German  English

Wreath of Beams instead of Solar Crescent over Dreieich

The Partial Solar Eclipse on 31. May 2003 in Dreieich-Götzenhain

Experience Report

After my researches for the observation of the partial solar eclipse on 31. May 2003 had resulted in only few points in the Rhine Main area, where the point of sunrise at 54° azimuth would be good to observe, exactly three places remained until a few hours before the beginning of the eclipse, where the rising solar crescent would be good to see. On the Wingertsberg in Dietzenbach as sun crescent rise behind the power station Staudinger, in Dreieich-Götzenhain "Im Höchsten" below 2 power masts, and - most attractively - in Mainz south of the "Laubenheimer Höhe" behind the Frankfurt skyline. After I had at least visited all places twice, I preferred in the evening 30. May finally Mainz with the attraction of a rising solar crescent between the towers of the Frankfurt skyline.

But instead of the desire for a skyline eclipse on the eve of the solar eclipse it should turn out that not the possible motive for pictures, but the weather would play the crucial role. Already on afternoon in before nearly clear air high thunderstorm towers had formed, which changed in the height even in cirrus clouds, which indicated the power of these clouds and let the possibility of an overnight disappearing become more improbable. Various weather messages in the evening did not give a clear statement about whether the solar eclipse could probably be seen in the morning or not.

Over the Internet I pursued the "precipitation radar" and satellite photographs, in order to pursue the extremely weak course of the clouds. But no clear picture resulted. As it looked in the evening, that moving toward Würzburg/Nürnberg or Thuringia would be successful, around 2 o’clock CEST on 31.5. the picture indicated the most favorable opportunity of evasion towards Karlsruhe. Around 3 o'clock CEST there was a ring from thunderstorms around the Rhine Main area with a diameter of approx. 120 kilometers. Over Dreieich was a sable large cloud hole, and stars could be seen. In order to achieve a horizon image with solar crescent, a clear gap in the cloud ring had to be there. If one would stand at the southwest edge of the ring, the longest distance in direction of the point of sunrise in the northeast could be achieved. This argumentation substantiated again Mainz as observation place. Around 3:30 the precipitation radar indicated straight at the selected place south of Mainz thunderstorm cells, which itself strengthened there and partly moved over the Rhine to the direction of Odenwald.

Evading into the area west of Ludwigshafen or Karlsruhe, e.g. with the mountains Melibocus and/or Königstuhl with Heidelberg before the solar crescent, seemed to be limited in the meantime due to the advanced time. Finally decisive not to go there was the firm assumption, that the perhaps up to 12 the kilometers high thunderclouds at the Odenwald would also west of Ludwigshafen or Karlsruhe still be several degrees over the horizon and would cover the rising solar crescent.

After the dawn had already begun and first cloud structures could be seen, the decision finally was, first to drive to the near Götzenhain, to evaluate the situation there again, and then to either to stay there or to evade to Mainz. The travel to the highest point in Götzenhain ("Im Höchsten") took only a few minutes. There an area with cloud holes showed up . in advanced dawn up to approx. 6° over the horizon toward the east. To the west towards Mainz it was with heavily cloudy. The decision thus was to remain there and setup the observation instruments. If I should not see the solar eclipse, this situation would be nevertheless dearest to me in Dreieich and elsewhere (otherwise I would know not, whether it perhaps could have been seen in Dreieich).

The situation towards the northeast did not improve however, rather it worsened. It looked occasional in such a way, as if over the Spessart clouds would assemble, than that the clouds would dissolve, then again the other way round. In the east the situation was better. The sunrise moved closer, but not the cloud holes in the east. In the meantime about 20 to 30 people were at the observation site, likewise on the search for a view on the solar crescent, which should rise now straight over the horizon.

Solar Eclipse Simulation

Simulation of the solar eclipse on 31. May 2003 in Dreieich-Götzenhain on basis of the sunrise of 30. May 2003

On 30. May 2003 around 05:28 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens with Canon 2x tele converter at 600mm and f5,6 (f11), 1/45 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film, cover of the sun on later inserted.

05:28 CEST - the maximum of the eclipse with 87% degrees of coverage related to the sun’s diameter and/or. 81% related to the sun’s surface, could be felt clearly, but nothing of the solar crescent could be seen (the simulation shows roughly what could have been seen). A homogeneously grey cloud cover pulled itself from the horizon to approximately 10-15 degrees height. One felt the sun has risen, but it was clearly dark, the feeling of the sun darkening was there again.

Eclipse Maximum

Cloud situation during the maximum of the eclipse

At 05:28 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 24-85mm Canon zoom lens at 24mm, 1/20 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film at f3,5.


Thunderclouds in the south

At 05:40 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens at 200mm, 1/90 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film at f4,5.

In the meantime the very weak, not noticeable wind had obviously turned. It could be noticed by the airplanes, which approached Frankfurt airport, first from the east with the chance to be able to photograph a landing airplane close to the solar crescent, then however from the west, i.e. now the landing airplanes flew over the observation place or also areas some kilometers far south of it, along the thunderclouds that had piled up themselves in the meantime in the south and the west. The sun, now larger again, let them now really inflate themselves. One saw really like it swelled. But the crescent continued to remain behind clouds. Directly in fornt of the solar crescent a broad cone cloud had formed, which was up to approximately 10 degrees over the horizon high. But still hope was there to see something of the solar eclipse, because on the right of and on the left of the cloud the sky was clear in the meantime and/or only with thin cirrus clouds.

Above the cone cloud a strong wreath of beams has formed, whose extreme sharpness can be caused only by a solar crescent. Longer than each total phase of a solar eclipse lasts, this wreath of dark shade beams shone over the eastern sky of Dreieich. Above the cloud there were airplane’s condense trails, which were partly apparently shaded by the beams. That suggested a gigantic thunderstorm tower behind the visible cone cloud, which laid its shadow behind the cone cloud up to above the condense trails.

Wreath of Beams

Wreath of Beams

At 05:47 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens at approx. 75mm, 1/180 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film at f5,6.

Wreath of Beams

Wreath of Beams

At 06:03 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens at approx. 100mm, 1/350 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film at f8.

In the course of time the wreath of beams faded. The top edge of the cloud became brighter. Because it still was at approx. 10 degrees of height, and at 06:26 CEST the sun at approximately 8 degrees should have been completely released by the moon again, one should not be able to see anything of the solar eclipse anymore, but a half hour before one had nevertheless still hope, that this would change. But it did not do. It seemed just so, as if the sun would appear exact at 6:26, or perhaps a little bit later. There the situation changet to favour of the cloud and the sun remained further hidden. Later at 6:58 the sun appeared for the first time on this 31. May over Dreieich-Götzenhain , but not as solar eclipse, but again as a disk completely released by the moon.


The sun comes out over Dreieich-Götzenhain

At 06:58 CEST taken with a Canon EOS500N and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens with Canon 2x tele converter at 600mm, 1/1500 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film at f5,6.

The feeling of disappointment prevailed, nevertheless I had felt again the eclipse feeling, this strangeness, which the moon shadow lays over the landscape, but not even be able to get only one view to the eclipsed sun. With higher rising of the sun the weather improved. The sun shone and it was another tropical humid-hot day over the native Dreieich. A situation which I rather know from the Caribbean or Central America then from here. But the disappointment would probably have been larger, if a far journey would have been necessary, in order to then make the experiences of this early morning of 31. May 2003. Anyway it was discussed on site, when the next one will be: On 3. October 2005 the annular solar eclipse of Spain can also be seen in Dreieich, again as a partial one.

Stephan Heinsius, Dreieich, 31. May 2003.

Addition of pictures on 03. June 2003, addition of simulation on 04. June 2003.

Impressum | Keimeno CMS