Last Solar Eclipse of the Millennium on August 11
News story originally written on August 3, 1999
The last solar eclipse of this millennium occurred on August 11, 1999. Amateurs and professionals alike used this opportunity to witness one of the most brilliant natural phenomenon. This was a total solar eclipse, which means the Moon completely covered the Sun. Astronomers had a rare chance to see the Sun's corona, which isn't normally seen because of the intense light from the Sun.
The solar eclipse could be viewed in Europe, the Middle East and India. Hopefully, if you visisted one of these areas you protected your eyes. Always use one of the approved viewing devices.
This total solar eclipse provided a spectacular scene for all who saw it. When the Moon passed in front of the Sun, it blocked most of the light that would normally hit Earth in these areas. So, in the middle of the day, the Earth slowly darkened before the Sun appeared once more. The entire process took a couple hours, but the average viewer got a mere 2 minute glimpse before the shadow moved on. This special event served as more than just a spectacle. Experiments were carried out to study the corona, weather changes and even the effect on Earth's gravity.
In the eclipse photograph on the left, the dark center is the disk
of the Moon as it passes between the Earth and the Sun.
The beautiful white coronal streamers
extending out from the Sun
(seen on the left and right of the black lunar disk) are a commonly
observed feature during eclipses. The streamers are regions where
the solar magnetic field has trapped the coronal plasma; they are
visible because the light from the photosphere
is scattered off of electrons in the coronal plasma, lighting up
the features with the largest amount of material. When there is no eclipse, these features cannot be seen because the blinding light of the photosphere overwhelms the scattered light from the corona.