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Report on the Annular Eclipse 1999 Feb 16

by Timo Karhula (Bookara, AUSTRALIA)

I'm Timo Karhula from Sweden and I was in Western Australia on February 16 to witness the annular solar eclipse.

I had only seen one total solar eclipse before, that in Finland in July1990, so this would be my first annular eclipse. Now, I was located near the Bookara Road, only 80 m from the exact centerline according to someone with a GPS-receiver. Bookara is situated about 10 km south of Greenough where the professional astronomers and the news media had congregated. There were a couple of hundred amateur astronomers gathered on the paddock.

This was my first time I video-taped an eclipse and I'm pleased with the result. I used a Sony videocamera with 20x optical and 72x digital magnification. In front of the objective I simply attached a welder's glass with duct tape. With the ordinary recording, the Sun's image was still somewhat glaring so I had to decrease the exposure time. After the tuning, the colour of the Sun's image was almost a natural yellow and its edges were quite sharp. The five largest sunspot groups were visible. Three of them were seen naked eye with the filter.

One major drawback during the recording was the disturbing wind noise. I checked the manual afterwards and there is, in fact, an option to filter out such noise! The temperature dropped from +37.9 C to a more comfortable +23.9 C at maximum according to my watch thermometer. I don't believe the temperature dropped that much but it was clearly noticeable. The wind increased towards maximum as well.

The only 'stars' I noticed naked eye during the eclipse were Venus and Jupiter. In my opinion the sky's darkness was the same as when the Sun is about two degrees below the horizon. People's growing excitement towards maximum was funny to hear on the video tape. Crescent images under the trees were conspicuous. One thing that I haven't noticed before was that one side of one's shadow was fuzzy while the other side was sharp during the Sun's crescent phase.

I didn't record the whole event, only most of it up to a quarter of an hour past the third contact. I recently analyzed the eclipse video and I timed the duration of the annularity as 45 seconds and it occurred between 7:27:37 - 7:28:22 UT. The video clock was off by two seconds compared to the correct time.

The exact times of the second and third contact can be off by a second or so, because it's difficult to judge when the annularity really begins and ends. The cusps were broken (Baily's Beads) at these instants and last a second or two. They were not, however, very prominent from the centerline. I'm sure they witnessed spectacular beads from sites nearer to the northern and southern limit. At Hampton Arms Inn, where the pro's were, I met some prominent eclipse chasers like Fred Espenak, Jay Pasachoff and Olivier Staiger.

The rest of my holiday was also excellent. I visited Yerecoin where the renown Japanese astrophotographer Akira Fujii had constructed his Chiro observatory. Together with Maurice Clark from Murdoch Astronomical Society, Perth, and Kent Wallace from California, we would be there to observe the pitch dark, starry skies the whole weekend. Even Fujii-san praised my video-footage! Just an example of his courtesy? ;-) Mr Fujii himself shot pictures of the eclipse somewhere near Mullewa. I reckon he used an arsenal of all kinds of photographic gear!

It was very sad to hear about the death of Ken Willcox. I did not know him personally but I did correspond with him by e-mail in 1996, in connection to my trip to Peru (at the same time as he arranged the first Southern Skies Star Party). He seemed to be a very helpful and knowledgeable person.

I'm looking forward to the Total One in Europe on August 11. I think, I will head to somewhere in Romania or Bulgaria.

1999 Annular Eclipse Photos and Reports

Solar Eclipse Photographs

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