Jan 15th Annular Eclipse in Kenya - Report
Observing the annular eclipse of 15th January 2010 in the breath-taking beautiful but fragile environment of the Suswa Volcano, Kenya
By Dr. Eberhard Krain and others (about)
Parts of Kenya and central Africa were blessed to experience a rare annular type of a solar eclipse on 15th January 2010 from about 7.05 to 10.08, Kenyan time. This was not any annular or ring-type eclipse, it was the biggest ring-type eclipse of this millennium! Only certain parts of the world were exposed to the eclipse, either fully or partially. The whole area of the eclipse stretched from Asia westwards to Europe and Africa. However only in a short band of about 300 km width, the eclipse could be seen fully in its annular phase. Map 1 below shows the eclipse band marked in red.
Map 1: Visibility and path of the annular eclipse of January 15, 2010
Best known are of course total solar eclipses. In these, the moon appears to be so big that it covers the sun fully while in an annular eclipse the moon is smaller and therefore leaves an outer ring for the sun to appear. Thus, it does not get completely dark. The different apparent sizes of the moon happen because of different distances between sun, moon and earth due to the elliptical nature of the moon‘s and earth‘s orbits around the sun.
Since an observer can see this extraordinary event only when the sun is not covered by clouds we organized to watch the eclipse in the Rift Valley, where the sky is usually less cloudy. We met for this extra-ordinary spectacle in a Maasai community on the plateau of the Suswa Volcano. The Suswa Volcano is the least known of the three famous Rift Valley Volcanoes. The other two are the Longonot near Naivasha and the Menengai at Nakuru. The Suswa Volcano has a wide outer crater with a plateau inside and a most beautiful inner crater surrounded by a circular "Graben“.
Map 2: Our point of observation on the Suswa Volcano, slightly to the east, the inner crater
We were a little bit late in arriving at around 7.20. However, the sun was still hidden behind some clouds and appeared exactly when we had set up our equipment of a telescope, binoculars and solar filtered glasses.
Photo series 1: Old and young, tall and short, all are mesmerized by the eclipse; In the background: the outer crater rim of the Suswa Volcano
The moon had already started to dive into the sun, slightly from the top-right as shown on the first photo below. First it was only a small part of the moon that planted itself as a black disc into the round sun. It was as if the moon was “nibbling“its way through the bright sun appearing white behind the filter. Everybody got very excited. There were about 15 people, old and young, tall and short. Everybody had a look and observed as the black disc moved into and grew within the sun. From around 8.25 the moon filled itself completely into the sun and the annular eclipse had evolved. We noticed that the light of our surroundings became darker, like in the early morning or in the evening. However, it was not the red light you see in those early or late day hours. It was grayish and somehow super-natural, strange and eerie. After only a short while of about 6-8 minutes the annular type was over and the moon covered the sun again only partially. It took another one and a half hours up to about 10.10 for the moon to exit the sun.
Photo series 2: The phases of the eclipse: partial at 7.50, annular at 8.28 & 8.29, then again partial at 8.35 & 9.15