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Report on the Total Solar Eclipse of 1999 Aug 11

by Patrick Poitevin (Tiran, IRAN)

Kosofe, 20 Morad 1378 (Islamic date) in Tiran, Iran

Indeed, 11 August 1999 a total solar eclipse had been observed successfully from the small place Tiran in central Iran by Joanne Edmonds and Patrick Poitevin.

What was supposed to be a 6 hour drive from the Zanjan Institute to the observation place in Boroujerd, turned out to be a shadow racing of more then 18 hours.A bus break down caused "some" delay and clouds building up at about eclipse time, made it necessary driving in land to the small place called Tiran, some 50 kilometers west of Esfahan.

What was supposed to be a 95 percent chance of clear sky at the eclipse, Iran proved weather does not necessary follow climate.Nearly all places on the central line suffered from clouds at eclipse time.Plan A changed into plan B when locals warned of robberies and kidnapping by smugglers near Bam in the east.So plan B, the Boroujerd mountains, changed into plan C, Navahand, because of accommodation facilities and convenience.But arriving at Navahand, and continuously checking weather stations and contacts over the line, we drove during the night for a 6-hour race to the final place, some 50 kilometers west of Esfahan.A beautiful spot with a clear blue sky.No worries.Except that the police picked me and my partner Joanne Edmonds (Jo) up and brought us to the office.We stayed there a few hours and ended up with a cup of tea and the exchange for our passports for a few eclipse glasses.A few hours to go and those authorities even helped us with a protected observation place and brought us food, drinks and fruit...What else need an addicted eclipse chaser? A country full of surprises and an amazing hospitality.

Suffered from the race, the tension of the passport check up, we observed a perfect blue sky.Some clouds were building up very low at the horizon in the west.They stayed low and there was no harm at all, because they moved towards north.I was quite convinced, they would dissolve when the partial phase started, due to the temperature drop and increase of humidity.A pattern which has happened a lot during previous eclipse observations.The rest of the sky was blue as can be.

The first bite in the sun was visible at 10h44m10s Universal Time and only 14 seconds later then the calculated first contact.Local time was 14h14m, and 3.5 hours different.During the partial phases, the sky stayed quite clear.As usual, I stuck to my sky brightness measurements, the automatic temperature logger with 4 cells, and the large white sheet for the shadow bands.Jo and I both had Celestron 90 telescopes (90 mm, focal length 1000 mm). One was connected with a camera body with 200 ASA slide film.A separate 28 mm lens camera was taking slides every 5 minutes from first to fourth contact and pointed at the same spot of the horizon in the west.Further, a panoramic camera taking free hand pictures and a dictaphone for recording data, observations and animal behavior.

The tape of the dictaphone was running 20 minutes before second contact, totality.The big ants on the white sheet did not worry about the eclipse this time.Before the partial phase, during or even at totality, they crossed over the white sheet.A donkey made his concert and a cock announced the darkness about 20 minutes before totality.A kid cried, but I am sure, it had nothing to do with the eclipse.Some dogs barked, but if that was announcing something, I doubt.Some black birds flew low over the landscape before totality.It was quite windy the whole day and so during the entire eclipse.

Venus was only visible 5 to 6 minutes before totality.From then the darkness felt over us.The sky brightness dropped quickly from 18600 Lux, 6 minutes before totality to 23,4 Lux at totality.A strange feeling.The temperatures were measured in the sun (in the wind), the shade (hidden), under the ground and in an instrument case, just to simulate the drop of temperature for the instruments.From first contact to the lowest data, which was 8 minutes after maximum eclipse, the drop was 7 degrees Celsius in the sun, 0.4 only in the shade, 0 under the ground and 8 degrees Celsius in the case.Of course, this drop was noticed on our bodies, mainly due to the windy circumstances we where in.

About a quarter before totality the colors of a white sheet or paper became purer, pinky.The horizon too.It was beautiful and it was getting darker.As mentioned before, only Venus was visible.Mercury and Mars, or even other stars were not observed or not too much attention was given.About one or two minutes before totality, Jo noticed the shadow bands.They were not as usual.They appeared as dancing rings, moving from north to south over the white sheet.But only after a half-minute of this extremely rare phenomenon, the fast moving shadow bands appeared as I used to know from other eclipses.The direction was also more or less from northwest to southeast.They were very obvious and fast.What a beautiful observation.The Baily's beads and a weak diamond ring.Some huge prominences appeared immediately at the moon's black disc.A big interrupted tongue prominence at 5 o'clock and two loop prominences at 12 and at 10 o'clock.A bird just flew under the eclipsed sun.

With the naked eye, the corona was very bright and very symmetric.It reminded me to the drawing of the eclipse of Arago in 1851.Some spikes where pronounced.One at 4 to 5 o'clock and a wider at 10 to 11 o'clock.What an eclipse...The sky looks rather clear.The horizon is beautiful, red.The chromosphere pronounced and very bright and wide due to the short totality and nearly same apparent diameter of the sun and moon disc.For this location, totality would take 1 minute 47 seconds.It was quickly over, too quickly.A bright diamond appreared, the show was over.The shadow moved over the horizon and was contrastly visible on a cloud in the east at the horizon.And then: Silence.Although the religion of the country does not permit any physical contact between males and females in public, Jo and me huged each other and where over the moon about the eclipse....

Venus remained visible for quite a few minutes after totality.For the remaining partial phase, the sunspots could be observed when they reappeared at the moon's edge.I lost the sight of Venus after 20 minutes.Soon after fourth contact we packed, ate the remaining fruit and explored the rest of the country.Thank you Jahan Miri, for the wonderful contact and help to make this eclipse the best out 25 for me.Thank you Jo for your continuously support in chasing eclipses, the mailing list, ..., everything.

1999 Total Eclipse Reports and Photos

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