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Even though the forecast when we left Columbia, MO was for 32% clouds at the 11 Point River State Park in southern Missouri, Bob, Stephen, Susan and I took a chance and made a 5 hour pilgrimage for a chance to see a once in the lifetime solar eclipse. We expected the park to be packed since it was was not yet open to the public but the state widely advertised that they would open the park for a special solar eclipse event only for this day. When we arrived, park rangers were guiding cars to a parking area. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the crowd was not very large. We were able to get a prime spot on a hillside with a perfect view of the sun and the anticipated eclipse.

I had packed my Dwarf 2 and SeeStar S50 hoping to catch the eclipse with both the wide field of view of the Dwarf 2 and the higher magnification of the S50. I had practiced setting up both telescopes numerous times at home and I knew that setting up the Dwarf 2 would take about 15 minutes and the S50 about 5 minutes. So I decided to start with the Dwarf 2. Unfortunately, the set up was a disaster. When I got to the point where I centered the sun on the telephoto lens screen on my iPhone, the GPS would not work. It said that I would need to add the coordinates manually. Desperately, I tried to find the coordinates using my cell phone but I had weak to no cell tower bars. I asked my group if they had a cell tower signal. No one did. So Stephen took it upon himself to walk around and ask people if they knew the coordinates. In the meantime, with a great deal of fear that I would experience similar problems again, I set up the S50. I was relieved to find that the S50 knew exactly where it was and its motor guided the lens towards the sun.



Once the image of the sun was on the screen of my Levno tablet, I started to troubleshoot the Dwarf 2. How could I get it to find the GPS satellite signals like the S50 had done? I tried everything in my bag of tricks. I restarted the S50...and it connected with the iPhone, but this time as I was trying to center the sun on the screen, it froze. I restarted the S50 again and restarted my iPhone in hope that it was some sort of software glitch. As both devices rebooted, Stephen was on his way back with a smile on his face. "I have the coordinates." Stephen, who is a professor of Mathematics at the University of Missouri, managed to find a group of University of Missouri physicists on the west face of the hill who were also filming the event. "Do you want the coordinates" he asked me. I sadly looked up and said "right now the coordinates are the least of my troubles. The Dwarf 2 is malfunctioning."

After the reboot of both the Dwarf 2 and my iPhone, I got a connection but after a minute while trying to point the telephoto lens towards the sun, it froze again. "Why in the devil is it freezing" I asked myself. I tried to troubleshoot a few more minutes and then Bob called out it is starting. I made the strategic decision to focus on the S50 and my phone cameras. I retired the Dwarf 2.

At the start, the S50 was providing great views so I took some timelapse photos.




I was so relieved that it was working. Then I set up the S50 to take a long video of the progression to totality and pushed the record button. I then set the Levno tablet on a small camp table I put up and began focusing on two other tasks that I had planned: setting up my iPhone to take pictures for the NASA Sunsketcher program and taking some crowd pictures and videos with my Galaxy S21. I did not realize how much time I wasted troubleshooting the Dwarf 2, but the reality struck when someone said "it is almost here." Oh boy I thought. One of our friends who met us at the park, Kyle, was willing to try setting up the iPhone for the Sunsketcher shoot while I worked on several other things like getting out solar glasses and solar filters for the phones. Everything happened so fast that I barely had time to get anything done. My back was to the sun when totality occurred then I heard the group sigh. I had planned to take a video of the crowd....Check. I wanted to take some still photos of the event....Check. I wanted to see Baily's beads..oh my god, I thought, I better look at the Levno screen to see if the beads show up...Check. They did! Those little beauties were on the screen...Check. What a success I said to myself.

We started home in great spirits. First the skies were clear when it was supposed to be cloudy. Second, we had a perfect view. Third, despite the failure of the Dwarf 2, the SeeStar came to the rescue.

Getting home was a challenge though. Driving west on highway 60 was like being in the middle of Los Angeles during rush hour. We barely crawled the 30 miles or so before highway 60 and highway 63 split. Fortunately, when we turned off north on 63 very few cars followed.






The trip home was full of congratulations on a successful trip. Everyone wanted copies of the video that my trusty S50 took. Dreams of making a photo from the moment that Baily's beads appeared was on our minds.


I got home and couldn't wait to download the video from my S50. When I connected the S50 by internet to my PC, I anxiously opened the work folder and then the solar folder and to my surprise, the video file was only 1600 KB. I opened it up and doubled clicked to play it and my spirits fell.




After 6 seconds, it turned off. Oh no, I was so busy with going through my checklist that I didn't baby sit the Levno. This was the first time that once I push the record button, the S50 had a glitch in recording. I spent the whole day moping around. I texted the group about my failure and crushed their dreams of seeing Baily's Beads.


I took both the Dwarf 2 and S50 outside and set them up to take videos of the sun. Everything went flawless. Perfect videos, no glitches, smooth as can be. In retrospect, I think the Dwarf 2 failed because it must take its GPS coordinates from the tablet or phone it is connected to. My phone had weak to no bars in the park. I still can't figure out why the recording stopped on the S50. Why me!!!!


I finally pulled out my Levno tablet to check for possible issues it might have had. Guess what I discovered. Unconsciously, I always start a screen recording of my night's observations. I GOT IT. Not the highest quality video, but I saw Baily's Beads.




The moral of this story is that even with detailed preparation and planning, you always need a little (or big) helping hand.

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