Thursday, March 30, 2006
Eclipse at Jalu South Camp
We have returned from the Jalu South Camp through Benghazi to Tripoli. The eclipse was a tremendous success, with the weather being absolutely perfect. Our RASC group arrived the day before the eclipse and claimed our tents in the Sahara Desert at the camp. There were perhaps 500-1,000 people at our camp, and I could see at least two other camps nearby. Everyone was pretty excited to finally be at our destination - the reason for our long journey. After some supper, most of us adjourned to a coffee shop setup in the desert, and shot the breeze for awhile, then retired to bed. We were all tired after being on the road in the bus for 8 hours. Along the way down, we went through multiple check points. Security has been high for this trip - we have a Tourist Police aboard our bus at all time, as well as our Numidia Tours guide and our driver. The Libyans are taking no chances of any "tourist incidents" happening for this Solar Eclipse event! The following morning, everyone was well-rested and ready to go. First thing was equipment checks and setup. We had lots of curious Libyans and fellow campers (from around the world) asking us questions about ourselves, our equipment, and (in the case of the Libyans) what we thought of their country. The atmosphere was very energized, and we had two weathermen with us, as well as a half dozen experienced eclipse chasers who I found personally very helpful. As we counted down to First Contact, people were really getting excited. Finally, "first contact" was shouted out, and we all looked up to see the first chunk of the Sun being eclipsed by the Moon. What a strange site! Over the next few minutes more and more of the Sun was eclipsed, until we could feel the temperature of the Saharan heat start to drop. Next came a strange change in the colour of the surrounding light. As things started to darken more, the temperature also dropped more - a total of 7 or 8°C by the end. At Second Contact, the Moon totally elipses the Sun, and the Diamond Ring (see my image above) appears for a brief few seconds, closely followed by Baily's Beads and solar flares. What a site, and it happens so quickly! Then for 4 minutes we have the total eclipse to enjoy and photograph. The Sun's corona was magificent, flowing outward from the Sun in huge streamers. I was taking photographs all through the sequence, and will have several more to share on my website once I return home. The full eclipse phase is so strange, since no solar filters are needed to observe the Sun while fully-eclipsed by the Moon. Too soon we came to Third Contact, where we have to again use solar filters, since the energy of the Sun is now at full strength. Some of our group observed until Fourth Contact, making observations along the way. Being less dedicated, I stopped photographing during this phase, and just enjoyed the occasional glance at the eclipsed sun through my binoculars. A solar eclipse can be enjoyed in many ways - direct observation, photography, and observing changes in the light and wildlife in the area, or just sharing the experience with others. We have a great group, with everyone helping each other to enjoy the experience. We did a fair bit of abassadorship for Canada, the RASC, and astronomy in general - Sidewalk Astronomy in the Sahara!