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1994 Nov 03 Total Solar Eclipse
1994 Total Solar Eclipse
This sequence encompasses the entire eclipse from start to finish.
Total Solar Eclipse of 1994 Nov 03 (La Lava, BOLIVIA)

Report - Total Solar Eclipse of 1994 Nov 03

by Fred Espenak (La Lava, BOLIVIA)

In November 1994, I served as tour leader for the Sky & Telescope / Scientific Expeditions trip to Bolivia for the total solar eclipse of 1994 Nov 3. Our expedition of 78 people arrived in Potosi the afternoon before the eclipse. After a pre-eclipse dinner and panel discussion on eclipse viewing and photography, we retired early for the big day ahead. On eclipse morning, we boarded four motor coaches for the 30 mile ride south to our pre-selected observing site. During the ride, we caught glimpses of the southern Milky Way, Crux and Alpha Centauri through the bus windows. We also noted with some concern that light cirrus clouds were also present, especially along the eastern horizon.

Our observing site was located just outside a little town called La Lava at an elevation of 11,500 ft. The site offered an unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. Crillon Tours of Bolivia did a great job preparing the site and equipped it with an mess tent and half a dozen latrines. Furthermore, the police closed the road to other traffic to insure us an uninterrupted view of the eclipse. We arrived at the site at around 5 AM and immediately began setting up our equipment. Totality was to begin at 8:24 AM with the Sun 37 degrees above the eastern horizon.

As the Sun rose, the light cirrus clouds began to increase in thickness. Everyone held their breath. Between 6 and 7 AM, the Sun was occasionally hidden from view behind some of the thicker clouds. Fortunately, the cloud buildup seemed to halt by the time of first contact (7:20:30 local time) and began to dissipate as the partial phases progressed. There was still a thin layer of cirrus present at 8 AM, but everyone was feeling confident that we would see the total phase.

Five minutes before totality, some of our expeditioners could see Venus (8:19 AM). Two minutes prior to second contact, the western sky had become ominous and dark gray with the approach of the Moon's shadow. I noted that the light level was dropping rapidly as I check my video and camera equipment. With one minute left, the Sun had moved into a relatively cloud free part of the sky as I began to remove my solar filters. Thirty seconds before second contact, shadow bands were clearly seen by many in our group.

1994 Diamond Ring
1994 Diamond Ring Effect
The "diamong ring" effect occurs seconds before and after a total eclipse begins and ends.
Celestron 90 (f.l.=1000mm, f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100).
(click for larger photo)

Suddenly, the diamond ring appeared as the great shadow engulfed us. As the last bead of sunlight vanished, the corona blossomed open like some cosmic flower and the crowd gasped. It was a spectacular sunspot minimum corona with a wealth of fine polar brushes at both poles of the Sun. However, they were only noticed after the phenomenal equatorial streamers which were incredibly long and reminiscent of the 1991 July eclipse. The eastern streamer could easily be traced five or six solar radii from the Sun's limb. Jim Manning likened it to a pure white laser beam which seamed to go on and on. The most prominent western streamer was shorter and much narrower. Nevertheless, it could be traced over three radii from the limb.

In spite of the light cirrus, Venus and Jupiter were both prominent, and even Mercury could be seen with a little effort. I had the general impression that this eclipse was darker than 1991 July (Baja, Mexico), although I had no difficulty reading my camera settings. No matter how long a total eclipse is supposed to last, they all seem to end only seconds after they begin! After completing my photographic sequences, I had a whole luxurious ten seconds to observe the corona through the viewfinder of my camera attached to a C90. As third contact approached, I got a spectacular view of the chromosphere which appeared to quickly rise above the Moon's limb. There was one small prominence, but nothing like the great prominences seen in 1991. Suddenly, four or five Baily's beads appeared and abruptly merged to form a blindingly bright crescent as totality ended. Expeditioners immediately began discussing plans for India in 1995!

All my observations were gleaned from stolen glances as I frantically operated three cameras and a video camcorder. One of these days, I'm going to have to just sit back and watch one of these things!

Solar Eclipse Photographs

Copyright Notice

All photographs, text and web pages are © Copyright 1994 by Fred Espenak, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. They may not be reproduced, published, copied or transmitted in any form, including electronically on the Internet or WWW, without written permission of the author. The photos have been digitally watermarked.

The photographs may be licensed for commercial, editorial, and educational use. Contact Espenak (at MrEclipse) for photo use in print, web, video, CD and all other media.

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