Why chase solar eclipses?

By Mark Sukhija

I am an eclipse chaser. One of my most passionate (and expensive) hobbies is to chase total solar eclipses. They've taken me from my Swiss base to Australia, Libya and China. And thats having missed Easter Island due to the economic crisis. Over the next years there'll be eclipses in Australia, Spitzebergen, Indonesia and the United States. And they're NOT just for astronomers. Here, I try to tell you why.

Travel the world

Total solar eclipse as seen in Turkey by Paul Evans of Larne, Northern Ireland Solar eclipses are spectacular opportunities for travel. The 2009 eclipse in China was the longest for over 100 years in a fascinating country. country steeped in history. Although we'll miss Easter Island eclipse this year due to its remoteness in the Pacific Ocean there are oppurtunities to visit well worn destinations like Australia in 2012, and the United States in 2017 less considered destinations such as Spitzbergen in 2015 and Indonesia in 2016 are also great oppurtunities. You don't get a whole lot more diverse than that.

Every eclipse is different

Every eclipse is a different experience - a different in length and location. You will not have the same experience for two consecutive eclipses. At Ceduna on the coast of South Australia in 2002 totality was just over 30 seconds - we viewed the eclipse over the ocean with the magnificent show on the oceans surface reaching land while the birds slept. At Jaghboub in Libya, totality was 4 minutes and, with no buildings in site, we experienced a 360-degree sunset effect. In China in 2009 while the extreme cloud cover obscured the eclipse, birds slept and we experienced one of the most eerie natural environments going. Oh, and we saw the Qiantag River tidal bore shortly afterwards.

Not just for astronomers

Solar eclipses aren't just for astronomers. Of course, professional and amateur astronomers will be there with all their kit to study the eclipse but for those interested in travel there are many oppurtunities too. BUT, a total solar eclipse is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena known to man and, to my mind, impressive enough to make as much effort as possible to see.

Where's the next eclipse?

The next total solar eclipse will be in Australia for the Queensland eclipse in 2012 and we will be spending some time in Brisbane, Cairns and Port Douglas.

Start making investigations for the eclipses in 2015 (Spitzbergen / Faroe Islands), 2016 (Indonesia), 2017 (continental United States) and 2019 (South Pacific / Chile / Argentina). But these latter three are very much in the preliminary stages and really are only being investigated at the moment.

Image reproduced by courtesy of Copyright © 2006 Paul Evans and is rotality in 2006 as seen in Turkey.