Sky Gazers Prepare for Solar Eclipse
By Joe Rao
- Friday, August 1 is a red-letter day for eclipse enthusiasts. On that
date, the sun will be partially eclipsed over an immense area that
includes western and central Asia, parts of northern and central
Europe, all of Greenland and even a small slice of northeastern North
America.A total solar eclipse -- the first in nearly two and a half
years -- will be visible along a narrow track that will start over the
Northwest Passage of Canada, gives a glancing blow to northern
Greenland, then shifts southeast through Siberia and western Mongolia
before ending near the famed Silk Route of China.
The path of totality for this upcoming eclipse is never more than 157 miles wide.
Where It's Visible
total eclipse begins at sunrise over Northern Canada's Queen Maud Gulf,
where the moon's umbra will first touch down on the Earth, resulting in
Canada's hosting its first total solar eclipse since February 26, 1979.
the sun comes into view over the north-northeast horizon its disk will
become completely blocked by the moon. This is in the area of the
famous Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans through the Arctic archipelago of Canada. The various
islands of the archipelago are separated from one another and the
Canadian mainland by a series of Arctic waterways collectively known as
the Northwestern Passages. Politically, this region belongs to Nunavut,
the largest and newest of the territories of Canada; it was separated
officially from the vast Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999.
the umbral shadow narrowly misses the towns of Cambridge Bay on
Victoria Island, and Resolute on Cornwallis Island, its northern edge
just clips the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world:
Canada's remote outpost of Alert, which lies just 508 miles from the
North Pole and has a population of just 5. Here, totality will last 43
Crossing the open Arctic, the southern half of the
totality path slides across the many fjords of northermost Greenland,
coming to within 450 miles of the North Pole at 9:38 UT over the Arctic
Ocean before turning southeast. Totality sweeps over the Norwegian
island group of Svalbard, while the northern edge of the umbra's path
just grazes Russia's Franz Josef Land island group, then cuts across
the crescent-shaped island of Novaya Zemlya on its way to central Asia.
The umbra first touches the Russian coast on the Yamal Peninsula. Not
far inland, greatest eclipse, producing 2 minutes 27 seconds of
totality, is attained near the town of Nadym, just inland from the
boot-shaped Gulf of Obskaja.
Spending part of your summer in
Siberia may sound a bit more appealing upon hearing that the central
path passes almost directly over the city of Novosibirsk, Russia's
third most populous city where totality begins at 10:44 UT and will
last 2 minutes 18 seconds. The center of the path will then follow the
Mongolia-China border for several hundred kilometers, with Olgij,
Mongolia getting 1 min 36s of totality. Totality finally whisks into
north-central China, crossing the west end of the Great Wall before
leaving the Earth at a point northeast of the major city of Xi'an.
The northern half of Maine as well as the Canadian Maritime Provinces will experience a partial eclipse at sunrise.
most unusual attempt to rendezvous with the moon's shadow will be made
by an Airbus A330-200 twin-engine long-range aircraft. Following a
flight plan optimized specifically for the purpose of viewing this
eclipse, all of the many unusual requirements of this flight have been
evaluated and satisfied with arrangements by the air charter company
Deutsche Polarflug (AirEvents) which has previously operated successful
over-flights of the North Pole with this same aircraft.
Schneider, from the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory and a
veteran of 26 total eclipses, has worked out the detailed formulation
of the flight plan. He is targeting a point from the high polar north,
at approximately +83-degrees latitude and about 440 nautical miles from
the North Pole at an altitude of 37,000 feet above the Arctic Ocean.
will be a unique event in the annals of solar eclipse-chasing since
there are no records of any total solar eclipse observations as far
north as this. While total solar eclipses in the polar regions are not
rare, accessibility is very difficult. Until this juncture in time (and
technology) very high-latitude (north or south) total solar eclipses
have been elusive. The total solar eclipse of 23 November 2003 was the
first in history to have been observed from the Antarctic.
again it needs repeating: to look at the sun without proper eye
protection is dangerous. Even if you are in the path of the total
eclipse you will need to protect your eyes during the partial phases