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Report on the Annular Eclipse 1999 Feb 16

by Rita Van hove and Valentin Kinet (Tennant Creek, AUSTRALIA)

The beginning of our trip meaned almost the end. The plane we had to catch in Brussels to Schiphol on the 10th of February was cancelled, and the plane we had to board instead was delayed. It was only thanks to an experienced taxidriver that we reached Amsterdam to catch our plane to Kuala Lumpur on the way to Darwin. In Darwin we went to the renting service where a 4WD campervan was waiting for us. We asked for a 4WD because our first plan consisted in going to the Tanami Desert, near a place called Brenahan Bore (a roadhouse?) to watch the eclipse on the central line.

After a save trip, who started difficult because almost everything was on the wrong side, left hand side of the road for driving, and the car had an interior opposite of that of a normal continental car, we reached Top Springs. While refueling for the long trip to the desert local people advised us to go to another place because driving in the desert was to hasardous this time of the year and that the road we had to take was even closed for that reason.

Our second option was to go to Tennant Creek, the same place Patrick Poitevin had chosen. A few days ahead of the event we had ample time to choose a good observation spot. After obtaining the permission of the local authorities (also from the aboriginals) we chose the parking lot of the local cemetary. There was nothing that could disturb the view on the eclipse and two white brick walls would be very interesting to watch eventual shadowbands.

On the afternoon of the eclipse we arrived on our observation spot we were almost alone. The local people seemed to have no interest watching the eclipse and the only people we saw there were two Antwerp girls and two German boys who where travelling through Australia for a few months. We met them earlier and told them about the eclipse so that they changed their plans and stayed a day longer in Tennant Creek.

Shortly before the first contact there were two locals who came to see what we were doing. The days before the eclipse we had the same weather almost everyday. A bright clear sky in the morning, and clouds in the afternoon. This day was not different although it seemed to be a bit less cloudy. First contact was watched and we saw the large sunspots dissappearing one after an other. My wife was watching the walls behind us but she could not see any shadowbands, a phenomenon on which Patrick attented us during the total eclipse in China.

A few seconds before second contact a small cloud obscured the Sun and it was over. Everybody was blowing to try to evacuate the cloud but when finally that happened the third contact was already over. Another missed eclipse.

Our first expedition in Mexico in 1991 was also a misser. We packed our stuff immediatly and went for Devils Marbles, a natural rock formation some hundred kilometer further on our road through Australia.

The eclipse was not the only astronomical goal in our trip to that continent. We took a look at Gosse Bluff, a crater who seemed to be made by the impact of a cometary nucleus some 140 miljon years ago and to the Henbury Meteor Crater field, a dozen holes more recently provoced by an incoming meteorite. Other astronomical visits were the Deep Space Network in the Tidbinbilla National park near Canberra and the nearby Mount Stromlo Observatory. On both observatories we were guided by magnificent guides. After 8400 kilometer through the Australian continent we finally reached Sydney where we took the plane to return home. Again a flight with some difficulties.

Now we are preparing the next eclipse, shorter to home this time, the one of August 11, 1999 which we are planning to observe in France on the centerline near the French-German border. Let's hope it'll be a success this time.

1999 Annular Eclipse Photos and Reports

Solar Eclipse Photographs

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