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Thursday, May 27, 2010


Post 2000 - Chasing the Eclipse

Choosing a winning entry for the competition was hard, I wish I could give you all something. For example Joel's post resonated with me as I've canoed down the same river, and watched the stars from its banks. Andrew, I still have my first 50 mm telescope, which also trembles at an eye blink. Chari's eclipse story resonates too. Chris's experiences too struck a chord, as did the tale of the mysterious object. But for sheer drama, the winner has to be Tom. His story forthwith, (and a copy of Hunt for Planet X will be heading his way as well).

I could tell you about my solar eclipse experience in 1999.

It was overcast all day. Raining. This is Germany in Summer (August) - but rain is just part of living over there. To see the event all of Germany gets in their car and drives to the southern states - Autobahn chock full. (One man dies because during the eclipse he doesn't see the need to actually stop driving his car and runs into a bridge pylon. Several people go blind because they look at the sun with unprotected eyes or with inappropriate protection (like using a CD or Aluminium foil instead of proper solar viewing glasses).

But I'm in a car of 4 people, driving in dense traffic for hours until we enter the predicted eclipse path and it is raining! The sky is cloudy. We keep going south, keep listening to the weather and traffic forecast. We're cutting it close, entering the path probably only half an hour before the eclipse starts because there's so much more traffic than we anticipated. Clouds overhead always. Some patches of blue sky open up here and there, but not underneath where we expect the sun to be. And then the time has come - first contact has already happened - it takes a while from first contact to totality though. So we park the car and lie down in a field. Hoping. And then the clouds actually parted for the duration of totality!! That was SO uncanny! Moon was halfway across the sun when the clouds parted, and we got to enjoy the whole spectacle of weird purple light, we tried to see crescent shadows but couldn't, and generally just lay amazed in the field appreciating how inCREDibly lucky we were.

And shortly after totality as the moon was moving away and a limb of the sun started to reappear the clouds shut the skies off again.

So if you're thinking of travelling to Queensland for the November 2012 eclipse, appreciate that the chance for clear skies is good there - but even if it's cloudy it might still be worth going. 'Nuff said.

-Tom Magill

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