Astrophotographer Jason Kurth loves a challenge, so much so that he decided to do what it took to put together the most detailed “ring of fire” timelapse ever produced. To make it happen, he spent more than a year planning, purchased a new computer, and hauled 200 pounds of equipment across the United States. The result is a stunning 8K timelapse made up of almost 2,000 images.
While Kurth had previous experience making solar timelapses, he'd never had the opportunity to image an annular solar eclipse. Also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse, October 2023 was the first time in nearly two years that the rare phenomenon had occurred. And once Kurth had the date on the calendar, he knew that this was his moment.
“I started making these solar timelapses [and] I knew that I wanted to eventually make one during an eclipse to show the movement of the solar chromosphere and the detail in solar prominences as the Moon eclipsed the Sun,” he tells My Modern Met. “Solar eclipses are exciting and rare events, and with my passion for astrophotography, I wanted to do something special for it. Capturing it in so much detail with a hydrogen solar telescope for a full timelapse would be the ultimate way to do it.”
Kurth, who is based in Florida, flew to Utah with 200 pounds of camera equipment, including a custom double-stacked hydrogen alpha solar telescope and a monochrome camera that can capture the solar chromosphere in ultra-high resolution. Moving so much equipment was a logistical challenge, and there was always the risk that the weather wouldn't cooperate.
Luckily, for the duration of the three-hour event, everything went smoothly, and, in the end, Kurth shot over 200,000 photos. From there, the biggest challenge was processing the enormous amount of data and working in post-processing to make the timelapse as smooth and clear as possible.
“Over four terabytes of data were gathered and processed, and this project required a newly built 24-core workstation with 192 gigabytes of RAM to handle processing the data,” shared Kurth. “I don’t believe any annular eclipse has been captured in this much detail before.”
And Kurth may be correct. Logging in at just under two minutes, the timelapse is a glorious look at this special event. While the Sun appears to stand still, a close look shows the whirling, swirling chromosphere. Solar flares and prominences slowly shoot up and dance as the looming darkness of the Moon slowly passes across the Sun.
Of course, everything culminates in the “ring of fire” created when the Moon is directly in front of the Sun. At this moment, we see just a gold band sparking in the sky. Then, the Moon continues on its path, slowly revealing the giant star once again. Thanks to Kurth's dedication and hard work, anyone can revel in the wonder of this event.