Total Solar Eclipse 2006 - Mission to Libya

J.-L. Dighaye, M. Rudolf

EurAstro 2006 - SPSE & TSE Libya

by Jean-Luc Dighaye

1. Background

EurAstro sent a team of 5 persons to Libya for observing the
ASE of 03 October 2005 . The original project was to come back, this time with 12 persons, at the same place to observe the TSE of 29 March 2006, and re-do the Eddington experiment pertaining to Sun-induced star light bending. Libyan authorities decided otherwise: our tour operator of 2005 was denied the right to organise the 2006 tour, and our group was disbanded. Eventually, Dr. Manfred Rudolf and myself booked with Winzrik, the official - and very expensive - operator in the region of Waw an Namus. However, an exceptional event would make our expedition worth its price: Sebha University's International Symposium "Solar Physics & Solar Eclipse", held at the very same place of the TSE observations, with a scientific part organised by Prof. Stenflo and Dr. Shalabiea, in which Prof. Al-Naimiy played an instrumental role as to international cooperation. About 60 other scientists and eclipse observers took part in the SPSE.

2. Transportation and Accommodation

The Libyan military helped us reach Waw al Kebir by plane, then Waw an Namus by helicopter. In spite of a recent dust storm, everything was ready for us when we arrived at the SPSE on 27 March in the morning, thanks to the efforts of Rob Schreuders, helped by his wife and Xavier Jubier. Attendees had huts with beds and power supply in them, toilets and showers outside, and wireless Internet connection. A large, well-decorated tent housed the SPSE adjacent to a dining tent.

Unloading the plane...

...and loading the helicopter

SPSE opens

SPSE audience

3. Around the SPSE

I gave two lectures, one on the Eddington experiment and another one on recent eclipse missions. Attendees asked further questions about safe eclipse viewing. The Libyan television interviewed me; so did ZDF and RAI reporters. Manfred and I organised stargazing parties, not only around midnight after the lectures - Saturn, Jupiter and star clusters were shown - but also at dawn (Venus) and after dusk (artificial satellites, zodiacal light). "I learned a lot with you!" said Prof. Nussbaumer.
Manfred took a day off and went to the Waw an Namus volcano by helicopter - landing inside the crater was a premiere!

Libyan interview

Waw an Namus

4. Eclipse Observations

The weather could hardly have been better on eclipse day (which was also my birthday - 29 March): perfectly clear sky, and a fresh breeze (temperature 21 at mid-eclipse) devoid of sand particles. Now, about 3000 eclipse chasers had gathered around the camp, and everybody re-checked their equipment. Thanks to Manfred's perfectly prepared multi-camera set-up, I even had some spare seconds, during this 4-minute deep totality, to aim stabilised binoculars at the Sun. I thought I saw earthshine - and I was right: even unprocessed pictures reveal conspicuous lunar features.
We were further involved in Landon Noll's search for Vulcanoid project . First results appear promising.

Post-eclipse activities were done in a rush, since I wanted to show, only 2 hours after the eclipse, our first images at the SPSE closing session, after e-mailing EurAstro executives and before preparing DVDs for the SPSE organisers.

Before & after totality

Totality with fisheye

Earthshine and corona

5. Back in Tripoli

On 30 March, the military sent us an armada of helicopters and biplanes for transportation back to Waw al Kebir, where a quadrireactor cargo then took us back to Tripoli. Like in 2005, we stayed at Prof. Carriere's delightful private quarters - where I prepared a final slide show presented at the Italian Cultural Institute on 01 April - and visited the National Museum, Leptis Magna, Villa Silin and other touristic highlights.

Flowers at Leptis Magna

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