< Live
   New >

Twitter link

Comet Bruenjes
Comet C/2012 C2 (BRUENJES)
Eclipse '10
Eclipse '10
SSSP '10

Eclipses Meteors Solar System Deep Sky Spacecraft Observatory

The 2006 Total Solar Eclipse

March 29, 2006
by Fred Bruenjes


This year the Moon's shadow crossed three continents, and as an avid solar eclipse chaser, I chose to view the event from Niger, in the African Sahara. I was on a two week tour organized by Astronomical Tours.

My previous trips to see eclipses are listed here. What is a total solar eclipse? Well, through an amazing coincidence in geometry, every few years the Moon blocks out the Sun creating a solar eclipse. The Sun is 400 times the size of the Moon, and 400 times as distant, so they appear to be the same size when viewed from Earth. When the orbit of the Moon takes it between the Sun and the Earth, the shadow of the Moon is cast upon the Earth. If the Moon is close enough to the Earth, someone located near the middle of that shadow will see the Moon exactly block out the Sun in a spectacular show. This is a "Total Solar Eclipse", arguably the most spectacular show in astronomy.

Trip Map

Below is a map of our trip. National borders are in yellow. The eclipse path is shown in red, with the centerline in white. Our travels are shown in green, based on an actual GPS track.

Eclipse Photos

All of the following exposures were taken completely autonomously by the eclipse photography control software I've written. Most of the shots were taken with a Canon 1D Mark II 8 megapixel DSLR, with 1.4x teleconverter and 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L lens (for a 35mm equivalent FOV of 700mm). The flash spectrum shots were taken with a D60 DSLR and 24-105mm F4L lens at 105mm F4. The all sky fisheye was done with a Canon 5D DSLR and Peleng 8mm F3.5 lens.

Just after first contact.

The Kenny phase.

The Pac-Man phase.

Just a sliver now, 90 seconds to go!

Second contact diamond ring.

Baily's Beads at second contact, exposures spaced approximately 1.5 seconds apart.

Prominences near second contact.

Composite of 5 exposures, using a digital Newkirk filter.

Fisheye view of entire sky, I'm at the top. Click for rectified horizon pan.

Despite dusty conditions, the Moon's face can be seen via Earthshine in a deep exposure.

Movement of the Moon: exposures at beginning, middle, and end of totality.

Three polarized exposures expressed as red/green/blue, showing the polarization of the corona.

Flash spectrum.

Prominences near third contact.

Baily's Beads at third contact, exposures spaced approximately 1.5 seconds apart.

Third contact diamond ring.

Just before fourth contact and the end of the eclipse.

Here are plots of the weather data I recorded. Note the temperature drop of over 15 degrees F, and how the temperature continued to drop even after the eclipse.

Here's a photo of my equipment setup.

Trip Daily Log

March 15-16th: California to Paris, France

I made it to Paris, France OK. On Saturday I fly to Niger.

Air France 777.

Lights of Los Angeles.

Moonlit snowy North Dakota.

March 18th: Paris to Agadez, Niger

Flew from Paris to Niger today, with a refueling stop in Algeria during the middle of a mild sand storn. The Niger government sprung us with a suprise entry tax (just instituted yesterday) if 15 Euros (US dollars NOT OK).

Concorde, compare this technology to what you'll see in a few days.

Sandstorm at plane refueling stop in Algeria.

March 19th: Agadez to Timia, Niger

Today we met up with our vehicles and set out into the desert. Civilization quickly faded away.

Agadez at dawn.

Lunch break in Aouderas. 96 degrees F, 8% humidity.

Camping under the stars.

March 20th: Timia to Assode, Niger


Streets of Timia.

Assode - ruins where 5000 people died, probably from disease.

Peter at Sunset.

March 21th: Assode to Arakao, Niger


Refilling at a well.

Blue marble at Kogo.

March 22nd: Arakao to Adrar Chiriet, Niger

Petroglyphs at Arakao Crater, showing animals no longer found here.


We got stuck in the sand over and over and over and ended up making camp short of our goal.

March 23rd: Adrar Chiriet to Temet, Niger

Driving through the sand around Adrar Chiriet.

The dunes of Temet, 200m high, are among the highest in the region.

We had a vrey clear night, almost free of suspended dust, so we could see the Zodiacal light (dust in the solar system) really well.

March 24th: Temet to the Tenere Desert, Niger

Gathering wood... there are no trees where we're going.

There is an ancient lake near Adrar Bous, with old pottery and a great collection of rocks.

Our camp in the Tenere desert - nothing but sand for 360 degrees.

March 25th: Tenere Desert to Dissalak, Niger

That's me, Fred Bruenjes, atop a dune in the Sahara.

Not much to see around here, so I made a sand rug.

Arbre du Thierry Sabine, the only tree for miles.

105 minute star trail exposure.

March 26th: Dissalak to Chirfa, Niger

Ancient city of Djado, a maze of small passages.

Djaba, another abandoned city. (This is a 100 megapixel multirow stitched image).

Massive stone arch of Orida.

March 27th: Chirfa to Dirkou, Niger

Petrified wood.

Salines at Seguidine.

March 28th: Dirkou to Eclipse Camp, Niger

Killing time in Dirkou while we resupplied and cleared the military checkpoint, we made a bottle-cap eclipse!.

Salt mines at Bilma.

Dinner at eclipse camp.

March 29th: ECLIPSE DAY, Halfway between Bilma and Dirkou, Niger

WE SAW IT!!! We had a marvelous, 4 minute 5.5 second long eclipse here in Niger today. Everything went perfect except for some suspended dust that obscured the horizon effects and knocked out faint stars. Otherwise it was a roaring success, with a totality so long we didn't know what to do with ourselves! Unlike last year's eclipse, you won't find any gripping weather story - we were pretty much assured of a good view and got just that.

Flash spectrum.

Prominences right after second contact.


All-sky view during totality.

Special thanks to Mark Alsip for bringing me a firewire cable for my camera after mine broke during the flight here. And special thanks to Jen Winter for organizing such a successful trip!

March 30th: Fachi to Tenere Desert, Niger

Fachi fortress is now a really nice museum.

Stuck bad.

Hamid Khodashenas at the famous Tenere tree.

March 31st: Tenere Desert to Agadez, Niger

A pretty severe sandstorm obscures a view of camels.

Woodabe courting dance.

In the evening we had a goodbye dinner.

April 1st: Agades, Niger to Paris, France

Today we flew from Agades to Sebha, Libya where we refuelled and took on more passengers, and then flew on to Paris where people began going their separate ways.

April 2nd: Paris, France to San Diego, California (Home)

After a few hours of sleep I flew to the USA and arrived home at 8pm, safe and sound with all of my baggage and no hassles.


Please visit my main astronomy page, or check out my homepage.

Comments? Questions? Click here to send email to me, Fred Bruenjes.

All text and images are © 2006 Manfred Bruenjes - All Rights Reserved. Image inlining (aka hot linking) and framing are strictly prohibited. Email for permission before using an image or text.