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offering local "hands-on" observing
(visual and imaging) sessions and instruction
viewing and imaging from Rabbit Valley Observatory
a dark sky location on the mesa just west of Taos, NM


Total Solar Eclipse as observed from the Hill Country near Fredericksburg, Texas -- April 8, 2024 / Personal Notes

In April of 2024, I planned on traveling somewhere in the United States to observe the Total Eclipse of the Sun. Its specific track of totality was straight across our country. After quite a bit of research more than a year in advance (something I had done to a lesser degree for the other five total eclipses I had fortunately successfully observed), I ascertained that I wanted this to be a family event shared with sons Seth and Larry and their families if possible, but also an event attended by good friends including Beth and Gary, Will, Amy and Gillian, the Willman clan originally from Illinois, the Nichols floating-buddy family from Grand Junction, and especially my best friend from high school and his extended family. When I found out that John had rented nearby, I invited his entire clan (three daughters as well as his surviving sister Nancy and her large extended family. I was saddened that Cheryl and Lindsay could not attend. All in all, it was an affair attended by 32 people, and a wonderful and successful get-together.

I finally decided to observe from the Hill Country near Fredericksburg, TX -- and also adjacent the neigh-mythical town/idea/concept of Luckenbach, Texas. So, all in all, all of us eventually made the trek up to an AirBnB residence on seven fully-live-oak-wooded rental (the "Alamo Springs Retreat") dead on the center line of the eclipse. For me, it took two full days to get there from Taos. I stayed a night at a motel in Lubbock, and then onward to the AirBnB. I returned home with old friend Jerry Pfretschner and family, who had rented a place near the town of Fredericksburg. All in all, we had seven peops actually staying at "our" place, with Charlie, Gary Willman, and Zack residing in a short RV on site. Younger son Larry and family arrived on eclipse day. The Nichols and the Dieckmann clan arrived early on Monday the 8th as well. Locally, the eclipse began at 12:15 p.m. and ended at 2:56 p.m. with totality running from 1:32-1:37 p.m. A great time was had by all!

2024 eclipse map
diagram of solar eclipses
Map of the Texas Hill Country area -- note Fredericksburg's location on the center line -- more than 4 minutes of totality
Orbital Physics of a Total Solar Eclipse

I am in the process of writing a more personal story about the adventure. When done, I'll link it here. It very well might be the Christmas Card for this year -- accompanied by "some" photographs.

To that end, I did not set up a camera attached to any telescope even though I initially planned on that. I had instead just two visual telescopes -- the superb vintage Celestron C-8 and the equally superb vintage C-5, both driven on equatorial mounts. These vintage units are a delight -- I believe (as do all the reviewers) them to be far superior to newer versions.

Meanwhile, Larry DID photograph the eclipse through his Nikon D3500 equipped with a zoom telephoto lens. The photographs and all the details can be accessed as linked here (they are great!) As I noted in the previous 2017 eclipse review, there is certainly great advantage to the newer (for me with solar eclipses) DSLR digital realm. You can immediately see what you get, and quickly adjust accordingly. Also, in post-processing, there is more opportunity to tweak the images to balance the exposures and bring out more detail at totality. This post-processing subject is far more complex than what is presented here; suffice it to say that, although certainly still challenging, the digital approach is easier, more effective and more photographer-controlled than the old film/enlarge/print method.

Photo credits on this page are:

Beth Nelson is bn, Will Grant is wg, I (Willis) am lwg, Gary Willman is gw, Seth Greiner is sg, others as specifically noted.


setting up
covering up
eclipse crowd
"Setting Up" -- photo taken from the outstanding deck overlooking the Texas Hill Country -- bn
"Covering Up" -- looked like rain -- bn
"Eclipse Crowd" -- we had 32 in attendance -- bn

I always worry about the participants looking at the Sun during the potentially dangerous partial phases, but everyone here did well, especially the youngins. The clouds DID help. And near totality, I decided that I would operate both visual telescopes and also just enjoy the eclipse. Many did look through the telescopes and easily saw the beautiful Corona and obvious Prominences -- the magnificent Prominence near the end of totality was actually visible to the naked eye!

at the telescopes

at the C-8

"At the Telescopes" --
Dieck's daughter and visual Celestron C-5 -- bn
"At the C-8" -- vintage Celestron C-8 with Dieck's daughter viewing and amateur astronomer Willis endlessly bullshitting -- bn
"Beth, Nick (Rob), and Andria" observing the partial stages -- wg
Dieckmann clan

visual observers

Jaci and others
"Dieckmann Clan" -- bn
"Visual Observers" -- note second great "backyard" viewing area -- bn

“Jaci, her son Tim, her husband/my son Larry Greiner, and Gary Ryczek Observing” -- bn

Willman fools


totality 2024

“Standing/Pointing Willman Fools” -- gw’s phone(?)

“Willis’ Grandkids (Ilona, Tim, Charles)” -- lwg

“Totality” -- bn

after totality 2024

after totality 2024

Zack, Charlie, and Gillian 2024

“After Totality Group 1” -- bn

"After Totality Group 2” -- bn

“Zack, Charlie, and Gillian” -- bn

Gary and Gillian 2024

After Totality 2024

Willis and Dieck, 2024

“Gary and Gillian” -- bn

“Graham and Nick with Gary Wllman pouring” –- bn

“Willis (Bill) and (John) Dieck(mann)” -- Rob Nichols

Celebrating Dieckmanns 2024s

Celebrating astronomer 2024

sitting fools 2024

“Celebrating Dieckmanns” -- bn

"Celebrating Astronomer with visual Celestron C-5 behind” -- bn

“Sitting Fools 1” -- gw

Nichols 2024

Gary and Willis 2024

Luckenbach 2024

“Sitting Fools 2” -- bn

“Sitting Fools 3” -- bn

amid great conversations -- Walt Wilkins, Darden Smith, Owen Temple
& Kellie Mickwee / Live On The main outdoor stage in
Luckenbach, TX -- photograph by wg

Willis and Jerry Jeff 2024

Bluebonnets 2024

Bluebonnets Close-up 2024

“Willis, Jerry Jeff, and Hondo” -- wg

“Bluebonnets and Calliopsis at Enchanted Rock” -- lwg

“Bluebonnets Close-up” – lwg

Seth with Bluebonnets

Prickly Poppy 2024
"Seth with Bluebonnets" -- sg
"Bluebonnets" -- sg
“Prickly Poppy” -- lwg


"Final Thoughts"

"OK Willis, even though all eclipses are the same and they happen quite often, what is your goal this time around?" -- stated obnoxiously by good neighbor and friend Bill, who claims that he has seen many Total Solar Eclipses (can't be right) and that they are not special (definitely is not right!)

"Well, Bill, this will be my sixth, and as you know I have traveled all over the world to witness them. And as to your confused idea of they aren't all that special, and because you don't believe me, let me recommend a book by an acquaintance of mine; eclipse expert, author, and psychologist Aussie Dr. Kate Russo, who has made a living out of observing Total Solar Eclipses and guiding others all over the world to those very special events. Her book compiles such "misunderstandings," as you proclaim. It's called "Being In the Shadow" -- also the name of her outstanding website. She'll be observing just down the road from us, her in Uvalde, us in Fredericksburg, both in the Hill Country of Texas. The book describes the impressions of first-time viewers as to the "awe and wonder of a total solar eclipse." (Worthy of additional consideration is this essay by Dr. Kate.)

"Fine, OK, you have made your point, however flawed. What's your plan?"

"Well, I rented an Airbnb over a year ago, and I have invited many friends, both old and more recent, as well as family members, etc. My goal is to get together with my favorite people, possibly for one last gasp at these Total Solar Eclipses. I am getting 'older.' This could be my final dance."


"Maybe, but really it's mostly about the human moment this time around. Maybe my youngest son Larry may get some shots with his Nikon and equatorial tracker. I'll try my best to help him."

And so it goes.

I DID accomplish my goals, and a really wonderful time was had by all.

grandkids TSE 2024
dateline August, 2017 -- "A Family Affair" -- Larry and Jaci Greiner's family consisting of:
Tiffani Bell, Timothy Julian (seated), AnnaMarie McClain, Ilona Greiner and Charles Greiner (wearing 1991 "The Big One" tee shirt); all sporting safe eclipse-viewing glasses. -- lwg
dateline April, 2024 -- “Willis’ Grandkids (Ilona, Tim, Charles)” (Tiffani and AnnaMarie are now living with their guys and away from their parents, so unfortunately could not attend.) -- lwg


I have one historic regret -- I should have taken more people pictures throughout the the first five successful Total Solar Eclipse experiences -- this time, though, I had plenty of help. So, no regrets!



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