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Eclipses Meteors Solar System Deep Sky Spacecraft Observatory

The 2009 Total Solar Eclipse

July 22, 2009
by Fred Bruenjes and Jen Winter


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.

Daily Log / Updates

July 16-18, 2009 - Flying USA to Fiji

Today we flew from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji, beginning the Astronomical Tours Fun Fiji group tour.

July 19, 2009 - Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Begun by Raymond Burr, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant houses thousands of plants and beautiful flowers.

July 20, 2009 - Navua River safari

Today we took longboats up the Navua River to a small village. Part of the trip was made by bamboo raft, affectionately known by the locals as H.M.S. No Come Back (because they are only used to float downriver).

Kava ceremony.

July 21, 2009 - Fiji to Kiribati, Tarawa tour

After flying to Tarawa, we took some time to tour the island including some large gun emplacements from World War II. Red Beach is now a trash dump unfortuantely. At the local sports center we saw a fascinating display of indigenous artifacts from the 1800s.

July 22, 2009 - ECLIPSE DAY - A total success!

We landed on Marakei just before first contact and distributed about 700 solar filters to the natives, and gave a quick lesson in observing safety. Checks of the weather satellite photos and observation of local conditions showed that the weather situation was too volatile to risk staying on the island. So we piled back on the ship and headed east to put some distance between us and an anvil cloud, as well as to reach an area of fewer low clouds. The low clouds were not dissipating with the cooler temperatures. With minutes to go, it became of game of making left and right turns to thread through the area between the clouds. They were moving and developing so rapidly, it was a real challenge! We succeeded in clearing the last wisp of cloud just as the second contact diamond ring was appearing. I have to say this was one of the brighter totalities I remember, a real surprise given the size of the shadow. The extremely clean, clear air allowed light from outside the shadow to bounce in, brightening the clounds and skies near us. About four minutes and seven or eight seconds later, as clouds were just beginning to get close, we saw the third contact diamond ring. Our last minute dash aboard the ship paid off, as the island itself was clouded out by a large low cloud.

Marakei children viewing the eclipse.

Getting ready, on board the ship.


A few small prominences visible.

Third contact diamond ring by Libby Spor.

And the eclipse flag comes out!

Yuichi is happy after a successful webcast.

Our GPS track up through the end of totality shows our wandering path between the clouds.

Back on the island of Marakei, the whole island turned out for the celebration, and we were treated to a number of very moving and special native dances.

Preparing to get back aboard the LCT Super Carrier after sunset.

July 23, 2009 - Kiribati to Fiji

Back in Fiji, most of us slept to catch up on lost sleep.

July 24, 2009 - Pirate ship to Mystery Island

We took the brigantine Ra Marama to "Mystery" Island today, enjoying relaxing time on the beach, snorkeling, and scuba diving among the coral reefs.

July 25, 2009 - Nausori highland tour

A bus drive up into the highlands, giving wonderful panoramic views of the valleys and ocean below.

The narrow gauge sugar cane train.

July 26, 2009 - Fiji to Home

Flying home from Nadi to home today.


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