Total Solar Eclipse 29 March 2006 - from Saloum Egypt   (Nederlands versie )

Just after 1st contact at 11:20

2.5 minutes before totality

The "diamond" ring with chromospheric "rubies"
just before 2nd contact

The total eclipse of 29 March 2006 would be visible from Libya, Egypt and Turkey. I decided to visit Egypt and watch the eclipse from Saloum. On Sunday 26 March I flew to Cairo to join the TravelQuest International 4-day eclipse tour the next day. The tour started at the Meridien Pyramids hotel located near the famous pyramids of Gizeh. On Monday night we had dinner during which meteorologist Jay Anderson gave an outlook for the weather of 29 March: he predicted clear skies. Nice detail of the dinner: a power failure caused all lights to go out during Steve Edberg's presentation on total solar eclipses!

view from my hotel room in LeMeridien Pyramids

The next day we went via Al Alamein to Mersa Matruh, where we stayed in a hotel, and had dinner in a large tent on the beach. 

On 29 March we left Mersa Matruh at 5:30am for the 220 km drive to Saloum, where we arrived around 8am, well before the start of the eclipse at 11:20am. Initially we had some fog and clouds,
but luckily  these disappeared on time. Jay Anderson had been right!

Totality,  shortly after the 2nd contact. On the top left the purple colour of the chromosphere still is visible.
The shape of the corona is typical for a so-called solar minimum eclipse.

Shortly before 3rd contact: chromospheric Baily's beads are already visible at the lower right.

The end of totality (3rd contact) at 12:42 local time

a series of images of the partially eclipsed sun

Me, and my Canon 300D + 70-200 & 1.4 extender on Manfrotto tripod

An impression of totality

At first, just after the start of the eclipse nothing much happens. However, the 20 minutes before totality, as well as the totality itself, are special experiences. At 12:23 somebody shouts: "Venus!", and yes the planet Venus is visible at mid-day!

During the minutes before totality the light is strange. Shadows are diffuse in one direction, and razor sharp in the other: standing with my back to the sun, I can see shadows of individual hairs on my head.

Just before totality we see a beautiful diamond ring. At both sides of  the diamond, solar prominences and light from the Sun's chomosphere shine as rubies. Then suddenly the diamond disappears and the solar corona shows itself in all its grandeur, a spectacle that lasts almost 4 minutes. People around me shout. The shape of the corona is typical for the minimum of the 11 year solar activity cycle. The coronal streamers extend to more than 4 solar radii.

Between Venus and the Sun, we see the planet Mercury. Looking around, I can see a 360 degree sunset. The sky all around the horizon is orange.

Then at 3rd contact, a new diamond ring appears, and suddenly it is as if someone switches on the lights. Darkness is over, and the corona will remain invisible until August 1st, 2008. The crowd gives a standing ovation for being part of this wonderful show on the greatest stage on Earth.

the 360 degree "sunset" during totality

All in all an excellent trip, and it was great meeting the people who shared the experience.

We were not alone! It was estimated that some 5,000-10,000 eclipse chasers visited Saloum on 29 March.
The Egyptian authorities had prepared a number of special observation sites.

The arrival of President Mubarak. The President watched the eclipse at about 100 m from our site.

A little Pilipino get-together. In the picture are left and right Sky & Telescope's Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre (both with
eclipse chaser caps), their friend Jun, in the middle the U.S. ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone (formerly U.S.
ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines), and me, between Imelda and the ambassador. I am wearing a shirt of the
Alabang Country Club, where I was a member when I lived in the Philippines from February 1998 until July 2002.

The path of totality - from Brazil to Russia.
 A file with the path in Google Earth format can be downloaded here. Just save the file with *.kml extension, and drag and drop it on Google Earth.

special first day cover with eclipse stamp

The First Day Cover with the special 2006 solar eclipse stamp.
These were handed out at our eclipse site in Saloum. I have scanned this
cover, and have given the original to Fred Espenak.

the pyramids of Gizeh
A panorama of the six pyramids of Gizeh. In the background the ever expanding city of Cairo.


Coming home, and checking the internet statistics, I found that my (this) website absolutely got top hits (500) during 28 and 29 March. From an average of 10-20 hits/day it suddenly jumped to 379! Seems to be a clear indication that people turn to the internet once they hear about an eclipse in the press (radio, TV and newspapers)

The path of totality through Libya, Egypt and Turkey
Eclipse path by Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC

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