Total solar eclipse broadcast from Kenya with GLORIA
On November 3rd a team of astronomers will venture deep into Turkana National Park, Kenya and attempt to broadcast the magic of a total solar eclipse to the world. They are part of the GLORIA project, which aims to bring the thrill of real science to people all over the world, via the web.
Turkana lake and national park in Kenya is a unique location in several ways – a stopping point for migratory birds, home to unique fossils and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also known as ‘the cradle of humankind’. On November 3rd 2013, Turkana lake will also become the location for the second GLORIA live solar eclipse broadcast.
Why have GLORIA astronomers chosen such an isolated location to make this broadcast? Dr. Miquel Serra-Ricart, expedition leader, explains: `This is a very tricky eclipse to observe, only making landfall across central Africa’. In choosing the right spot, he has had to consider not only the visibility of the eclipse, but also the likely weather conditions, availability of water, food and navigable roads and, of course, the safety of his team. This will be Miquel’s 3rd eclipse expedition to the African continent. In 2001 he experienced the amazing silencing of the noisy jungle during the 2 minutes of totality in northern Zimbabwe. ‘During an eclipse animals lie down to sleep, as if night has fallen. So we need to be sure we stay out of the way of the big predators, such as lions’, says Miquel. He expects this to be a particularly memorable eclipse as the sun is currently at the maximum of its 11 year cycle, remarking: ‘We expect a beautiful and symmetric corona this time’.
Totality will last only 15 seconds, so the planning has to be just right. GLORIA project scientist, Prof. Alberto Castro-Tirado, is confident, saying ‘The team has a lot of expertise in doing these broadcasts. Although the location is very challenging, and the eclipse is very short, our many viewers on-line will be able to enjoy the eclipse experience from the comfort of their own homes.’ In addition the team will carry a sophisticated weather station in order to gather valuable data to be used for educational activities.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun from our view. This can happen only at New Moon and if the Sun and the Moon are perfectly aligned as seen from Earth. In a total solar eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses only part of the Sun is obscured.
The first total solar eclipse for a year, this one is a so-called ‘hybrid’ solar eclipse, meaning that in some places along the eclipse track an ‘annular’ eclipse will occur, where the outer disk of the Sun remains visible, while in other areas a total eclipse will be observed. It will be observable as a partial eclipse from southern Europe. The maximum occultation occurs around 12:30 in Sevilla, 12:50 in Barcelona, 13:20 in Catania (Italy), 13:40 in Chania (Greece). The total duration of the eclipse is 2h 14m (14:13-16:27 CET) with totality from Turkana lake broadcast between 15:20 and 15:30 CET.
It is vital never to look at the Sun without safe glasses designed specifically for solar viewing. During all observations of a solar eclipse, except for the few moments of totality, adequate eye protection must be worn.
For more information on the live broadcast timings and other GLORIA activities please go to gloria-project.eu.
GLORIA is a three-year project financed by the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union (FP7/2007-2012) under agreement number 283783. The project, started in October 2011, involves 13 institutions from 8 countries. Please see gloria-project.eu/about/partners/