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Griffith Observatory

Planetary Society

Mt. Wilson


Subaru Telescope

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1998 Total Solar Eclipse Report (p.2)

I got back into position behind my tripod-mounted camera and with finger at the ready on the cable release to catch the diamond ring, watched the sun become a very thin sliver. And then, without the warning of distinct Bailey's Beads, the diamond ring exploded into view.

I was so stunned that I didn't react quickly enough, and by the time my finger squeezed the shutter, totality had begun. Cheers and wild screams went up from hundreds of people all around me. After removing my solar filter, I was mesmerized by the view of the beautiful and almost shimmering corona I could see through my camera. The delicate streamers extended north and south out to almost two solar diameters and there were several prominences visible at different points around the black disk. I took four shots and then decided to look directly at the sky. I knew that Jupiter and Mercury would show themselves very close to the sun, but when I first looked up, my jaw dropped. What I saw was breathtaking: an utterly black and seemingly (to me, at least) huge disk surrounded by a very bright and almost symmetrical corona, flanked by an incredibly bright Mercury on the upper left and a slightly brighter Jupiter on the lower right. I was so filled with joy and awestruck by this wondrous sight that I couldn't take my eyes off it. Time had stood still.

When I finally came out of my trance, I attempted to capture this scene with my automatic camera, but my hands were shaking so badly that I knew I wouldn't succeed. I took a look around me and noted the pale orange horizon surrounding us. Then, I heard someone say that Montserrat was brightening, so I returned to my tripod and with still shaking hands set the camera for my next exposure of 1/15 sec. A prominence had popped into view on the lower edge and its brightness seemed to intensify as I watched it. I had two more shots planned, 1/8 and 1/4, but just as I squeezed the shutter for the 1/8 sec. exposure, the diamond ring suddenly exploded into view. Amazingly, the corona was still visible for a fraction of a second. And then, it disappeared.

"That was too short," I complained. But the moon took no pity on me and continued on its path away from the sun. It was over. It was the shortest 2 minutes and 45 seconds I had ever experienced. Feeling ashamed of my greed, I thanked Mother Nature for having allowed me to witness this spectacular eclipse and asked that she be as generous to me again next year.

Copyright 1998 by Vivian Zee

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I hope you have enjoyed this account of my Total Solar Eclipse experience. As much as I have tried to describe the sights, sounds and emotions of the experience, mere words can never accurately convey what it is like to actually witness a Total Solar Eclipse. I hope that this account has sparked your interest to have the experience yourself.

This article, and everything you would ever want to know about eclipses, can be found at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Fred Espenak's Eclipse Home Page at:

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