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Solitaire Ring in the Sky

Solar Eclipse
The corona (Sun's atmosphere) as photographed from Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey by John McFarland.
Solar Eclipse
The second diamond ring effect, signalling the end of totality as photographed from Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey by John McFarland.

The recent solar eclipse, visible as a partial eclipse from Northern Ireland, was total across parts of Turkey. The Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (IFAS) organised a trip to Turkey to view totality on 2006 March 29.

There were about 140 participants in the group, including John McFarland of the Armagh Observatory. Most of the members of the group gathered in Amsterdam a few days before flying to Antalya, on the Turkish riviera. The aeroplane flew into Antalya over the beautiful snow-capped Taurus Mountains.

In the few days before the eclipse, the weather was mostly sunny and dry, somewhat similar to our best summer days in Northern Ireland, with maximum temperatures in the low 20s Celsius. However, during the night of Monday, 27th/28th there was a brief storm to the north of the Taurus range, the effects of which could be seen and heard from our hotel in Antalya (intense thunder and lightning).

Eclipse day dawned with an almost totally clear sky, with just a little low cumulus and cirrus cloud. Four coaches collected us from the hotel between 8am and 9am to travel to our prime observation site at Manavgat, some 80km east of Antalya. Arriving at the site at about 9.30am, the group members immediately set about selecting individual viewing spots. The general site was quite close to the Mediterranean Sea, within a just few hundred metres of the coastline. The maximum altitude of the Sun during totality from our site was about 57 degrees, and totality lasted for 3m 41s.

First contact occurred at 12:38pm (local time), in the warm air. By 1:22pm, the air had become noticeably cooler, with a strengthening breeze coming in shallow gusts. From 1:30pm to 1:40pm, the general light level became noticeably subdued. The air became cooler and the wind stronger and cooler. Around 15 minutes before the start of totality the sea turned a darker blue and became slightly calmer.

From then on photography of the moments of totality was the prime objective. We reproduce here some of the results using a 35mm film camera with attached 500mm telephoto lens. 17 images were captured during totality, while still trying to absorb the eclipse spectacle with our unaided eyes.

While making an adjustment to the camera focus, third contact suddenly overtook us, after what seemed like less than a minute of totality. The brilliant diamond ring shone forth and totality had ended.

It is a truly awesome and emotional sight to see a total solar eclipse in a cloudless sky. This super spectacle is one that is firmly imprinted on our minds.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk; URL: star.arm.ac.uk


Last Revised: 2006 April 11th
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