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 Sergej Klioner 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!":

Eclipse

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 , then 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   e-mail:
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Last update: 22-AUG-99 21:18:53