An Eclipse That Stunk
The dust cloud in the skies above Hawaii from Mount Pinatubo hardly inconvenienced most eclipse watchers on July Ilth. However, during the eclipse of August 9, 1896, observers at Vasdo in Norway were assailed by atmospheric pollution of another sort. Pioneer balloonist and amateur astronomer Gertrude Bacon lamented that phenomenon in her Memories of Land and Sky:
During the week we spent there we all understood why it is not a tourist resort. At the back of the town is a guano factory; flanking it are establishments where they boil down whales and manufacture cod-liver oil. . . . From our ship the whiffs of Vasdo, which proudly boasts itself the centre of the fish-drying trade, were strong enough to wake us at night, and suffering astronomers would complain that they had no idea that a total eclipse could smell so strong.
The eclipse — all 106 seconds of it — was clouded out.
KENNETH WEITZENHOFFER 101 Clark St., Apt. HE Brooklyn, N. Y. 11201
I am undertaking a project in an attempt to catalogue what the July Ilth eclipse meant to observers. Readers who wish to participate can send me their name, home address, phone number, and viewing location. Please grant me permission to use your material (if it is selected). Then, using S'/a-by-ll-inch sheets of paper, communicate your reactions in any combination of creative writing (metaphor, analogy, rhyme, poem, short story, or song) or illustration (photograph, artwork, or cartoon).
Send your material to the address below. Submissions will be edited and compiled for publication. The author of each submission chosen will be credited for his or her work.
ERIC FLESCHER 3024 Flint Dr. Lawrence, Kan. 66047
Mauna Kea's good fortune to be in the path of totality on July Ilth inspired me to search for other observatories that will have similar luck in the future. For any given place on Earth's surface, observa-
tory or not, a total solar eclipse is a very rare event. Using the accurate elements from Jean Meeus' Elements of Solar Eclipses (Willmann-Bell, 1989), I determined that during the next 100 years such sites as Kitt Peak and Mauna Kea will not experience totality or even annularity.
Nevertheless, some of the 30 other observatories I examined fared better. Perhaps the most intriguing event will occur on July 2, 2019, when the center of the lunar shadow will pass about halfway between Chile's Cerro Tololo and La Silla, which are the homes of two major astronomical installations. Cerro Tololo will see the Sun totally eclipsed for 125 seconds and La Silla for 116 seconds, with a 77-second overlap.
On April 8, 2024, Ohio's Perkins Observatory will be covered by the Moon's shadow for nearly 3 minutes, and "only" 75 years later on September 14, 2099, for more than 4 minutes. During the latter eclipse, Wisconsin's Yerkes will have 1.5 minutes of darkness, Pennsylvania's Allegheny will perhaps get a few seconds at the path's northern limit, and West Virginia's Green Bank will have 4.5 minutes.
Others I discovered are summarized below:
Date Observatory Duration
July 22, 2028 Siding Spring 2.8 min.
Apr. 30, 2060 Byurakan 1.5
Apr. 4, 2061 Crimean (Siméis) 1.7
Sep. 3, 2081 Paris (Meudon) 3.2
Sep. 23, 2090 Paris (Meudon) 2.7
Apr. 21, 2098 Zelenchukskaya 1.7
ANDREAS DILL Geldenaaksevest 44 B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
The July solar eclipse reminded me of a remarkable passage from the autobiography of William Lyon Phelps, who taught English at Yale from 1896 to 1933. Astronomy was one of his enthusiasms, and in his Autobiography with Letters (Oxford University Press, 1938) he describes his trip to Canada to see the solar echpse of 1932 and then continues:
Through illness 1 had missed the eclipse of 1925; it was a terrible disappointment; and yet there are educated people who care nothing for eclipses. Some otherwise intelligent friends of mine left New York the day before that eclipse, when they could easily have waited. And
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November, !1991, Sky & Telescope 451