UH Hilo astronomer Pierre Martin traveled to Texas for total solar eclipse, comes home with stunning photos

All morning, the clouds were thick in Pierre Martin’s viewing location in Texas, but about one hour before the eclipse started, the sky improved and he could then follow and photograph the slow motion of the Moon in front of the Sun. “It was absolutely stunning.”

Montage shows seven phases of the sun as the total solar eclipse transpires.
Montage of pictures taking during the first part of the eclipse, from first contact (top left) to the totality (center). Photos are taken through a zoom lens equipped with a solar filter. Photos and montage by Pierre Martin, April 8, 2024, Texas.

By Susan Enright.

Pierre Martin, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, traveled to Texas to view the total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8.

“It was quite an adventure, as weather turned out to be very unstable and unpredictable, contrary to what everybody had been expected for years,” says Martin, who also serves as co-chair of the UH Hilo astronomy and physics department and is director of the university’s educational observatory.

He says probably one million visitors traveled to Texas to witness the event, although many cancelled as weather became too uncertain.

Pierre Martin is set up in a fenced in area, a large camera with a long telescopic lens is set up on a tripod. Pierre is seated at a table with a cardboard box set on end to block any glare on the laptop.
UH Hilo astronomer Pierre Martin describes this photo of him set up in Texas to observe the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, as “An astronomer and his weird observing setup, hoping clouds are moving away….” (Courtesy photo)

“I chose Texas as members of my family-in-law are from there and reside nearby to the totality path,” he says in an email. “I spent a couple of days (and nights!) closely monitoring the weather, trying to decide our final observing location. A real roller coaster!”

They decided to observe the eclipse from north of Fredericksburg, where weather conditions were “hopeful.” They got thick clouds but the sky improved about one hour before the eclipse started, and they could then follow the slow motion of the Moon in front of the Sun, when clouds allowed them to do so.

Just minutes before totality, however, the sky became very cloudy again.

“I feared that we would not see the magical moment of totality,” says Martin. “But, we got a little bit of luck! For about 20 seconds, we got a opening in the clouds and we could see the black disk of the Sun, surrounded by its corona and red prominences, and the planet Venus nearby. It was absolutely stunning.”

Martin says it also got really dark, cooler, and the birds all stopped singing. After this, the sky got very cloudy and they did not see the Sun again.

Martin was able to capture several pictures of the event, including a few during totality, through a zoom lens equipped with a solar filter.

“It was very challenging as the sky conditions were changing all the time so it’s kind of a miracle I was able to snap some pictures during totality,” he explains.

Through a veil of clouds, the crescent shape of the sun can be seen.
Thin solar crescent seen through cloudy skies, minutes before totality. Photo by Pierre Martin, April 8, 2024, Texas.

Martin had planned to participate via Zoom in the live viewing event of the eclipse held on the UH Hilo campus, which happened earlier in the day and was a partial eclipse in Hawaiʻi, but conditions were just too difficult and the UH Hilo group was unable to observe the sight.

Despite this disappointment for the Hilo viewers, Martin had an “absolutely stunning experience” in Texas.

“I was seven years old during my last total solar eclipse in Canada, so I did not remember much,” he says. “This one, I was really choked up and I will remember it forever. Moreover [because] I was able to share the moment with my wife and her family.”

“No pictures can really translate the stunning spectacle of a total solar eclipse,” Martin adds, “so I want to experience it again, maybe in Spain in 2026?”

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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