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The solar eclipse august 1999


Common about solar eclipses

The solar eclipse in august 11th, 1999, was was particular for several reasons. For me, personally, first of all because it was the total eclipse I've ever experienced. My wife and I decided to go to France to experience it in the totality track zone, to be more specific near the town Laon, app. 100 km. northeast of Paris.

Yet solar eclipses are not a very seldom phenomena. In fact we have seen 224 solar eclipses in the 20th century on the Earth (e.g. excluded year 2000). They are distributed like this in partial, annular, total and hybride eclipses:

Partial: 74

Annular: 73

Total: 71

Hybride: 6.

(Hybrid eclipses are eclipses being annular at some places, and total at other places, dependant on the distance from the Moon to the actual place on Earth).

79 years from 1800 through 1999 had 2 eclipses, 15 years had 3 eclipses, and 4 years had 4 of them (which was the case for year 2000 too, all 4 being partial). One year (1935) had not less than 5 eclipses, of which 4 were partial and 1 annular.

To see more detailed information on solar (and lunar) eclipses, historical as well as future, please try the NASA eclipse home page, edited by Fred Espenak:


In fact it is not just a specifically earthly phenomena, as there of course has to occur solar eclipses on all planets, having moon(s) in an orbit, crossing or coinciding with the ecliptica. See for instance this phantastic solar eclipse on Jupiter,, caused by the Jupiter moon Io.


The solar eclipse 11th of august 1999

As mentioned we went by car from Denmark to France to see the solar eclipse. More specifically, we choosed the city Laon, seen near the center of the middle sphere. And to tell you right away: It was cloudy! Just for a very few minutes, we could see the Sun through the clouds, immidiately before and after the totality, see the picture taken just after the totality. And to make this point even more ennoying, there were almost no clouds at all, just one hour after the totality! Just a bit too late!

However this does not change the fact that the experience was phantastic and thrilling!

Up till the 2nd contact it turned significantly colder, the wind was felt chilly, and the birds were flying confused around, trying to find a place for the "night". Besides there was a very peculiar feeling all over (maybe also due to the excitement?), by us as well as by the other observers in the area.

And then - very suddenly - it was felt as if someone just switched the light all off. It turned completely dark. In the distance at the city of Laon, we saw the automatic street lights and commercial neon-light signs turn on, only disturbed by hundreds of camera-flashes, which have been unable to be disabled (and which only are disturbing the experience for the near by persons).

Then - suddenly, e.g. after app. 2 minutes - we could from the west see something like a glow of dawn (in quite a wrong direction for dawn). And a few seconds later we had the 3rd contact, and it turned immidiately to daylight. That is at least what the eyes experience, as the pupils are widely open after the total darknes.

The birds woke up again, deeply confused over the shortest night they have ever seen. Once again they flew around in large flocks, just after they had found their trees to spend the night in. And then it is all over. 1200 kilometers, of which the latest 100 in endless queues, have given their outcome: An outstanding experience - but "unfortunately" habit-forming for the rest of your life.

This is how it looked at 12.30 PM:

And this is how it looked at 12.32 PM:

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