That one time the solar eclipse broke my phone

Okay, I broke my phone, but it's the moon's fault. I live about 30 miles south of the path of the 2017 solar eclipse's totality. I've been preparing for it for some time, planning to make a short drive to see it. Today was the big day.

Back in March, I started playing with building my own solar filters for my telescope, a Meade ETX-60AT.  My grandpa was a huge optics nerd, and I learned a lot from him. One trick he mentioned, but one I never really saw in action, was using stacked layers of aluminized mylar as a filter medium. I ended up going with 3 layers from a mylar emergency blanket. I cut the upper 1.5" of an old plastic cup, which happened to fit nicely over my telescope lens, and mounted the mylar to that.

I've had good luck with taking photos with my phone through the eyepiece of this scope in the past, but stabilizing the phone is kind of dicey, especially when you have to point the scope nearly straight up to catch the mid-day sun-and-moon dance of a total solar eclipse. They make jigs to hold phones to telescope eyepieces, but I'm a cheap bastard. This isn't sketchy at all.

Initial tests over the pre-eclipse weekend showed that it works well. I was concerned that the mylar was possibly passing dangerous IR spectrum, so I left it tracking the sun for 20 minutes with the mirror open (allowing the light to hit the back-end of the eyepiece housing without destroying anything terribly important), and it wasn't heating up. I engaged the mirror, and repeated the test, and the mirror itself was cooler than the outside of the scope. I used one of my old, un-unsed Android phones to capture the full disc of the noon-time sun. The aluminum of the mylar gives the sun a bluish-grey color. Check out those sunspots!

Today, my wife and I made the trek out to Excelsior Springs, MO, opting to get as far east as practical to avoid the clouds plaguing Kansas City. Long story short, my sketchy tape contraption didn't fare so well. My phone hit the pavement part-way through the eclipse festivities. Again, this is the moon's fault, not the fact that I used a single strip of masking tape. Honest.

Anyhow, here are some of the goods. Some whispy clouds flared up right at totality, which gave the Sun's corona an even eerier, dancing shimmer. Not bad for a phone with a cracked screen, but I've seen far better photos from some of my professional photographer friends.

After we got back home, I spent about 15 minutes swapping displays. Yeah, I had a box of Droid MAXX parts laying around.

All better now.