Total solar eclipse on 11-AUG-99
Report of a witness
All images are clickable and expandable
Before the event
A total solar eclipse
is one of the greatest astronomical events and, of course, I couldn't miss an
opportunity to look an eclipse which as ephemerides say should have occurred
in Europe on 11-AUG-99 nearby from the place where I live. Especially granted
that my first solar eclipse trip to a shore of White Sea on 31-JUL-90 was not
successful: clouds went in one and half hour before the total phase.
Where to go? Totality zone came through a lot of towns in overpopulated
Western Europe. After a short discussion a choice fell to a small Austrian town
Salzburg near the border with Germany. Authority of the city (oh, goodness!)
also had ephemerides DE and they knew about the eclipse. They even pasted
posters claiming that
"all traffic lights will be set to red
during 5 minutes". How kind! But it is not a trick to turn all traffic lights
to red. A real challenge for town's magistrate was to secure a good
weather. Tourist's tide was as high as it should be in sizigia -- all hotels
were "ausgebucht" (booked out) for a long time in advance. And authority tried
to do their best to drive clouds away. A long procession with orchestra went
through the town a day before. Flutes squeaked so badly but loudly that ears
were fading and even a dead one would be awaken. A cannon shot frequently
to confirm a seriousness of intentions.
Decisive actions of town's habitants had some limited effect and the weather
became good by the evening. But then clouds went again under the veil of night.
95% of heaven were covered by thick layer of clouds in the morning. It was too
few hope. VLBI-fiends gathered
at the Monchberg and prepared to ...
Irina Sergevna Sudnik
was pessimistic (as a professional astronomer she didn't have even a shadow of
doubts in correctness ephemerides!), I
believed that we would
have a good luck with weather but I still had doubts whether the ephemerides
were tested properly or maybe a program still had a bug; a kid was playing and
was happy without any eclipse, Marshall Eubanks and
were so deeply involved in their discussion about relativistic parameter gamma
(solar eclipse gives a rich food for it) that seemed didn't noticed that...
oh, miracle, a hole in the clouds appeared. The hole grew and grew and suddenly
we saw the sun. Pessimists started to doubt and optimists said "of course!":
Looking at sun through the filter we saw that a huge and greedy dragon had
eaten a piece of sun already. It lives near lunar nodes, usually sleeps but
once per draconic month he wakes up and looks for food. Yeah! He started his
eating again this time! The beginning of his lunch we lost due to clouds but
we saw everything starting from phase 0.1 till the very end. Firstly, nothing
special happened. Clouds were moving to and fro, sometimes they covered the
sun, but the sun was mostly open. We put a binocular on a tripod
and were able
to observe how the moon covered one sun's spot
another. Slowly, very slowly.   ...   30 minutes before the total
phase. The weather is
good...   20 minutes -- the weather is still good. Clouds are left,
right, up but the zone around the sun is clear. A large hole in clouds comes
from south. We have a real chance!   ...   10 minutes. We still have
it! Sun is substantially reduced
. It became darker and cooler. We started
to notice that something was occurring even not seeing at the sun.
...   5 minutes. Darker. Events went faster. Everybody is excited.
Clouds in 20 degrees from the sun. Will we we see?! 2 minutes   ...
Yes!! We will see! Marshall: "Look, all shadows are crescent-like!"
. Really, shadows from
small objects, like leaves on bushes became like small crescents. People are
excited even more. A culmination is coming. 40 seconds. The Crescent of the sun
became thinner and thinner. Sky became deep lilac. Venus appeared down and a
bit left from the sun. Suddenly shadows ran on the grass. They were shaking
and ran chaotically. (Frenel diffraction? Or refractivity fluctuations?).
10 seconds   ...   We see through our filter glasses that the crescent
of the sun was transformed to a small line and then it disappeared. Last ray
of the sun went away. We put off glasses. And all people, all town unanimously
exclaimed. Not, it is not a roar of football fans when a goal is reached.
It was a moan of real admiration before one of the most beautiful natural
event. It was a black hole at the place of sun. A ring of rose (helium line!)
chromosphere was around it. Two deep-rose diamonds at the limb (solar flares?)
appeared. Corona! Pictures say too few:
, first a short-focus
automatic camera is not a suitable instrument for it, secondly the range of
brightness is too large. Heavens are deep lilac, but not dark. It resembled
a deep twilights. I could see others sofi-observers in ashen light which were
moaning, mumbling, exclaiming like "Corona! Diamond! Chromosphere!", oh merely
"ah! oh! U-u-u-u-uh!", waving their arms, swaying as being drunk or staying
being stoned and totally enchanted. Behavior of people is more than strange.
Black hole in the sky surrounded by a corona made humans mad. One rose spots
at the limb became brighter another weaker. Corona. It surrounded the sun.
But is was seen even by a bare eye that it is not uniform. Some thin filaments
were running out of the sun. The picture was rather more clear by observing
though the binocular. Corona's filaments were white and thin out of the sun,
but they formed whole loops! One large (2-5 degrees) loop was seen from the
right edge, another, smaller from the left edge.
Only two minutes...   Then the first ray suddenly appeared. Again shaking
shadows ran on the grass. People said their last "o-ooh" to the black sun.
We shake our hands. Light is coming back. Shadows are again crescent like.
Even shadow from our hands.
More and more light was coming. The dragon was freeing sun. Slowly, but
freeing. We observed the last contact and said "good bye" to the eclipse.
40 minutes more and clouds came back. 30 minutes more and it was raining...
When will be the next eclipse?
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This report was prepared by Leonid Petrov
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Last update: 22-AUG-99 21:18:53