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.
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.
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.
I made it to Paris, France OK. On Saturday I fly to Niger.
Lights of Los Angeles.
Moonlit snowy North Dakota.
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).
Sandstorm at plane refueling stop in Algeria.
Today we met up with our vehicles and set out into the desert. Civilization quickly faded away.
Lunch break in Aouderas. 96 degrees F, 8% humidity.
Camping under the stars.
Streets of Timia.
Assode - ruins where 5000 people died, probably from disease.
Peter at Sunset.
Refilling at a well.
Blue marble at Kogo.
We got stuck in the sand over and over and over and ended up making camp short of our goal.
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.
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.
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.
Djaba, another abandoned city. (This is a 100 megapixel multirow stitched image).
Massive stone arch of Orida.
Salines at Seguidine.
Salt mines at Bilma.
Dinner at eclipse camp.
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.
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!
Hamid Khodashenas at the famous Tenere tree.
Woodabe courting dance.
In the evening we had a goodbye dinner.
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.
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.
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