Gallery Report
Programmer: Bill Kramer
Last update: April 17 2015
Eclipse Chaser
(noun) - Anyone that wants to see a total solar eclipse.

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Total Solar Eclipse 1999

One of the most anticipated solar eclipses of the 20th century took place August 11 1999. The last eclipse of the century, the last eclipse of the millennium, and crossing Europe - many people pinned their hopes on seeing this one. Unfortunately for those in Europe, much of the eclipse path was clouded out. Things were much better in Turkey and Iran for viewing the eclipse with clear blue sky.

Some people got lucky, very lucky - as in the report that follows


-by Bill Kramer

The day started nice and clear in Gernlinden (a small town outside of Munich where we were staying) but it was not long after we departed for our eclipse site in Altomunster that the questions started to come up as to if we would see the eclipse. Altomunster is a small town to the north east of Augsburg and we had selected a site to the south east of town. This location put us about 500 meters off the centerline at most and would permit the longest possible viewing of the total phase of the eclipse.

The only problem would be the weather. When we first started planning this eclipse trip we knew the weather was a dice-roll anyway. At best we figured we had a 50-50 chance of seeing the eclipse and in the week before the eclipse day the weather predictions were not looking good. In fact, they looked terrible with a probability of seeing the eclipse at about 20% at best. But we had selected Germany for more than just weather; the food was excellent (and the beer), everything was very modern and comfortable, and we visiting many interesting sites including Neuschwanstein castle, Augsburg, Munich, The Deutsches Museum, and the Fraunhofersche Glashutte museum and workshop. All of these places are rich in history and fascinating to visit.

The local weather reports would always add that with luck one might be able to get a glance at the eclipse. I've always considered my self to be lucky and I thought we had a very good chance. It was simply a matter of sitting tight and letting it work out in our favor. A great deal of faith was needed and with just a few exceptions, I was getting that from our group...

We arrived at our eclipse site, a soccer sports facility with a well groomed soccer field, two practice fields, and a club house. The site had been selected by local German astronomers as one of a dozen choices for groups to set up and our group had made further arrangments with the operators of the sports field to have the club house open so that restrooms would be available as well as food for lunch. I had watched this area (and the other choices) via satellite images and had seen that the local micro climates were chaotic at best. But this one little area seemed to have more sunshine than the other choices when historical weather data was studied. That was just the edge we would need.

We shot partial phase pictures through the light haze and hoped the situation would improve. Afterall, it had been a nice clear day just a few hours ago! I went inside the club house and asked if the television could be turned on and watched a very bad weather report for our area. There were scattered rain showers all over and the cloud deck was getting thicker.

Shortly after the image of first contact was taken, it started to rain and the situation looked bleak at best. There were two cloud decks above us, a thin one very high up and a thicker one that was low and threatened rain.

We covered our equipment with plastic and headed for shelter. The sky was mostly cloudy with some small blue holes. The weather in Bavaria is always questionable according to the natives - much like Ohio. But it didn't look too good when the equipment was covered over and the rain was falling! The locals seemed to think it would blow over quickly and they were right.

The rain continued for about ten minutes and then stopped but the wind kept blowing nicely. I say nicely because that means that the clouds will be blown away and maybe a clear spot would come along. Not everyone was optomistic and some wanted to try for another location - but I first assured them we would see the eclipse and then asked them what they might suggest. One or two were concerned that we had no backup location but I had informed everyone travelling with me that the only reason to run to a new spot would be if a definite front was moving in. The weather was chaotic and there were not easy to find fronts - so we stayed put.

Soon a small blue hole in the clouds could be seen to the west working it's way towards us. Suddenly things were looking much better! Our group was spread out on one of the practice soccer fields and we quickly finished the preparations of our equipment as the blue hole crept towards us. It was not too big, but it looked like it would be big enough.

For the days proceeding the eclipse everyone was very interested in the weater reports and I tried to keep them informed with as much detail as I could muster. But it seemed that every TV station had a different prognosis and that every radio and newspaper liked to the follow that trend too. It appeared to me as if they were simply guessing. When I asked some locals what weather reporting they listen too I was told that they didn't. Seems they are like horoscopes to most, interesting if you are looking for something silly to read or listen too! The Bavarian weather does what it wants was one comment I heard from several locals.

The blue hole in the clouds seemed to grow slightly as it approached and at first it looked liked it would blow past us just a few minutes too soon - but then the wind stopped and the hole stayed above us during the entire total phases (2nd to 3rd contact). After the total eclipse, the hole moved on and a rain storm was on us in about 20 minutes.

Links to external websites

Joe Rao - from the Atlantic Ocean
Flying over France

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