Total Solar Eclipse on July 11th, 2010

The total solar eclipse seemed to try hard not to be seen. The path of the shadow of the moon was almost completely over the Pacific Ocean, and passed just South of the island of Tahiti. Only the small Cook Island Mangaia, some atolls in Polynesia, and Easter Island were in the path of totality. Maximum duration of this eclipse was 5m20s. The eclipse ended at sunset in Chile and Argentina.

We decided to take our 2010 holiday in Tahiti and California, and observe the eclipse from the small atoll Tatakoto, some 1200 km East of Tahiti.

Totality on Tatakoto was 4m35s. Timing as in the table below.

Time Height of Sun
Begin (1st contact) 7:27:09 21
Start totality (2nd contact) 8:45:32 36
End totaltity (3rd contact) 8:50:07 36
End (4e contact) 10:19:20 48

We left on Thursday 8th July and flew with Air France from Amsterdam via Paris and Los Angeles to Papeete on Tahite. We arrived on Tahiti on Friday, 4 am local time. As a welcome everyone got a tradional flowerchain. We were picked up from the airport and had a short ride to the Intercontinental Resort. Our room was not available, but we were offered a change room with a shower. For the rest of the morning we had to cope with the hotel pool and reading our books.

The pool of the Intercontinental Resort on Tahiti, on the background the island of Moorea.

Poster to educate people to wear proper eclipse glasses. .

With Fred Espenak, Mr Eclipse himself!

At 6 pm there were lectures on solar eclipses by Glenn Schneider (University of Arizona) and Fred Espenak of NASA. Both are very experienced eclipse chasers. Glenn talked about the eclipse flight planned for 11 July. They had organised an Airbus to fly from Tahiti to the point of maximum duration (5m20s) of the eclipse. This point was 2500 km east of Tahiti. The velocity of the shadow of the moon at that spot would be the lowest, but still an impressive 2100 km/h. The speed of the Airbus was just over 900 km/h, and by flying with the direction of the moon shadow, they would be able to experience 9m23s of totality.

The lecture of Fred Espenak was about the various eclipse that he observed in the past. He showed nice picture and video of these event. After the lecture I had a brief conversation with him. We had not met personally before, but in 2006 we had an email exchange. At that time, I had sent a special Egyptian eclipse stamp to him, and received as a thank you a beautiful composition picture of the 2006 eclipse in Libya. My wife Reina took this picture of Fred and me.

On Saturday morning we flew with a group of 35 people from Tahiti to Tatakoto. On the airport we saw the tiny moon crescent, one day before the eclipse. During our flight we saw beautiful atolls. On Tatakoto we were given a very warm welcome. There was music on the airport. This was a big event. Usually there are no tourists on Tatakoto. Twice a month, a supply vessel will bring goods and once a week a small plane of Air Tahiti will land on the atoll.

We stayed in 'temporary' hotels: house of the people of Tatakoto.

We were guests, with Jackie, Chris and Jimmy, in the house of the Tardat family. It was a 3 bedroom house with lounge/dining room and a bathroom. The family stayed for the time being in the house next door that was theirs as well. We were treated extremely well, and enjoyed wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners. On Saturday afternoon we had a walk in the village. The weather was sunny, but there were occasional clouds and even some rain showers. What could we expect on Sunday, eclipse day?

The 11th of July started cloudy. Between 6 and 7 am conditions improved, but we were not complety convinced to have a clear sky eclipse. On the picture above, my Canon with telephoto lens is looking at the clouds in front of the sun! At the start of the partial phase, the sun was clear, but we were having rain.

And then, there was sun..... We had chosed to observe from the beach of the Tatakoto laguna. The same morning an other group of 35 arrived from Tahiti. They had only a day trip to Tatakoto.

The view from the laguna beach. The little island on the other side is one of the many motus: little islands between the ocean and the laguna.

Shadow bands on clouds!

The partial phase started at 7:27. The picture above shows images of the crescent of the Sun projected through tiny holes in a hat made of palm leaves.

The picture above on the right shows the beginning of the diamond ring. At that time there was still a thin layer of low hanging cloud before the sun. The picture shows thin stripes that are parallel to the last thin line of sun shine. This effect has not been photographed before. Several people on 11 July have observed this. The stripes are caused by the shadow band effect. This is caused by turbulence in the lower 2000m of the Earth atmosphere. The height of the clouds was estimated to be just in the order of 250-300m, and certainly not higher than 500m. The separation between the shadow bands is in the order of 0.2 - 0.4 m. .

The picture on the right shows the diamond ring a few seconds later. Just before totality starts (2nd contact). De sun is almost fully eclipsed, but some light passed through valleys on the moon. The red edge is the solar chromosphere, that consists of atomic hydrogen. We had a few thin clouds, but these disappeared quickly. .

Diamond Ring

Totaliy and no clouds! The corana has some large streamers. The dot left above the sun is the star δ Geminorum, in the constellation of the Twins. Totality lasted more than four and a half minute. We will have to wait until 2027 to have a longer stay in the shadow of the moon.

Third contact: totality is over.

The youngest kids of the Tardat family with eclipse googles.

A wide angle overview. I really wanted to take a picture of the eclipsed sun and a palm tree. And I did. As a bonus, the planet Mercury is also visible: it is the dot above the e.

On Monday we left Tatakoto. We are on this picture with the family Tardat in front of the house where we stayed, and were treated better and with more care than any 5-star hotel. At the departure we were given a traditional chain of seashells. The other house of the family is behind this one.

Left: a picture of Edwin Aguirre, Imelda Joson and us. They were the tour hosts on Tatakoto. I had met them before at the 2006 Egypt eclipse. It was really nice to meet them again.

The plane of Air Tahiti. We flew back to Tahiti, and then took the ferry to the nearby island Moorea.

At arrival at the Moorea Intercontinental, we saw the one day old moon and Mercury. Camera on tripod, and 1.5 sec exposure. .

One day old moon and planet Mercury from Moorea.

On Moorea we rented a small boat, and explored the coast line.

Happy hour in the Tahiti Sofitel. The cocktail is named Sunset, and guess what we are watching here?

Sunset on Tahiti beach. On the background the island of Moorea.

People on Tatakoto | The next one on 14 November 2012