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Report on the Total Solar Eclipse of 1999 Aug 11

by Wil Carton (near Karlsruhe, Germany)

I saw with my family the total solar eclipse between Karlsruhe and Landau in the German province Rheinland-Pfalz.The conditions were poor.Heavy clouds in the West, coming from the hills of the Pfalzer Forest, solved partially where they descended into the large valley of the river Rhine, where we were.To the eastern horizon the clouds thickened again where they climbed against the Schwabian Alp hills southeast of Karlsruhe.About 15 minutes before totality we jumped into our cars for a last minute move along the autobahn to an 'ausfahrt' five kilometers more north, closer to the city of Landau, where was a large opening between the clouds, not completeley blue, but with rather transparent sheep clouds.Here was the village of Haina (or Haifa? I don't remember exactly).Summary: We could observe the shrinking solar sickle, the short diamond ring, totality, and the last partial phase until thirty minutes after totality.Then the sky became completely clouded and it began to rain heavily!

That critical hour in more details: A chill wind gust passed.About five minutes before totality the light on the landscape became watery like a late autumn afternoon.The diamond ring before totality lasted about ten seconds, short! (In Baja California 1991 under perfect clear sky it lasted thirty seconds, in Curacao 1998 more than twenty seconds).Darkness fell very quickly in those final seconds before totality.The corona was without shape, small, had no streamers, and appeared to me similarly "bloodless" like the Artis Amsterdam Planetarium projected total solar eclipse corona.But there were surprisingly many prominences.Especially the big prominences between zenithal position angle 0 and west 90 degrees were beautifull bright red sparkles.No stars nor planets were seen.The sky around the eclipsed sun was very dark, similar to an hour after sunset.But from the northeastern horizon there remained an orange glow, so we could distinguish everything around us rather well.Totality must have lasted here about 2 minutes 5 seconds, but to our feelings it was already over after 0 minutes 45 seconds.At third contact I saw no diamond ring.Almost immediately bright daylight returned.

My son, daughter and three friends were glad.They had seen a spectacular total solar eclipse, what they had not dared to hope during the grey cloudy morning hours of 11 August.Their pessimism had not become truth.To the contrary: they had seen it and were enthusiastic about their first total solar eclipse success.In the late evening I commented my experience to the Dutch radioprogram "Met het oog op morgen" ("Looking at to-morrow").Interviewer Frits Spits distinguished my weak disappointment.Yes, but the date 11 August 1999 was already in my mind from 1956, when my parents gave me my first astronomy book on my 14th anniversary.In 43 years an exaggerated imagination had built up in my mind about this European eclipse.I enjoyed the 1961 eclipse under perfect clear skies in Italy, despite poor weather statistical forecasts and low sun altitude on that early winter morning of 15th February.So my expectations of the midsummer high noon eclipse of 11 August 1999 had grown much too high.In fact we had been lucky.Germany cities Stuttgart and Munich experienced heavy clouds, rain, darkness and nothing of the total eclipsed sun.

Nevertheless, a German observer in Dorheimtold (some kilometers east of Karlsruhe) observed totality perfectly.

Now I have observed:
- the perfect eclipses of 1961 (Italy), 1976 (annular, Rhodos), 1991 (Baja California), 1998 (Curacao),
- hampered by small cirrus/sheepclouds the eclipses of 1963 (Quebec), 1980 (Kenya), 1999 (Germany),
- clouded out 1990 (Finland).

So I stop with this addiction. No plans any more for Africa 2001, 2002. Maybe, if still alive, I plan an eclipse trip to the annular eclipse of 3 October 2005 in Spain, and the total eclipse of 29 March 2006 in Turkey.

1999 Total Eclipse Reports and Photos

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Last revised: 2008 Jan 28