November 23 total solar eclipse to be visible only from Antarctica
The sun will be total eclipsed for about 2 minutes on November 23, but only a few people and lots of penguins will see it. Totality, when the moon entirely hides the sun, will be visible only from a narrow path over Antarctica and the adjacent ocean. Two chartered aircraft will overfly Antarctica in the eclipse path, one icebreaker is carrying passengers to the zone, and a handful of others will participate in additional expeditions.
Prof. Jay M. Pasachoff of Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, will be on one one of the aircraft, a Qantas Boeing 747-400 flying out of Melbourne, Australia, for a 14-hour nonstop roundtrip. He is working with Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory to image the eclipse electronically, with the equipment mounted on a gyro platform for stability. Pasachoff is providing a detector from the Santa Barbara Instrument Group. The event will be Pasachoff’s 37th solar eclipse. He is Chair of the Working Group on Eclipses of the International Astronomical Union. Williams undergraduate Zophia Edwards ’05 will participate in the expedition. The airplane expedition has been arranged by Croydon Travel, a Melbourne, Australia, agency that specializes in Antarctic tourism.
The eclipse will be 18 degrees above the visible horizon from the plane, and only the passengers on one side will be able to view the event. Other seats on the plane have been sold just for Antarctic tourism, to defray the overall cost. Totality will last over 2 minutes 30 seconds, compared with under 2 minutes at ground sites.
A chartered Lan Chile Airbus 340 will fly out of Punta Arenas, Chile, sponsored by Sky & Telescope Magazine and Travelquest International. They will overfly the south pole, and will intercept the eclipse a few hundred kilometers from the Melbourne flight. They have sold only the seats on the eclipse side.
A former Russian icebreaker, converted to tourist use for about 100 passengers, left Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on December 5, and will be at sea 28 days. The eclipse will be only 2 degrees above the horizon in the sky when viewed. Quark Expeditions of Australia has arranged the trip.
Astronomical Tours and ICstars of Kansas City, Missouri, have arranged a land tour on the Antarctic ice after flying in to the Russian base at Novolazarevskaya.
Expeditions from Russia, Switzerland, and India will also observe the eclipse from Antarctica. NHK TV, the Japanese public television system, is making an HDTV documentary and broadcast of totality.
The airplanes will intercept totality at about 22:40 Universal Time (formerly Greenwich Mean Time), which corresponds to 5:40 pm on Sunday, November 23, New York time, and to 9:40 am on Monday, November 24, Melbourne, Australia, time..
A partial eclipse will be visible from Australia and New Zealand, with approximately 60% coverage in Perth and diminishing coverage to the northeast.
Information about the eclipse is available at http://www.eclipses.info, Pasachoff’s site for the International
Astronomical Union. See also Schneider’s site at http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_03/ECLIPSE_03.html.
Antarctic eclipses recur with an interval of 18 years 11 1/3 days, a period known as the saros with which similar eclipses recur. The eclipse of November 12, 1985, was largely over the Southern Ocean and barely touched the Antarctic continent. The November 2, 1967, eclipse was total over only a small bit of Southern Ocean, and began this series of total eclipses. Nobody at all saw these two preceding total eclipses. The series will continue over Antarctica on December 4, 2021, and December 15, 2039.
Williams College Press Release