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5 July 2001
South African Eclipse 

Yes I know - this information is a bit old, but for interest sake, this is what we had :

Did you know ......... in Johannesburg we will experience an 85% eclipse between 2 & 4pm


Southern Africa is preparing for the millennium's first total eclipse of the sun on Thursday 21 June 2001, also the first since 1940. 

The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in the South Atlantic Ocean, moving over Southern Africa and Madagascar and ending at sunset in the Indian Ocean. Eclipse and the African Skies 

The Eclipse reaches the African shores in Angola at approximately 12h38 (UT). The shadow then travels towards Zambia and heads north from the town of Zambezi in Zambia, at around 4000km per hour, it then journeys over the Kafue National Park before plummeting Lusaka, the capital of Zambia into darkness. At this point the darkened narrow corridor is about 170km wide with two thirds of Africa, south of the middle of the Sahara, experiencing a partial eclipse of some degree. The shadow tracks the Zambezi valley enabling both Zimbabwe and Mozambique to share totality. 

With the sun getting lower in the sky, the shadow speeds up to 5000 km per hour passing north of Harare. As Harare lies about 90 km away from the southern limit of the darkened total zone, they will experience a 98 degree eclipse. The shadow then crosses the Mozambique coast, north of Beira (at about 13h20 UT) with Madagascar next. The sun approaches the horizon and sets just to the east in the Indian Ocean, south of Mauritius at 1330 (UT). 

In almost 3 hours the eclipse shadow will have travelled around 12 000 kms. What to expect on the day The sun will rise as usual, and the first half of the day will be like any other. Just after midday local time, the moon will start to shadow the sun. Over the next 1 and half hours the shadow will increase until a thin crescent of light remains. 

As the eerie darkness descends over the land, the temperature will drop; and a 'sense of evening' will set in. Animals and birds begin their twilight rituals before settling down to sleep. Slowly the crescent shrinks, the last bead of light will turn red then disappear, and darkness will fall as the total phase of the eclipse begins. Just after 1300 local time, it will be as if it is midnight. Within a few seconds, the pearly white corona (the sun's atmosphere) will become visible around the dark disc of the moon. As the eyes adapt to the dark, the corona will appear to grow outwards in 'diamond rings'. 

There may be small red prominences visible low down in the solar atmosphere. During the total eclipse of 2001, the sun will be in Gemini. Depending on the geographic location, you will be able to see planets such as Jupiter 5 degrees away from the eclipsed sun. Mercury is 8.6 degrees west of the sun, as it is quite faint and may be difficult to spot. 

By 14h30 the local time the moon will have left the sun completely. Will the Weather be good? The eclipse occurs while southern African is in the midst of its dry season. Fine sunny weather dominates the sky in mid June (the second sunniest region of the globe at this time.) Only the Sahara Desert can claim less cloud cover in the month of June than the western parts of the African eclipse track. Though, one can never guarantee weather, the predictions look positive for good viewing. 

From Total Solar Eclipse of 2001 June 21 by Fred Espenak and Jay Anderson, NASA Constant Volschenk

Johannesburg Planetarium University of the Witwatersrand 
P O Box 31149, BRAAMFONTEIN, 2017, South Africa 
Tel: +27 11 717 1392 Fax: +27 11 339 2926 Web: 

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