Total solar eclipse in Egypt - march 29th 2006

The trip

The observation of this eclipse is part of a 5 days trip in Egypt that I organized for a group of 18 persons with help of  Best Way Travel - Egypt egyptian travel agency. This trip gave us opportunity to visit Giza pyramids, Cairo, Alexandria and north coastal towns westward from Alexandria.

 Nile, Cairo and Pyramids in setting sun


The observation camp

Our camp is about 170 m over sea level (31 34' 55"S, 25 07' 36"E) on the shelf dominating the pretty town of Saloum, near the libyan boarder. We are distant a little less than 10 km from the center of totality path (red line on the map).
The camp of tents was built and protected by egyptian army. The construction began two months before eclipse date.


After  an eventful drive from Alexandria (the accelerator cable of our bus was broken on way), we arrive during the night, on march 28th evening and take place in our tents under protection of egyptian army.

On march 29th morning,  the air is cold and wet, the soil is muddy and the camp is covered with haze. Its getting light  at  4H10 UT (6H10 local time), and the sun hardly shines through a thick fog curtain.

Camp at rising sun


Haze is long to disappear, which is worrying for us. Low clouds are passing over the camp to north-east direction. At about 10H20 local time, the cloudy layer finally vanishes under a clear blue sky. Our instruments are ready and french flag is settled. The show will soon begin ....

Camp sight


Photographic equipment

My equipment is composed of a CANON EOS300D digital camera with Sigma 150-400 mm zoom lens and Astrosolar  filter of density 5 for partial phases. All this is fixed on a motorized EQ1 mount.

In order to avoid battery shortage during the 160 minutes of the eclipse, the EOS300D is supplied by  a 12V 4AH lead acid battery and a DC DC converter.

During the eclipse, the zoom focal length is permanently set at  400 mm F/5.6 and camera sensitivity is set at 200 ISO. The periodicity of the capture is managed with a   Pocket Shutter sequencer.

Capture equipment


Solar disc just before eclipse begins

As the sun is in a low activity state, we are expecting a smooth solar surface. Despite of this quiet state, we are lucky to observe near the limb a group of three spots that will improve the sight during most of partial phases (click on picture to enlarge).

Sun before eclipse

First contact

First contact occurs at 9H20 UT or 11H20  local time (click on picture to enlarge).

 First contact


Moon at half way

At 9H59 UT or 11H59  local time, the lunar limb reaches the center of the sun (click on picture to unlarge).

Moon at half way


It's time now to observe small crescents on the ground. Unfortunately, we are in the desert... far from any shady tree ! ... Marie-Claude has already prepared a punched carboard. A white towel is laid on the ground and the trick is ready, for the greatest amazement of  egyptian soldiers !

Small crescents


Second contact

Second contact occurs at 10H38 UT or 12H38  local time. Filters are removed from instruments and the great show begins ....Here is a picture showing prominences and Bayley beads after second contact, exposure 1/2500 at 200 ISO (click on picture to enlarge).

 Second contact

Movie including this picture (800 x600 AVI XVID compression)

This movie is composed of four pictures captured 5 seconds apart. Notice the wavy lunar mountains appearing in front of the chromosphere, right of the Bailey beads.



We are now surrounded by crepuscular colours.

crepuscular horizon


The corona

With naked eye, the corona looks like an amazing butterfly. This picture is a combination of 10 pictures with exposure time varying from 1/1000 to 1/6th second at 200 ISO. A wavelet processing with IRIS software reveals the corona structure up to 3 solar radius (click on picture to enlarge).

The corona

Movie of the corona (920 x700 AVI XVID compression)

This movie shows the corona extension increasing as exposure time varies from 1/320 to 1/4th second at 200 ISO.


Earth shine

With  an exposure time of 1/4 second  at 200 ISO, the EOS300D sensor is able to capture the light of earth shine. On this picture, the lunar disk is enhanced throug gamma and contrast improvement. The main lunar features are visible (click on picture to enlarge).

Earth shine


diameter comparison

These two superimposed pictures reveal the difference between sun diameter and moon diameter at  eclipse time (click on picture to enlarge).

Diameter comparison

Third contact

4 minutes have elapsed and third contact occurs at 10H40 UT or 12H40  locale time (click on picture to enlarge).
Unfortunately I forget to reduce exposure time to 1/2500 .... Hypnotised by the magnificence of the show, I am totally surprised when the sun reappears ! The last moments of this eclipse are lost ... but nevertheless recorded in my memory.

 Third contact


Now it's time to celebrate our success !
Sophie has a surprise for us ..... A bottle of champaign quickly shared among members of the group and egyptian people (picture Denis Pierret).

Champagne !


Las contact

Last contact occurs at 12H00 UT or 14H00  local time (click on picture to enlarge).

 Last contact


In conclusion (picture Philippe Lopez)

The group, our driver and our guide

I am very grateful to :

- all members of the group who sympathetically accepted to take part to this trip
Best Way Travel - Egypt whose efficiency was a great help during these five days
- our skilled (in traffic jam) driver Abdu for his kindness
- our excellent french-speaking guide Alaa Yehia Ahmed (the best one !)

Souvenir of Cairo

Some pictures by Denis Pierret

Some pictures by Francis Willm and  others by the same author

Philippe Lopez page

Satellite movie of the eclipse

Your suggestions are welcomed