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Eclipses Meteors Solar System Deep Sky Spacecraft Observatory

The 2008 Total Solar Eclipse

August 1, 2008
by Fred Bruenjes and Jen Winter


I will be on a two week tour organized by ICSTARS.

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.

Slide Shows

Photos taken by me and Jen Winter:



Daily Log / Updates

Thursday July 24, 2008 - UB to Olgii

After only a couple hours of sleep we had a flight to Olgii in far western Mongolia on eznis airlines. It was a tiny plane, I had to take my shoes off to fit into the seat. We landed on the rough dirt strip at Olgii. We are now 12 time zones away from home. After changing money at the bank, we toured the fascinating provincial museum, cleaned up, and headed south. Our destination was an eagle trainer and his family - whom are nomadic and so we had to ask around the valley to see where he was.

Friday July 25, 2008 - Eagle Trainer & Family

Today we had a fantastic day with the Kazakh eagle trainer, first inside his ger (yurt) home where we got to know each other and heard about customs and traditions. Then we headed outside for a demonstration of how to handle the eagle and how it hunts. This two year old eagle won a medal in a competition - it was the only eagle out of 60 entrants to catch a wolf! We had great fun with the family, this will be one of the highlights of the trip we remember forever.

Unfortunately my brand new Sandisk Ducati 8GB CF card failed unreadable and so I only have pictures from my backup camera to show. Hopefully I can recover the photos off the bad card when I get home, but it doesn't look good.

Sometimes the pot of gold is a pile of dung...

Saturday July 26, 2008 - Somewhere between Olgii and Hovd

Today we drove from the eagle trainer's house southward towards Hovd. We curved through mountain passes and valleys and camped on a hillside overlooking a large valley.

Bronze age deer stones:

Sunday July 27, 2008 - Into Hovd

We took a short drive into Hovd, and spent some time at the Naadam festival where we saw the 4th round (8 participants) of the wrestling competition.

Monday July 28, 2008 - Hovd to Manhan (Blue) Cave

The Mongolians practice a style of Tibetan Bhuddism.

Hovd hosted a provicial cultural celebration with a parade. All different regions and cultural groups were represented in authentic dress.

Performers in the square broke into song in small groups.

During a lunch break, our group located a possible meteorite with the metal detector.

Quote of the day came when loitering at the foot of the Manhan Cave. Another car pulled up and we overheard the client tell his guide a story about the country Niger. We approached the man and asked if he went to Niger for the eclipse last year. He replied "Yes I did! You must be Jen Winter."

Friday, August 1, 2008 - Eclipse Day


We had a fantastic view of totality from our lakeside observing site. There were a few puffy clouds on the horizon which gave us a great view of the approaching and receding shadow. Our equipment worked very well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008 - Bulgan Eclipse Camp to Most

The bridge we were planning to take over a river was washed out, so we had to make a fairly significant reroute. On our detour, we encountered another road block - a large truck broken down in the middle of a one lane road on the side of a mountain. Since it was lunch time, we stopped and relaxed and had a very peaceful break. They still hadn't fixed the truck by the time lunch was over so we had to detour along the riverbank.

Pumping gas takes a whole new meaning - Jen takes a turn cranking the pump handle.

In the evening we revisited a Mongolian family we had met on the way down. They thanked us for the eclipse viewing glasses we had given them and reported seeing about one minute of totality. Like eclipse chasers the world over, talk was of the effects on animals, the temperature drop, and how people reacted to the otherworldly experience. It was a magical time, we grew to like them very much.

Sunday, August 3, 2008 - Most to Hovd

Today we retraced our route back up towards Hovd. The rough washboard roads turn to smooth asphalt a mile or two outside Hovd. We went the whole trip without a flat tire, and amazingly within a mile of getting onto the asphalt one of our cars got a flat and two of them ran out of gas - within sight of the gas station! It was high adventure today!

We resupplied in Hovd and some folks went shopping in the market.

Wednesday July 23, 2008 - Arrived in Mongolia

We arrived safe and sound with all bags in UlaanBataar today. We go back to the airport in a few hours to catch our onward flight.

On board the MIAT (Mongolian Airlines) 737-800 that took us from Seoul to UB was uttered an eclipse chasing quote that will go down in history: "They're flying my software!" (one of the members of our group wrote the yaw damping and stall warning software used onboard the Boeing 737).


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