THE SUN’S CORONA during the June 21, 2001 total solar
eclipse as viewed near Lusaka, Zambia, Central Africa, (Lat: 15d, 08’,
01” S; Long: 28d, 26’, 11” E). The 3-way
telescope was used with the U2 coronal streamer filter, Kodak Royal
Gold-400 film, 1-second exposure. Photo by
Ernie Piini, 1356 Longfellow Way, San Jose, CA, 95129 (email@example.com)
ECLIPSE OVER ZAMBIA:
A TRIPLE DIAMOND RING CEREMONY
21, 2001 (Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)
Lusaka,Zambia, Central Africa
Latitude: 15d, 08’, 01”S; Longitude: 28d,
26’, 11” E
a narrow road along an embankment overlooking a large pond on the Karubwe
farm, eleven members of the Migrant Travelers group set up their
telescopes and other recording equipment in anticipation of viewing the
first total solar eclipse of the 21st century. Ably led by Madelyn Dovano
of Los Gatos, California, this expedition met at this scenic site on the
eastern edge of Chisamba, a few miles northeast of Lusaka, the capitol
city of Zambia.
group experienced an unusual three days of cloudless skies leading up to
this first eclipse of the new millennium. The moon nibbled its first bite
of the eastern edge of the sun at 1:41:57 p.m., signaling 1st contact.
site along the side of a blue pond provided an exciting, unobstructed view
of the shadow of the moon as it approached from the west. The awesome moon
shadow, always exciting, was best viewed later when we saw the video tape
recording made by Dr. Shiloh Unruh, a former astronomer from Mount
Hamilton near San Jose, California. He used six camcorders mounted on a
circular platform to record six different aspects of the eclipse.
the ingressing partial eclipse phase progressed towards totality, the air
cooled and the sky darkened. A slight breeze over the pond ceased as the
big show arrived. When the last rays of sunlight became hidden by the
moon, 2nd contact clocked in at 3:09:58 p.m. Moments before, a startling
“Diamond Ring” flashed before us as shouts of approval could be heard
from the expeditioners and curious locals.
clicking of camera shutters could be heard as photographers took countless
photos and busily recorded this spectacular event with video camcorders.
Another, unexpected diamond ring presentation took place when Chris
Somerville kneeled before his lady friend, Erin Mumm, and asked as he
placed a diamond ring on her finger, “Erin, will you be my wife?” She
accepted immediately. We learned of this romantic event after totality.
Both are from Tennessee.>
rosy-pink prominences, magnetic storms appearing on the limb of the
eclipsed sun, helped beautify this spectacular sight. The pearly-white
atmosphere surrounding the sun, the corona, blossomed into a symmetrical
flower with short petals. These streamers were similar to the eclipse of
August 11, 1999, that I saw from near Munich, Germany. During a period of
maximum sunspot activity an eclipse typically produces a symmetrical
corona, while in a minimum sunspot year one expects very long coronal
3rd contact the first rays of sunshine poked thru valleys on the moon.
This "third" Diamond Ring presentation of this eclipse occurred
at 3:13:03 p.m., heralding another roar from the highly excited persons on
the banks of the Karubwe farm pond. The moon’s shadow could be seen
racing away from us towards the east, not to be seen again until December
4, 2002—then from South Africa, the Indian Ocean, or Australia. Totality
at our site lasted 3 minutes and 31 seconds.
Julie Heikes, a Polaroid filming specialist and Graphic Artist from St.
Michaels, Maryland, recorded the entire event on her hand-held recorder.
She also taped our adventures throughout the rest of our trip.
Smith brought her homemade 6-inch telescope for this eclipse and monitored
the outgoing partials until 4th contact (4:29:15 p.m.). She projected the
sun’s image onto white cardboard for easier monitoring. There to share
her results were her dad David, and mom Sharon, all from San Jose, CA.
temperature during the eclipse decreased from a high of 79 degrees
Fahrenheit to a minimum of 61 degrees—a drop of 18 degrees. No shadow
band activity was reported near the beginning or the end of totality.
this eclipse I elected to mount a high resolution Canon GL1 camcorder
where I usually mount my C-90, 1000 mm focal length telescope. Everything
normally rides piggyback on my 3-Way Telescope (600 mm focal length). The
GL1 has three CCD sensors, each assigned to handle one of the three
primary colors—red, green and blue. I built a special filter adaptor
which bayonets to the front of the Fluorite lens. This lens is
manufactured from a grown crystal material and provides outstanding
resolution, contrast and color reproduction. I used a density-5 solar
filter constructed from Baader AstroSolar safety film purchased from Astro-Physics,
Inc., 11250 Forest Hills Rd., Machesney Park, Illinois, 61115-8238. It was
highly rated by Philip Harrington in an article on solar filter evaluation
(see the April 2001 issue of Astronomy magazine).
care is necessary to handle the large change in brightness from the
sun’s partial phase to totality. I used the TV mode at 8000 shutter
speed and covered the lens with a density-5 filter to record the partial
phase images. Then at totality, and only when the activity of the bright
Baily’s Beads/Diamond Ring moment was over, I removed the solar filter
and recorded the inner corona and rosy-pink prominences. To open up the
exposure for the corona I switched the camcorder to the “Easy
Recording” mode. At 3rd contact, I quickly replaced the solar filter o
prevent damage to the camcorder. The GL1 has an optical zoom of 40x and a
digital zoom of 100x. The 40x zoom presented an ideal image size of the
partials and prominences, almost filling my field of view. I remotely
zoomed in to capture the full width of the corona. There was no need to
use the 100x zoom capability as a larger image size was not required and
the loss of resolution would have been unacceptable.
my twenty-two solar eclipse adventures I have mentioned many times before
that there always exists the possibility that the eclipse will be clouded
out; therefore, one must give higher priority to one's itinerary.
Traveling to remote countries presents one with a rare opportunity to
explore other places, peoples and cultures. Our Migrant Traveler group
took many interesting side trips on this journey. In Lusaka we were shown
many of the historic sites pertaining to the revolution which saw this
former country of Rhodesia become Zambia and also Zimbabwe.
night before the eclipse we were treated to a view of the wonders of the
Southern sky. We enjoyed seeing the Southern Cross (Crux), with its
associated Coal Sack and the Jewel Box Cluster; Alpha Centauri, the
closest star (other than our sun) to earth; Beta Centauri; Omega Centauri,
that beautiful globular cluster; the amazing Eta Carina nebula; and the
“False Cross” which is often mistaken for the Crux. All this laced
together by the amazing arm of the Milky Way. It was at this star party
that Kirsten Smith saw “first light” through her homemade telescope.
The 19-year old sophomore from Brigham Young University did such a perfect
job in her mirror grinding that she was awarded a summer job at the NASA
facilities in Mountain View, California.
real treat was to see the red planet Mars high in the sky, approximately
70 degrees above the horizon, along with the constellations Scorpio and
Sagittarius, the Teapot. In North America our view of Mars during this
close apparition has been very low in the sky to our south.
big attraction of this trip was Victoria Falls. The flow of the mighty
Zambezi River over this 355-feet high, mile-wide gap is breathtaking. The
roar of the falls is one thing but the misty cloud formed by this act of
nature requires the use of raincoats. More so, cameras and camcorders must
be totally protected with plastic covers or be ruined by water—as many
found out the hard way. The continuous spray cloud above the falls can be
seen from miles away. In small groups we all took tethered balloon rides
400 feet up for a better view of the falls. The helium filled balloon
swayed its nervous passengers from side to side in the afternoon wind. We
almost did not go up because of the wind. Group members Wes and Noni
Hamilton from Evergreen, Colorado braved a test ride just before me. We
all returned safely.
comparison, Victoria Falls is twice as high and one and one-half times as
wide (5600-feet) as Niagara Falls. The entrance to the falls is marked by
a tall statue of Dr. David Livingston, who on November 16, 1855, was the
first white man to see the Falls. He named them Victoria in honor of the
Queen of England. It was near here that I met many of my eclipse-chasing
friends from past events.
enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River featuring sightings of many
hippos bathing, and the next morning a sunrise champagne breakfast cruise
on a vessel provided solely for our group and its cooks and operators.
of us were treated to a train ride at sunset over the bridge which
straddles the deep gorge of the falls. The bridge, one of the highest in
the world, is often used by bungee jumpers. Our eclipse ambassador, Dr.
Shiloh Unruh, wore a crazy homemade headgear complete with teddy bear and
windmill fan. He was the center of attention throughout our trip, like a
clown from outer space. Dr. Shiloh paid a good sum to ride in the engine
room and blew the whistle continuously.
next bussed to the Hwange Game Preserve, rated as one of the best in
Africa. We went on two safaris which included some wonderful views of wild
animals and colorful fowl. The African acacia and baobab trees made
excellent silhouettes during a delightful reddish sunset. We needed
several blankets to keep us warm at night, the coldest part of the trip.
Cold in Africa?
we flew to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, a very modern city with many
high-rise buildings. A four-hour bus ride took us south to the famous
Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the remnants of a large city built some 500 to 800
years ago and inhabited then by some 20,000 people. There are two main
sites: an impressive Hill Complex and below that the Great Enclosure.
Great Zimbabwe means houses of stone. The walls were constructed using
individually shaped granite blocks carefully pieced together without the
use of mortar. The Great Enclosure, which is the dominant feature, has a
circumference of over 800 feet with walls about 33 feet high and 15 feet
wide in some places. The purpose of a conical tower near the southern wall
remains a mystery to this day. Could there be some astronomical
significance? The Great Enclosure is the largest ancient building in
Africa south of the Sahara. We enjoyed lunch at the impressive Great
Zimbabwe Hotel, a must for anyone visiting this area.
usual every trip must come to an end. This adventure into the heart of
Africa for a memorable 12 days I will never forget. Now I’m excitedly
anticipating my 23rd eclipse adventure into the shadow of the moon in
December 2002. I intend to share the next
total eclipse with my grandson, Matthew.
thanks to my personal editors Joe Heim and May Coon for reviewing this