, but the Apollo 12 crew's attempt to capture it was marred by camera shake. They said it looked spectacular, though.
Title text: The most rare, top-tier eclipse photo would be the Solar Earth Eclipse, but the Apollo 12 crew's attempt to capture it was marred by camera shake. They said it looked spectacular, though.


On the day of this comic's release, a total solar eclipse traversed North America, allowing a substantial portion of the United States to view this phenomenon. Total eclipses in any given area are rare enough and impressive enough that witnessing it was a huge event for many people, both those living in the zone of totality and the many people who traveled specifically to view it. This strip addresses the event through different types of photos that people might take.

The Standard: A photo of the solar eclipse during totality, a typical photo most people might hope to take (examples shown here and here). This photograph captures the Sun totally blocked by the Moon, with a barely visible ring of light around the outside, which comes from its 'atmosphere' and other external features, rather than the solar surface that would normally be visible.

The Partial: A photo of the eclipse in progress, likely approaching totality (example shown here). Another typical photo most viewers take as the eclipse progresses, and the only type of image available to people outside the zone of totality.

The Reaction Shot: During an eclipse, people tend to gather outside in crowds to witness the event in person. Images of people gathering and looking up at the sky capture the human side of this event, and is likely to be more personal to the person taking the photo (particularly since the people may be their friends and family). This article by Global news shows several reaction pictures such as this and this.

The Fancy Lens: A photo of this type (examples shown here and here), that features conspicuous solar prominences, will almost certainly require a lot more preparation and equipment (the 'fancy lens', a tripod or other mounting, etc). The prominences are dim, compared to the Sun, and usually are visible only when the Sun is completely covered because of contrast issues. Due to the lack of significant atmosphere on the Moon, the hard edge of the similarly-sized Moon can reveal these details whilst obscuring the usually dominant sunlight.

The eclipsing body can't extend much beyond the Sun without also hiding the prominences, but that is the fortunate situation with Earth-Moon-Sun eclipses having the Moon, often just large enough to cut out the solar disc. It varies, but the usual exception is the Moon being slightly too far away in its orbit (combined with the Earth being marginally closer to the Sun, in its own orbit) to obscure the whole body of the Sun, leaving a bright ring of solar surface visible. Such an annular eclipse gives similar lighting problems as with a high-percentage partial one; or during the phases leading up to/away from actual totality.

The Focus Issues: People new or unaware of the difficulties of astral photography typically experience challenges focusing their lenses on astral bodies, especially if they are trying to fight against a confused auto-focus. The eclipse is no exception to this, and this type of photo popped up more frequently during this event because more people were taking this fleeting opportunity to take photos of the sky than usual. This article explains some of the tips (such as using a tripod to steady the camera and using manual settings for exposure and focus) to get professional looking pictures of eclipses and shows pictures of an amateur (left) vs a professional (right) picture.

The Traffic Jam: Since the experience of a total eclipse is only available in a specific geographical range, it's extremely common for people to travel to view them, particularly when this range is near to heavily populated areas (as in this case). The number of people trying to get into a particular area for a particular event naturally causes huge issues of traffic and accommodations. One example is traffic jams, which can become huge and last for many hours. The Daily Gazette reports a number of traffic related slowdowns (photo 1, photo 2) in Schenectady, New York as people return from viewing the eclipse. It states many people spent double the normal time to get to their destination as compared to normal (non post-eclipse) travel. The irony of waiting in traffic for hours in order to see an event lasting several minutes can be frustrating, and an image of the traffic jam may be a bitter way to capture this irony.

The Astronaut: Astronauts on the International Space Station had a particularly unusual view of the solar eclipse, seeing the Moon's shadow on the Earth's surface. Forbes has an article that shows the pictures of the eclipse from NASA and the ISS in orbit 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.

The "Frustratedly Looking up the Cloud Situation in Australia for 2028": There were clouds over a large portion of the United States and Canada during the April 2024 eclipse. This is a photo similar to the one in the comic, taken in Niagara Falls, Ontario where it was cloudy during the eclipse. For most of North America, this meant that heavy cloud cover blocked their view of the Sun during the eclipse, badly impacting the viewing experience. This was naturally highly undesirable, particularly those who had planned and traveled to see it. The joke here is that such a person, seeing only clouds during the eclipse, might try to figure out the next time that seeing an eclipse would be possible. There will be a total eclipse passing over Australia and New Zealand in 2028. For someone in the United States, this would require a much more significant trip than the 2024 trip, but someone who missed one eclipse might be willing to go to extremes to see another. The irony is that weather is impossible to accurately predict 4 years in the future, so such a plan would involve the risk of traveling halfway around the world, only for them to more likely than not miss another eclipse due to overcast or cloudy weather.

One common type of eclipse image (albeit from more experienced photographers with photo-editing experience) is the timelapse photo (examples here and here) which Randall does not reference in his comic (although a timelapse could feature photos used in the comic). A timelapse eclipse photo includes multiple exposures of the eclipse at multiple times, often before eclipse totality, during totality and after totality; effectively superimposing the before, during and after shots of the eclipse in a single image.

The title text refers to a photograph taken during the Apollo 12 mission when the Earth came between the spacecraft and the Sun on the journey back home from the Moon. Technically there is a "Solar Earth Eclipse" every night, as the Earth is then between you and the Sun and shades your view of it, but Randall is referring to an incident when Apollo 12 was positioned such that the spacecraft, Earth, and Sun lined up. The photograph was taken shortly before totality; other pictures as well as video footage during totality were taken, but are of considerably lower quality due to a shaky camera.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
Types of Eclipse Photo
[Eclipse during totality]
The Standard
[Partial eclipse with lighter sky]
The Partial
[Two Cueballs and Ponytail looking and pointing at the sky]
The Reaction Shot
[Eclipse during totality with red "ribbons" around the Moon]
The Fancy Lens
[A blurry ring of light in the center]
The Focus Issues
[The rear of an SUV]
The Traffic Jam
[A dark circle on Earth's surface]
The Astronaut
[A gray cover of clouds]
The "Frustratedly Looking up the Cloud Situation in Australia for 2028"


  • The standard size image was uploaded with a resolution/size of 8920 by 6909, larger than the supposed 2x version at 1189 by 921. This was likely an error, and has since been fixed.

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The 'standard' and '2x' sized images had unexpected sizes, so a Trivia section has been automatically generated, and an imagesize parameter has been added (at half size) to render the image consistently with other comics on this website. --TheusafBOT (talk) 06:16, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

If you're going to keep doing this wrong, please disable the bot, just stop doing it. I, for one, would like to see this huge image, but this all makes it seem like a myth you're trying to start. *sigh* This bot is just a tease and it's aggravating. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:31, 20 April 2024 (UTC)

8920x6909?! JLZ0kTC5 (talk) 06:21, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

Title text likely refers to this image [1], and may also refer to Alan Bean destroying the color tv camera on that same mission by pointing it inadvertently at the sun. 07:03, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

Cleveland, Ohio Science Center had a terrific view and NASA research and public relations teams were out in force. It was terrific. All of my photos are of the Focus and Crowd variety.Iggynelix (talk) 12:00, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

I've seen one in 1999. It was glorious. Huge shadow crossing a large lake at a million miles an hour.

Lots of pixels today MrCandela (talk) 09:26, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

Why did Munroe do this??? I opened the email (I get it emailed because I'm too lazy to check the website) and it crashed my computer. Three times. Surely it wasn't intentional... By me. (talk) 10:25, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

Is it just me, or is "solar earth eclipse" just a synonym for things like "sunset" and "night"? 11:17, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

-Yes, but these things are more interesting when you are as far away as the moon and Earth's "night" still reaches you. 16:45, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

I think the 'Solar Earth Eclipse' is a reference to the Earth eclipsing the Sun for the Apollo 12 crew. That must have been spectacular. As someone who witnessed his first total solar eclipse in Western Australia in April 2023, I'm very much looking forward to the 2028 eclipse across Australia. Seriously considering driving past the mountains if the forecast looks cloudy for Sydney... 12:07, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

How did that work though? We have total and annular solar eclipses look the way they do because the angular diameter of the Moon and the Sun are almost exactly the same when viewed from Earth. In the supposed photo of Earth eclipsing the Sun, the apparent size of Sun and the body eclipsing it are likewise similar. But the diameter of the Earth is more than 3 times the diameter of the Moon, so for their angular diameters to be similar, the photo would have needed to been taken from a distance from the Earth more than 3 times the Earth-Moon distance. Did the trajectory of Apollo 12 have such a point? Or does the photo that's described in many places as the Solar Earth Eclipse actually show the Moon eclipsing the Sun? If so, do we have a photo of the actual Solar Earth Eclipse?
The crescent is the Earth's atmosphere backlit by the sun, not a direct line of sight to the edge of the solar disk. As you say the solar disk is much smaller than the Earth's disk at that distance. 16:17, 12 April 2024 (UTC)

The partial photo looks more like a projection onto a sheet of paper with a pinhole camera than a direct shot of the eclipse. 18:25, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

I have photos of a partial taken through a layer of cloud that look like that. 11:43, 10 April 2024 (UTC)

There's another category he missed entirely: the "look at the weird shadows" one. This could be someone's pinhole camera, but could also be a colander, or even just the shadows cast by some random trees.

That makes zero sense. I missed it altogether because I already saw the Oct. 2023 one, and I was like "Nope."

The car shown in the traffic jam could potentially be a Mitsubishi Eclipse, but not likely... 19:12, 10 April 2024 (UTC)

WHEN IS THE APR 10 COMIC GUNNA COME OUT 21:01, 10 April 2024 (UTC)

hey guess what -- 06:49, 11 April 2024 (UTC)