Observing is the Heart of
Serving the Amateur
ONLINE Since 1996
The AAAA Online Store
Join the AAAA
Arp CCD Images
The AAAA Online Store
Join the AAAA
Site Table of Contents
to Astronomy Sites
Fight Light Pollution
Be Part of the Solution
from the Astronomical League
from the AAAA
Press Releases and News Updates
Overview of Astronomy
A Concise Guide to the Universe
American Association of Amateur Astronomers
AAAA Mission Statement
AL Observing Programs in Adobe Acrobat
Join the AAAA's FREE Online
Discussion Group, Hosted by Yahoo's eGroups Service
P.O. Box 7981
Dallas, TX 75209-0981
Kit from David Chandler Company
it Now or Find
by Ernie Piini
San Jose, CA
E W PIINI@aol.com
Past 3rd contact, magnified 2.5x, taken 60 km east of Geraldton, Western Australia, using
C-90 telescope (f/11) and Pentax ZX-5 camera body using Fuji Sensia 100 film, 1/2000 second exposure. Note the
Lunar Profile showing beads cause by the lunar valleys and mountains. Photo copyright by Ernie Piini, San Jose
Ca. Special copywork by Dr. Jacques Guertin.
Of the three types of solar eclipses that occur--partial, annular and total, I consider a total the best . So
why travel 12,000 miles to see a second rate annular (Ring type) eclipse? I did, because on three previous tries
my views were obscured partially or totally by clouds. In 1994 in Southern California, for instance, a marine layer
of clouds marred that annular eclipse at sunset. However, if I were to cut and paste strips from my photographs
of that event I would end up with a perfect ring. The chance of seeing a perfectly clear annular in Australia was
I flew the usual grueling 13 plus hour flight to Sydney and then on to Perth where I teamed up with Joe Cali, who
lives in Canberra and whom I met at the 1995 total eclipse in Bolivia.
We spent Saturday morning Feb. 13 looking for another hotel room because we lost our first room due to Valentines
Day. This day is very popular in Australia and rooms become a premium. Later, we got to see a little of Perth,
a beautiful city with an interesting skyline and the colorful and nearby Swan River meandering through.
We took a 30-minute boat ride over to Rottnest Island, discovered by the Dutch in 1696. They found an abundance
of what they thought were rats and named the Island Ratnest. But when they realized the mammals, now called Quokkas,
were actually four times larger than rats, the Island was renamed Rottnest. This historic island, attached to the
mainland eons ago, is a photographer's paradise and a haven for cyclist with its rugged terrain and deep blue coastal
waters of the Indian Ocean. It is a must visit when in Perth. Adjoining Perth is Fremantle, the site of the America's
Cup yacht race several years ago.
On Sunday, Valentines Day, we rented a car and drove north 425km (255 miles) to Geraldton, a city on the coast.
We arrived early in the afternoon and took time to investigate possible eclipse sites. Joe Cali had an excellent
map of that area complete with fences and RR tracks noted. We checked out three locations and with the aid of my
Global Positioning System (GPS) decided on a centerline position about 60 km (36 miles) east of Geraldton in the
Australian outback--complete with plenty of sweat-seeking flies, red and black ants, and some wind. The ants come
out of their holes in the late afternoon and early morning.
uesday, we packed a lunch, cold drinks, and our equipment and headed for our site around 11 a.m. Peter and Evon
Anderson from Brisbane soon joined us. The four of us had the entire site to ourselves except for a billion flies.
The temperature was 105 °F when I set up my equipment under the shade of a tree. I was still calibrating my
clocks and telescope when Peter announced first contact. It was sooner than the 2:30 p.m. prediction I had jotted
down earlier. Despite fighting the flies and acclimating to the heat, we finally had everything under control.
There was just a slight, pleasing and welcome breeze.
For this eclipse I mounted a Celestron C-90 telescope and my Canon AE-2000 camcorder side-by-side on a Takahashi
Sky-Patrol equatorial mount. I used a Pentax ZX-5 camera body with a remote controlled cable coupled to the C-90
telescope. I used Fuji Sensia-100 transparency film for exposures of 1/2000th second.
It is a great feeling to have nothing but clear blue skies on eclipse day. As the partial eclipse progressed towards
annularity, the surrounding sky became a deep blue with the planets Venus and Jupiter sparkling to the East. At
last, the first of my four annulars to be perfectly clear!
Third Contact, when the ring begins to break up, was recorded at 3:29:09 p.m. According to my video record,
annularity lasted for 28-seconds.
As for animal behavior, the big thing I noticed were the appearance of ants all over the ground as the eclipse
progressed. Few were around before this event.
The temperature decreased from 105 °F to 88 °F just after third contact for a total drop of 17 °F.
No humidity recordings were attempted.
The winds were a mild 5-10 mph throughout the period up through annularity, but increased to about 50 mph about
4 minutes later. Thank God it did not appear before then as it would have seriously hampered my results.
That evening, NASA's Fred Espenak hosted a post eclipse dinner at the Skeeta's Garden Restaurant in Geraldton.
Present were about 100 eclipse chasers from various parts of the world. Of great interest, besides the delicious
dinner, was the attention Fred received. He was the celebrity and many people jockeyed for a chance to shake his
hand and have their photo taken with him. I've known Fred for over 25 years and have been to several eclipses with
him during our early involvement with eclipse chasing. He has generously provided me with valuable information
about future eclipses to include in my books and anything else I asked for. He is a real personal friend and I'm
happy to see him become the respected astronomy legend he has.
Wednesday, February 17, we headed north to an area called Sharks Bay World Heritage about 400 km (240 miles) north
of Geraldton. Our first stop was Hamlin Pool where beds of Stromatolites lie on the beach. These are some of the
oldest living organisms in our world and began their reef like buildup a billion years ago. Close by are beaches
filled with small shells which have coalesced into solid, rock-like formations and are now being sawed into blocks
and used for building.
Further north at Monkey Mia, wild dolphins interact with people for food. Visitors line the beach from 9 to 11,
a.m. and again at 1 p.m. to see about a half-dozen selected people walk out a few feet into the sea to hand-feed
a dolphin a fish. I spotted about eight bottle nose dolphins in this group.
Thursday we began our return journey. We stopped overnight at the Kalbarri National Park to study ancient red
rock formations along canyons and sea cliffs. Interesting color changes on the scenery occur at sunrise and sunset
and are a delight to watch.
On Friday afternoon we were treated to an interesting sight of upright stone formations known as "Pinnacles
of the Desert" near the town of Cervantes. Here a forest of trees washed away leaving only the roots which
petrified in an upright position. As eons passed, limestone formed around the roots and became groves of standing
stones. I felt like I was in nature's stonehenge. Each stone was of different shape and size ranging from a one
foot to eight feet tall. Long shadows cast by the setting sun made the scene even more dramatic.
The biggest treat outside of seeing the dramatic "Ring-of-Fire" on Tuesday was another view of the
Southern Skies. It is so dark in the outback of Western Australia that the view of the night sky is unbelievable.
The Southern Milky Way with the Southern Cross, Eta Carina, Alpha and Beta Centaurus, embedded in it (to name a
few) is like seeing heaven. The Magellanic Clouds, large and small, do look like clouds. Our Northern constellations
Orion and Leo appear high in the sky, upside down. I love those skies down under.
The roads we traveled were mostly two-lane. In the on coming lane, three-trailer "truck trains" pass
by with a gush of wind nearly pushing you off the road. It's scary. And you hope that a kangaroo does not leap
out in front of you as you drive these lonely stretches. We saw dead "roos" lying in the middle of the
road and wondered how the cars involved made out. I did some driving on the "wrong side of the road"
but mostly in the outback. I remembered my previous trip to Australia for the 1993 Transit of Mercury with friend
Joe Shrock. Dead tired after a 13-hour flight to Sydney, we rented a car for our trip to Canberra. I lost the coin
flip and got to learn how to drive "on the wrong side." Within 20 minutes I had an accident in Sydney.
I was trying to make a left turn from the inside lane. The young lady I hit was very nice to us. She helped us
get to the police station for our report and later to the airport to pick up another car. She even sent us a Christmas
card that year.
Saturday Morning, February 20 began at 4 a.m. as Joe Cali and I both had early flights out of Perth. We bade farewell
and headed home on our separate paths. I once again "Waltzed my Matilda (telescope)" and new found memories
back to California.
Observing Awards. Quarterly Newsletter. Astronomy News and
Join the American Association
of Amateur Astronomers.
Use your credit card or send your name and address along
with your check for $20.00 ($25.00 family) made payable to AAAA, to:
The American Association of Amateur Astronomers
is a Supporter of The Astronomical League
SEDS - Students for the Exploration
and Development of Space
P.O. Box 7981, Dallas, TX 75209-0981
Counter reset October 2005
Copyright © 1996-2016 by The American Association of Amateur Astronomers -
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED