How I’ll make the most of the Solar Eclipse using my Smartphone

The last great solar eclipse that I remember was the one on October 3, 2005. It was almost 10:30 in the morning. The sky suddenly got dark while I walked across university campus. Back then, my cell phone was a Nokia 6600, a sturdy brick without Internet connection and a 0.3 megapixel camera. I don’t have any digital keepsake of that spectacular astronomical event. Social media hardly existed to post anything anyway.

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The eclipse on 10/3/2005 caught us two years before the arrival of Android and iPhone (source)

Over a decade later, times have changed. I have a phone 15 times more powerful and apps capable of recording videos in HD and uploading dozens of photos thanks to a permanent Internet connection which, among other things, lets me live-stream the event. The next visible solar eclipse from Spain will be on Monday, August 21; I know when it’s coming, what it will look like and how long it will last. My cell phone helps me revel in this heavenly spectacle.

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What will it be like? Eclipse Calculator tells all

Knowing nothing else about the eclipse, I installed Eclipse Calculator, an app developed by the University of Barcelona, which provides reliable predictions for solar and lunar eclipses, as well as other planetary events. Once the type of event and city is selected, the app shows a list of upcoming eclipses visible in the area.

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With Eclipse Calculator, it’s possible to “see” the shape of any eclipse before it happens.

Rain or shine? Let’s see what AccuWeather says…

Besides telling me the exact time of the darkest stage, Eclipse Calculator also lets me simulate the eclipse with a slider. On the other hand, AccuWeather shows me the weather forecast for Monday; light rain is expected above the city. Will I see a rainbow, as well as an eclipse?

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Will it be cloudy on the day of the eclipse? Weather apps can keep you in the know.

Ideal eclipse-viewing spots

So I don’t miss the eclipse, I’ll set an alarm on my cell phone. Or even better, I’ll ask Siri or Google Assistant to remind me in advance. The notification will appear on my screen an hour beforehand and will include the panoramic site that I’ll choose in advance using Google Maps. I haven’t decided on a spot yet: where will I view it? SunCalc has given me the exact position of the sun during the eclipse: on the beach, no doubt.

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SunCalc says that at the peak time (the orange ring), the sun will be right on the beach.

Hey, no dangerous shots!

At no time will I look at the sun without protection. It’s very dangerous for your eyes. Many will be tempted to use their cameras and take a selfie, but looking at the sun even for a few seconds can seriously damage your eyesight (and your camera sensor too!). So, when the moment comes, I’ll take my cell phone and, instead of directly recording the eclipse, I’ll take photos of the city under a sky that’s very rarely seen.

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A safe way to watch the eclipse: by making a pinhole viewer that projects the light (source)

Live-streaming the eclipse

With Periscope or on Facebook itself, I’ll broadcast the live-stream from my cell phone, so others can see the same thing I can. On Monday, social media will be filled with live-streaming showing the eclipse from several spots on earth.

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Instagram? Better yet: time-lapse

Maybe you could take photos or videos with Instagram (a little overdone, am I right?) or record a video using Hyperlapse or Lapse It. This last idea, of creating a video where time runs faster, is especially appealing for an astronomical event of this significance. Imagine a video from your house with the sky getting dark and returning to normal in just one minute; that’s the beauty of Hyperlapse and Lapse It.

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The magic of Hyperlapse is compressing time in super short videos (source).

My eclipse soundtrack

Whether I take photos or not, I’ll definitely be listening to music. I’ve prepared my own Spotify playlist with a dozen background tracks. Pink Floyd, Brian Eno and Vangelis will keep me company during my morning eclipse adventure. And if in the end I don’t make a keepsake of that day, at least I’ll remember the feeling of having enjoyed it with my favorite soundtrack.

How will you celebrate the 2017 solar eclipse?

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