EurAstro Solar Eclipse Mission to Australia December 2002

J.-L. Dighaye

After having toured Chile and its observatories, an EurAstro team, comprising our astronomy specialists Jean-Luc Dighaye and Henri Beuchat, a freelance journalist (Étienne Gillig), plus two tourists, went to Australia. Here a brief description of our activities:

Dec 1: we visited Mt Stromlo - a daytime visit of the telescopes including the heliostat, and an observation evening with the historic 9" refractor.

Dec 2: we attended a session of the Canberra Planetarium and saw their telescopes. Then, in Adelaide, we met Dr. Uri Scelwyn, an active amateur astronomer and manager of our eclipse tour.

Dec 3: after some sightseeing in Adelaide, we asked for the last eclipse information and tips at the University's planetarium and we made an eclipse rehearsal.

Dec 4: we took a private plane to Kondoolka, where the farmers had made any possible efforts for us to have a pleasant and well-organised stay. We made for the eclipse site indicated by Uri, deploying our stuff at 31.82611°S 134.62344°E exactly. Weather was much cooler than expected, no more than 25°C with strong breeze and wind gusts - we had to bury our tripod legs in the sand.

At eclipse time, the sky was almost completely clear with just some scattered clouds towards the horizon. We took eclipse pictures with 135mm, 300mm and (1000mm & flat-field-converter x3.43) focal lengths, and videos with a digital camcorder behind a x30 telescope, and an unattended camcorder.

We believe that the "natural flash spectrum", namely the solar chromosphere turned into a rainbow by differential atmospheric refraction in view of the Sun's low altitude, was recorded in our high magnification images. See a colour-enhanced sample below. The corona was cushion-shaped, as noticed visually and on the 300mm pictures. Due to uneven terrain, we did not attempt to record shadow bands. We did not see Mercury with the naked eye.

Sunset with the partial phase still in progress was superb, anomalous dispersion providing strange shapes with lots of green flashes. After dark, a barbecue and a star party had been organised - but we were too tired and too frigorified to really enjoy them...

Dec 5: we came back to Adelaide, proceeding to Sydney in the evening - we saw the "new Moon" from the plane!

Dec 6: at dawn, we saw Venus rising above the Opera (we had optimised our hotel location for that "conjunction"). After some tourism (including old Sydney's observatory), we spent the evening at the Opera - Swan Lake, if you want to know; however, I was more interested in taking ultra-wide-field pictures outside, including the setting Moon.

Dec 7: we could not see Venus any more since we were "smoked out" - indeed, Sydney was engulfed in the smoke of those catastrophic bush fires. So, it was time for gastronomic (pun intended) activities, and for coming back to Europe.

Below we present some images of the eclipse. Click on the thumbnail to see the full picture:

Pictures with 3.43m focal length: (J.-L. Dighaye):

The "Natural Flash Spectrum" at t2

Chromosphere and prominences

Chromosphere and inner corona

Diamond Ring after t3

The "Natural Flash Spectrum" after T3

Setting of the partially eclipsed Sun
notice the airplane!

Setting of the partially eclipsed Sun,
with a "Green Flash"

Pictures with 300 mm focal length (É. Gillig):

Baily's Beads before t2


Diamond Ring after t3

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