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Total Solar Eclipse from Aruba - Brian Faltinson

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Total Solar Eclipse from Aruba


Brian Faltinson Reports Back from Vacation with Images and Words


Aruba, February 26 1998

Eclipse Sequence

Eclipse Showing the Planets Mercury (top left) and Jupiter (bottom centre)

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What better excuse for a vacation than to go to the Carribean in winter to see a total solar eclipse. My wife MaryAnn and I selected Aruba because it had the best probability of clear skies according to the 1997 Observer's Handbook. Probability is no guarantee as we were to find out.

The weather was exactly the same every day with 30 degree C with light clouds over the central portion of the island. On eclipse day scarey dark clouds weather came in on the trade winds two hours before the beginning of the partial phase. We decided to have faith and drive as planned to the southern most point of the Island to maximize the duration of totality. Ra was good to us by clearing the clouds completely just as partial phase began.

Apparently NASA and a few thousand other people/scientists with mega equipment agreed with my analysis of the best dry land site as well as the best point on the island. Totality was 3.5 minutes and was truly the most amazing thing I've seen (and felt) in my life. Watching the shadow come and go also had some surprises which made this a bizzare experience that words can't describe. We are shadow chasers now.

I used Kodak Gold 400 ASA film to ensure the winds would not blur my pictures. My 105mm telephoto did not compare with the other equipment around us but it proved simple to set up and was also useful for the rest of the vacation! I varied exposure times from 1/10th sec to 1/2 sec on automatic exposure with little apparent difference in the shots. The exposure meter setting was set for averaging to allow for the less precise framing of the eclipse. For the partial phase shots I held a No. 14 Welders glass filter over the lens, this produced the characteristic green colour of this filter. This would not have been my preference as I would have liked to have used an appropriate Neutral Density filter to avoid the green colouration. The No. 14 Welders glass was also used for viewing the eclipse visually.

I will use 200 ASA next time and perhaps get a larger lens for Europe in August, 1999. Mmm, German beer AND a solar eclipse!

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Eclipse from Antigua

Experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse - Erika Pleasance

My husband, Ken, and I took a cruise offered by Astronomy Magazine to view the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1998. We flew to San Juan Puerto Rico on February 18th and spent two days exploring the San Juan area. We joined the rest of the cruise group on February 20th, and visited the observatory at Humacao College, where local island astronomers had their scopes set up for us for a star party. Ken and I were two of the fortunate few to be invited into the observatory to view CCD images.

On Saturday morning, February 21st, we boarded busses for a trip to the Arecibo Observatory - the largest radar/radio telescope on earth. It has a giant 305 meter diameter dish located on 28 acres of land in the mountains of northern Puerto Rico.

After our return to the hotel, busses took us to our ship, the Galaxy. We boarded at 3:00 pm and sailed from the harbour at 11:00. Sunday morning found us anchored off Catalina Island. While many enjoyed a day in the sun on the lovely beaches of Catalina, we boarded a catamaran which took us for a tour of part of the Dominican Republic. After arriving back at the Galaxy, we set sail at 5:00 pm and spent the following day at sea enroute to Barbados. We toured much of the island and saw Harrison Caves, returning to the ship at 4:00 pm and the next leg of the journey to Martinique. We toured much of Martinique, partly by land (taxi) and then by sea (catamaran), observing the Mt. Pelee volcano and visiting St. Pierre, the city demolished by the volcano's explosion in 1902. In the afternoon, we attended lectures by Rich Talcott and Dave Eicher, editors of Astronomy magazine. The Galaxy steamed off at 5:00 pm for Antigua, and the event we had been waiting for.

The ship stopped at Antigua at 8:00 am, leaving those who wished to stay on the island for the eclipse. Ken decided to stay on the island and I decided to stay on board ship. The Galaxy positioned itself on the centerline of the eclipse path, and sailed along it as the event progressed. It was an event I will never forget. As the sky darkened, Venus appeared just above the horizon. Once we were in the cone of totality, Mercury and Jupiter were visible outside the corona, and all around, the horizon had the appearance of a sunrise or sunset. In a few minutes, it was all over, and the sun started to reappear from behind the moon.

Ken, being on land, had the chance to see how animals reacted to the eclipse, and was amused to see a herd of goats scurry off in the direction of home as darkness descended. The Galaxy returned to Antigua later that afternoon to pick up the shore bound passengers, and then headed for St. Thomas. Again, we enjoyed a tour of the island, and returned to the ship for the last leg of the journey back to San Juan, arriving there on Saturday morning at 7:00 am. We spent the day touring more of San Juan, then caught our plane home on Sunday, March 1st, returning to reality


Photos: Ken Pleasance

A few images of the eclipse as it progressed through its stages, partial, total and the diamond ring.



Photo: Erika Pleasance

A straw hat was held up over the ground projecting numerous miniature eclipses. For a more detailed view of the image click on the image.



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Last updated: December 12, 2013

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