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Partial Solar Eclipse of 2000 July 30/31

by Fred Espenak (Spokane, WA)

Although I've traveled half way around the world to photograph both total and annular solar eclipses, I've never made much of an effort to seen a partial eclipse.That changed in July 2000. During this pre-Millennium year, there are no total or annular eclipses. Nevertheless July was rather unique in that there were three eclipses in one calendar month:

Such an event is quite rare. The last time three eclipses (two solar and one lunar) occurred in one month was back in December 1880. It will not happen again until December 2206, followed by January 2261 and November 2281.

The July 01 eclipse offered poor weather prospects (Argentina in winter) and was expensive to travel to, so I passed it up.However, I just couldn't resist the temptation to see a total lunar eclipse on July 16, followed by a partial solar eclipse two weeks later (July 30) from the western USA.

Not only was the July 30 partial solar eclipse relatively close by, it was also a unique opportunity to see the Sun set in partial eclipse. This is a spectacle I've wanted to see for many years.In January 1992, I traveled to Santa Catalina Island (southern California) to see an annular eclipse at sunset. Unfortunately, I was clouded out of the event.The July 30 eclipse was another chance to see the Sun eclipsed at sunset. It was also an excellent opportunity to use up some of those frequent flyer miles I've been accumulating!

July 30 eclipse from Spokane, WA
Courtesy of NASA Web Page for Partial Eclipse of 2000 July 30-31

After viewing the exquisite July 16 total lunar eclipse from Maui, Pat Totten and I planned to fly to Spokane, Washington for the July 30 solar eclipse.About 33 percent of the Sun's diameter would be eclipsed at sunset from this locale. Eastern Washington was chosen in part because it is the driest part of the state and promised reasonable weather prospects.Although I had planned to arrive in Spokane two days before the eclipse, summer thunderstorms caused havoc with airline schedules resulting in many flight cancellations.As a result, I did not arrive in Spokane until the night before the eclipse.

On Sunday morning of eclipse day, we got an early start to seek out the "perfect" eclipse observing site.I had envisioned a location along the eastern shore of one of several lakes east of the city. This would offer a spectacular view of the eclipsed Sun and its reflection at sunset.After spending all morning and early afternoon checking out possible locations, it was clear that none of them had a low enough horizon to take advantage of the Sun's low altitude at maximum eclipse.The lakes were all surrounded by tall mountains which blocked the western horizon by four degrees or more.

With time running out, we drove west of Spokane to reach flatter, less mountainous terrain. About 50 km west of the city, we exited the Interstate in an area characterized by low rolling hills which were dominated by wheat fields.Now we had access to an excellent horizon, but we wanted an interesting foreground object (distant tree, silo, tractor, building, etc.) to add a compositional element to the sunset eclipse.Several more hours were spent searching for this elusive vista without success.

Fred Espenak and Pat Totten prepare for the eclipse
Partial Solar Eclipse of 2000 July 30 (Spokane, WA)
Photos ©2000 by Patricia Totten (left) and Fred Espenak (right)
Fred EspenakPat Totten

As the time of first contact approached, we finally settled on a location on the side of the road which offered an unobstructed view of the horizon.Quickly assembling our photographic equipment and one portable telescope, we awaited the start of the eclipse.Now it was time for the weather to throw us a curve ball.It had been bright and sunny in the morning, but clouds where increasing during the afternoon.In particular, there seemed to be a lot of clouds low in the western and southwestern sky.Just as the eclipse began, the Sun vanished behind a ridge of thick clouds.I got one or two brief peaks through cloud breaks in order to verify that the eclipse was indeed in progress. Very frustrating!

I was beginning to think that this entire trip was just a wild goose chase when I noticed a break in the clouds about one degree above the horizon.This narrow gap would give us a brief window through which we could see and photograph the very best part of the event: the eclipse at sunset!The minutes ticked by as we watched for signs that our "window of opportunity" would remain long enough for us to take advantage of it.

July 30 eclipse from Spokane, WA
Partial Eclipse at Sunset!
Fred Espenak photographed the partial solar eclipse
of 2000 July 30 from a wheat field west of Spokane, WA.
80 mm Vixen Fluorite Refractor, FL=640mm, f/8, 1/1000, Kodak RG 100
(cick for larger photo)

Less than ten minutes before sunset, the Sun slowly emerged from beneath the dark band of clouds and into the clear gap! In fact, the sky was was so transparent that it was difficult to look directly at the setting Sun. On the other hand, solar filters darkened the Sun's image too much and rendered the nearby horizon and clouds invisible.And these features were the very things that made the eclipse unique!I ended up stealing quick glances at the Sun without filters while I frantically shot photos through my telescope.With no time to think, I removed the solar filter from my telescope and just started shooting.Under such conditions, it was impossible to determine the proper exposure so I bracketed widely from 1/125 to 1/8000 at f/8 (ISO 100 film).

July 30 eclipse from Spokane, WA
Sunset Eclipse in the Horizon!
The last phase of a partial eclipse is seen as the Sun sets.
80 mm Vixen Fluorite Refractor, FL=640mm, f/8, 1/1000, Kodak RG 100
(cick for larger photo)

I had to take great care looking into my telescope since the Sun's image was dangerously bright.Nevertheless, I managed to capture the last minutes of the event it a wonderful sequence.AS the Sun began to set, the Moon was directly above it to produce a pair of vertically pointes "horns".Eventually, only these two "horns" were visible above the horizon, but the effect only lasted several seconds. This eclipse was a lot more fun than I expected!I'll have to try this at future sunrise or sunset eclipses!

Partial Eclipse at Sunset
Partial Eclipse Sequence at Sunset
The last phase of a partial eclipse is seen as the Sun sets.
80 mm Vixen Fluorite Refractor, FL=640mm, f/8, 1/1000, Kodak RG 100
(cick for larger photo)

Solar Eclipse Photographs

Copyright Notice

All photographs, text and web pages are © Copyright 2000 by Fred Espenak, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. They may not be reproduced, published, copied or transmitted in any form, including electronically on the Internet or WWW, without written permission of the author. The photos have been digitally watermarked.

The photographs may be licensed for commercial, editorial, and educational use. Contact Espenak (at MrEclipse) for photo use in print, web, video, CD and all other media.

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Last revised: 2008 Jan 27