Braving polar bears and subfreezing temperatures, years of preparation pay off for a University of Hawaii astronomy team.
According to NASA, the number of total solar eclipses between 2000 B.C. and A.D. 3000 is a precise 3,173. Which means that they are not the rarest of phenomena. But to be in the right place, at the right time, and to have the skies behave, makes for the successful observation of one not a particularly common event.
So it was likely with anticipation when the international Solar Wind Sherpas team, led by Dr. Shadia Habbal of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Institute for Astronomy, started their final preparations to observe the total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015. Heading to the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago east of northern Greenland (below), the team faced ever-changing weather predictions, subfreezing temperatures of -4F and the danger of polar bears.
The team set up their vast array of equipment – six digital SLR cameras fitted with different focal length lenses, four astrophotography cameras with special filters to observe the colors of light given off by ionized iron atoms, stripped of 10 and 13 electrons, and a special instrument called a dual-channel imaging spectrograph – inside the old Northern Light Observatory.