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Solar Eclipse - 11AUG99 - Abroad

Report by Jonathan Silverlight

I had booked a trip to Iran with Explorers Tours nearly a year ago, but it was a surprise to meet Brian Shorter (another GAS member) and family at Heathrow! We observed the last total eclipse of the millenium from a village called Najafabad, near Esfahan.

Here's part of my notebook

"The site Explorers Tours had found was on the edge of the cemetary! There were trees for shelter and plenty of room - and no other tourists.

I found that the Canon T-mount set screws had worked loose but was able to borrow a small screwdriver and fix it. Remember for next time! A binocular mount would also be useful.

I used a black plastic filter from a firm called Solar Products NCH which I'll call SP, and which is very useful as it fits a Cokin P-series filter holder, and home-made filters for my 10x50 binoculars and 300mm mirror lens of Astrosolar aluminised film which I'll call AS. The SP gives a warm orange image; the AS gives a cool, slighter blue image which is brighter. I took a series of exposures at times I recorded during the partial phase. A change in light quality was quite noticeable by about 1600 local time - second contact was due at 1632 - the light was fainter and shadows were sharper. I admired the crescent-shaped images cast by leaves and planned to photograph them after totality but forgot. You'll see why later :-)

The closing seconds to totality were suddenly here, far too quickly. I pulled the filters off the cameras and took a few pictures with each, changing the exposure time at random and not really concentrating. I was trying to look around and look through the binoculars. Venus was bright to the west of the sun. I didn't see Mercury and no-one I asked saw it either. Looking south there were sunset colours and the clouds to the north were also coloured. We'd been watching these clouds through the partial phase but they never spread far. The sky was a deep grey-blue colour - almost metallic.

Jonathan's Pic

The corona was totally different to when I'd seen it in India. Then it was solar minimum with very long streamers east and west. This time the corona had a lot of very fine detail all round the disc. There was a very bright red prominence at about "8 o'clock" on the disc and a bright white point at about "2 o'clock".

Just before totality a group of villagers had approached. I ignored them during totality which certainly didn't feel like the 1 minute 43 seconds predicted but afterwards I showed them the Sun, handing out my "family pack" of 5 SP filters (2 adults, 2 kids and the dog) and 2 goggles (mylar from Explorers and black plastic from "Astronomy" magazine) which they shared out and passed around. I should have taken 2 packs! I also showed them the view through both cameras, making sure the filters were on & the cameras aimed at the sun. Then I allowed them to use my binoculars. being very careful not to allow them to look at the sun without filters.

They were mostly men and boys - there were some girls but they were very shy (I gather they were much more confident with the women in our group) aged all the way from perhaps 4 or 5 (who had to be held up to the eyepiece) to adult. They all wanted to be photographed, especially one lad of about 10 who pushed the other boys away so he was alone in the picture!

I think I enjoyed this part as much as totality!