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Solar Eclipse - 11AUG99 - Lands End

Report by Jon Laver

I went to Lands End to (hopefully)see the eclipse. The Open University Geological Society (East Midlands Branch AKA John Colby etc) had organised a Geo-Camp at Trelowarren (a truly superb camp site!) for a couple of weeks, to look at the rather special geology of Lands End (it's an Ophiolite sequence) with a day off to see that eclipse. Well, I'll even put up with a fornight under canvas and cook (apart from using that take-a-way shop once or twice) to try to see something that special. So I put the LX200 (and all that associated kit, plus a full set of camping gear, food, water and all the outdoor all-weather geokit for two) into the car and took it easy down to Lands End. The camp organization was superb as was the geology and we got to see the eclipse (just!).

The day dawned cloudy and raining! In fact it was cloudy all morning with occasional showers. During one interval, I managed to mostly set up the LX200, only to cover it against the rain within minutes! It was still raining up to 15 minutes before 2nd contact, then it stopped. Ten minutes before 2nd contact a small (perhaps 2-3%) bit of blue sky appeared through both cloud layers and it was upwind of where we thought the sun was. Frantic work to complete the LX200 setup, mount the pick-a-back camera, put on the solar filters, etc etc. Frantic!

Five minutes to 2nd contact, there was a view of the Sun through a veil of very thin cloud. Good Pix, saw the diamond ring (no Bailey's Beads though). Then Totality! If you havn't seen it, you just can't appreciate it, let alone try to describe it! Filters off, trying to keep the telescope tracking whilest running through combinations of exposures on two cameras. Diamond ring again - filters back on, change exposures again. Big cheer! Fastest 2 minutes and 6 seconds of my life! We were SO lucky! Oh, and the Milky Way at night in those really dark skies!!!