ISSUE 1540 Friday 13 August 1999

Astronomers baffled by dark streaks across sky

By Aisling Irwin, Science Correspondent, in Guernsey

ASTRONOMERS admitted yesterday that they are unable to explain a strange phenomenon which appeared in the sky just before and after the total eclipse.

Long, dark streaks across the sky baffled watchers, including people on the Channel Island of Alderney. BBC Radio Guernsey was inundated with calls yesterday morning from those who had witnessed them. One caller said she had taken a video recording, but when she watched the tape later, the streaks had vanished.

Prof Donald Lynden-Bell, an astronomer at Cambridge University, said the bands appeared at right angles to the direction of the Moon's shadow. He said: "It appeared to be a line across the sky and a darkening of the cloud about two fingers wide. It struck me as odd."

Prof Mark Bailey, director of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said: "I haven't seen anything in the literature that could explain it." Prof Lynden-Bell witnessed the spectacle some 20 minutes before totality, and saw another band which stretched two thirds of the way across the sky after totality.

Prof Phil Charles, of Oxford University, said: "I was taking wide-angle pictures, looking with my 17mm lens, and I saw this dark band that went across a large fraction of the sky. It puzzled me because it was roughly perpendicular to the direction of the Moon's shadow."

Paul Sutherland, of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: "It was very strange. I didn't know what they were and I have been an amateur astronomer for years." Some reported that the bands sank gradually downwards.

Dr Simon Mitton, astronomy specialist at Cambridge University Press, said the bands must have been shadows cast on to the low cloud by condensation trails from the two Concordes which tracked the path of the eclipse. "The uneclipsed Sun is very, very bright and normally there is insufficient contrast for you to see the shadow of a high cloud being cast on a lower one.

"The Sun's brightness is greatly turned down because of an eclipse - which makes the contrast easier. Nobody has ever reported seeing this in an eclipse. It is a rare meteorological phenomenon."

But Dr Helen Walker, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, in Oxfordshire, who saw four bands, dismissed this theory. She said: "This was a uniform band of shadow and there was no shearing. You might get one such trail, but not four." She believes it resulted from ice crystals forming in the upper atmosphere due to the sudden drop in temperature.

12 August 1999: At 55,000ft, Concorde offers only right wing views

ISSUE 1539

Thursday 12 August 1999

At 55,000ft, Concorde offers only right wing views

By Christine McGourty

Concorde - British Airways

British Airways

Two minutes to last a lifetime

IT was billed as the best way to ensure a cloud-free eclipse.

Sure enough, at 55,000ft we were well above the clouds. It was the Concorde cabin that was the problem. The windows were tiny and the eclipse could only be seen from one side of the plane.

Before take-off there was a rehearsal of the seat-switching that had to be performed to get those on the left hand side of the plane over to the right and back twice during totality, to ensure everyone got a a good view. Two British Airways Concordes had been chartered to fly out to the mid-Atlantic and back. Each held 100 passengers, most of them paying £1,550 for the ride.

On board, excitement grew and the skies darkened as the plane reached the point mid-Atlantic where it was to turn round and chase the eclipse back eastwards to Europe. Flying at 1,350mph, Concorde could chase totality for eight minutes or more, flying in formation with its partner plane one mile below.

There was a stunning view of the partial eclipse. But it wasn't easy to see, appearing quite small and so high in the sky that many people were on their knees between their own seat and the one in front, twisting their necks round and peering up out of the tiny window. Totality was something it seemed only the lucky ones were able to witness.

Prof John Beckman, an astronomer with the Canary Astrophysical Institute in Tenerife, was one of the lucky ones, and even he wasn't totally satisfied. He said: "Because of the small windows and the angle, you could never get your eye in the right position to see totality while the plane was in level flight.

"It was only when it did a few wiggles in the air that you could see totality. Luckily, I happened to be at the window on one of those occasions, so I saw about 10 seconds of totality. It was obviously disappointing and I'd hoped to see several minutes."

Babs Elvins from Dorset, in her eighties, was pleased with what she witnessed: "I saw it, but with great difficulty. I had to lie on my backside nearly to see it, but at least I've seen it so I'm happy."

The chief pilot, Capt Mike Bannister, said chasing a fast-moving eclipse path was never going to be easy. "But I think the real thing was actually being there and from every seat on the aircraft could see the drama of the moon's shadow overtaking us and everyone I talked to after the flight said they really enjoyed it."

Christine McGourty is the Technology Correspondent of BBC News

9 August 1999: But it's a sell-out at 25,000ft - for those who can afford it 8 August 1998: Concorde to race eclipse of the sun at 58,000ft

ISSUE 1536

Monday 9 August 1999

But it's a sell-out at 25,000ft - for those who can afford it

By Adam Lusher

Concorde -

British Airways


Black cloud looms over the eclipse

WHILE many have decided to give Cornwall's eclipse celebrations a miss, there has been no shortage of takers for luxurious trips to farther-flung destinations in its path, including the Black Sea and Bucharest, and aboard Concorde.

British Airways said yesterday all 200 seats, costing £1,500 each, to chase the eclipse on one of two Concordes sold out six months ago. A spokesman said: "They went within a matter of weeks. Those lucky enough to get them were more than willing to pay. They will be the first people in Britain to see the eclipse, and as they are at least 25,000ft above the clouds they are guaranteed to see it, whatever the weather."

The two aircraft will fly together about 1,000 miles west of the Cornish coast before turning to race the eclipse at twice the speed of sound. The BA spokesman said: "Because Concorde can fly so fast, everyone on board should be able to see the total eclipse for three times longer than almost anybody else. It should be unforgettable."

Airlines said their flights to Bucharest, where the eclipse will reach its peak, sold out long ago. The Romanian capital will enjoy a total eclipse for two minutes 23 seconds, and its chances of an unobscured view are almost the reverse of Cornwall's. The latest estimates say there is an 80 per cent chance of cloud in Cornwall on Wednesday, and as much as a 70 per cent chance Bucharest will have clear skies.

The city is making the most of its unprecedented opportunity, and on Wednesday evening Pavarotti is due to sing against the backdrop of the People's Palace. A spokesman for the Bucharest Hilton said some wealthy British and American corporate clients had booked rooms a year in advance, paying up to £420 a night.

He said: "All our rooms are booked and there is a waiting list. VIPs have been phoning for rooms and asking us to buy tickets for the concert at the same time. Of course I don't know the reasons for every visit, but I would guess the eclipse has a lot to do with it. It has generated a great amount of interest."

Luxury cruise ships are also heavily booked, with eclipse watchers opting to combine their viewing with cruises to such destinations as Miami, Venice and the Black Sea. The Norway, a four-star transatlantic liner, left Southampton yesterday with most of its 2,200 berths filled.

On Wednesday, the Norway will join its sister ship the Norwegian Sky, enjoying its maiden voyage and full to capacity, in the Atlantic to watch the eclipse on its line of totality. After toasting the eclipse with cocktails and champagne, passengers on the Norway will sail on to New York or Miami.

Geir Lokoen, the Norway's captain, said yesterday: "It is a fantastic opportunity to see the eclipse." Other cruise liners, including Cunard's five-star Vistafjord, are travelling to the Black Sea to watch the eclipse. In contrast to Cornwall, the chances of a clear view of the eclipse from the Black Sea were being put yesterday at 80 per cent.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1999.

ISSUE 1540

Friday 13 August 1999

Serious eye injuries cast shadow over eclipse

By Sean O'Neill, Katie Nicholl and Celia Hall

Eye damage caused by the sun [11 Aug '99]

Chief Medical Officer warns solar eclipse watchers [28 Jul '99] -

Department of Health Cornwall eclipse '99

Eclipse - Royal Observatory, Greenwich

August eclipse '99 - Andrew Brown

Rising toll of businesses burned by the eclipse Eye victim 'thought warnings were hyped up' Astronomers baffled by dark streaks across sky

THREE people were diagnosed with serious eye injuries yesterday after they stared at Wednesday's eclipse without protection.

A 23-year-old woman who was watching in London's Docklands and a 30-year-old man were diagnosed with solar retinopathy, damage to the retina, Moorfields Eye Hospital, in London, confirmed. A man was diagnosed with superficial keratitis - unusual damage to the cornea from looking at the sun - by doctors at University College Hospital, London.

Karen Fairweather, of Poplar, east London, said: "I knew about the warnings but I was just stupid and looked up at the sun. I feel like an idiot." Doctors expect further reports of eye damage in the next few days. In most cases the symptoms do not present themselves for 48 hours.

London had the most reported problems, with specialists at Moorfields examining 100 people in the casualty department after receiving more than 1,000 telephone calls yesterday. Hospitals in the zone of totality in Cornwall and Devon have so far seen no cases of eye damage. However, the case of a child is still being assessed at Treliske hospital, Truro.

The Manchester Royal Eye hospital saw a total of 30 eclipse cases but none was reported to be serious. The Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, saw five patients but again none required further treatment. Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham saw 10 eye patients yesterday and recieved 20 phone calls. Again the patients dealt with have not been judged to have suffered permanent damage.

It seems that most people did protect their eyes. A Health Department spokesman said: "The warnings worked very well as people did take precautions to a large extent. But there may be more people who have problems which will not be picked up for days to weeks yet."

ISSUE 1538

Wednesday 11 August 1999

Last solar black-out 'like end of world'

By Caroline Davies and Sally Pook

The 1927 UK eclipse - The Met Office

At the 11th hour, let there be light

The last total solar eclipse visible from mainland Britain was at dawn on June 29, 1927. The weather then, as now, was not ideal, so few will be able to say they have seen the phenomenon here twice. These people remember the day.

Lady Longford, 92, was a student at Oxford. "What I remember very very vividly was this strange reddish light, that shone all through the eclipse. I remember thinking it was like the end of the world and I thought that's the light we're going to see. I certainly wasn't religious. I didn't expect the end of the world or anything like that but the red light was so strange I immediately connected it in my mind, that's what it would be like.

"It had a profound effect on me. I can remember another one when I was quite a small child. My father was an eye specialist and I can remember a great fuss about not looking at it. But it didn't make anything like such a deep impression as that red light.

"My husband is 93 and I shall be next week, so we can't go round chasing round after eclipses. We should be eclipsed ourselves."

Wg Cdr John Dyer, from Peterborough, aged 76, who flew in the D-Day raids and in 1961 took the first aerial photographs behind the Berlin Wall.

"I was only four, but I remember because the Astronomer Royal at the time did his observation from a site close to Giggleswick School chapel.

"There is a picture that's been printed taken at the time of soldiers guarding the site. In fact they were cadets of the Giggleswick School, and my father was the commanding officer. My godfather was the headmaster of Giggleswick School, a rugger and cricket blue. He and his brother opened the batting for Middlesex in the 1890s. The other person there was the clerk to the rural district council, my grandfather.

"The main thing I remember was being given a bar of chocolate, presumably to keep me quiet. I was on a hill outside our house. There were a couple of hundred people, I suppose. There had been a fantastic dawn chorus of birds, but as the darkness fell, they went completely silent.

"My mother was about 200 yards away in the house looking after my young brother who was just six weeks old. But she sat at the bathroom window and saw it perfectly."

Bertha Warren, 89, a widow with 15 great grandchildren.

"I was 17 and living at home in Blackburn. I got all my pals together the night before. My dad had given me a pane of old glass and we managed to break it into big pieces and we got it all black over the stove. We smoked it for about two hours.

"The next day we had to get up at 5am. I started work as an apprentice baker at 7am and I knew the total eclipse was about 6.30am. I rounded up my pals and we went to the wall by the railway. We all climbed up there and sat on the top of the wall, about 10 of us, at 5am.

"We waited and waited. When it started it went a little bit dark, then a bit darker and darker. And the darker it went the more we clung to each other. Eventually there was the total eclipse. It was just wonderful, like beautiful coloured diamonds.

"We were all going 'Oooh'. I remember it so well, it so impressed me. We looked through the glass and no harm came to us. Mind you that glass was well and truly smoked. The sky was lovely and during the total eclipse it just felt as if everything had come to a standstill."

Aubrey Nettleship, retired railway worker from Sheffield, aged 82, three children, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His teacher at Manor council school in Sheffield urged him not to miss "a once-in-a-lifetime experience".

"I smoked a piece of ordinary picture glass over the flame of a candle. The eclipse occurred at dawn. My mother roused my sister and I. We put on warm clothing and trudged to the top of the pit, a colliery which was a couple of hundred yards from our home. Normally the pit was forbidden territory, but eclipse day was an exception.

"A small crowd gathered and we gazed at the Sun lying low in a cloudless sky. Birds were singing their dawn chorus and we heard a cock crowing in the distance. Gradually we became aware that the Moon's face was moving very slowly over the Sun, blocking out its rays.

"Almost imperceptibly more and more of the Sun disappeared. It became darker and darker and colder and colder until the Sun disappeared totally. We were almost in total darkness except that the glow of the Sun behind the Moon was visible throughout the eclipse.

"It was an eerie darkness, emphasised by an equally eerie silence. I cannot recall that anyone spoke and I remember the dawn chorus ceased. There seemed not to be a breath of air. It was very scary for a 10-year-old boy.

"I recall that when it was all over and I was walking back home I remarked that when a total eclipse occurred in 1999 I would be an old man, and I would need a walking stick to help me trudge to the top of the pit.

"The pit has since been razed to the ground. So, if it is nice weather, my wife and grandchildren will be in the garden for this one."


At 11.11AM on the 11th of August 1999 British Summer Time, Cornwall in the south of England will see the last total solar eclipse of the sun for a hundred ... -


The following month, the great solar eclipse will take place. Joan Sckrabulis has written a great book about the 1999 eclipse, called The Lost Covenant. ... -


"I recall that when it was all over and I was walking back home I remarked that when a total eclipse occurred in 1999 I would be an old man, ...


It may relate to the quartered circle as the four major Zodiac signs and Tribes, and the planetary alignment of the 1999 eclipse. The formation was reported ...

Solar Eclipse 1999 - Final Quest For The Holy Grail - Part Three

The depiction above could perhaps tell us something about the 1999 solar eclipse, and how it might be symbolized in dreams, myths, or crop circle formations ...


In 1999, the Grand Cross occurs a week after the 7th Moon of 1999, the eclipse at 18b21. This is the "sign of the King of Terror" referred to above. ...