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The Webfooted Astronomer - September 1999

 

Better Luck in Reims

by William Kreuter

My wife and I had arranged to be in Reims, France, starting August 10, which was fortunate planning because the trains and roads were jammed the morning of the August 11 and traffic in the city of Reims (about 10 seconds' worth of totality from the centerline) was restricted.

It turned out that to entertain the throngs, Reims had scheduled an eclipse-time concert in front of its famous medieval cathedral. Jesseye Norman was to sing pop tunes upon third contact. With the concert, uncertain weather prospects, uncertain traffic prospects and other considerations, we decided to observe from the cathedral.

Clouds kept breaking and reforming leading up to second contact. The sun was blocked at second contact, but the sun became visible from about a minute before third until a few seconds after diamond ring. So the visibility matched the weather prospects, about 50 percent for both. Later that day I learned that locations within 20 or so miles of Reims were variously completely clouded out, and completely clear.

I thought that this was a much darker eclipse than The Big One in Mexico. Darkness in 1991 seemed about the same as sunset; August 11 seemed more like the end of civil twilight. Perhaps it was just an effect of the cloudiness. The corona was somewhat unimpressive, at least partly due to the clouds. There were several good prominences.

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