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Ring of Fire above the Land of the Sun

The annular solar eclipse on 03. October 2005 in El Espinar, Spain

Experience Report

Preliminary information:

The sun ascended out of clouds of fog over the mountains panorama of Sierra de Guadarrama: A wonderful culisse forthe solar eclipse. The sun climed up furhter and the ring of fire was visible under ideal conditions. It succeded to view the chromosphere after third Contact. Like a glowing bow it connected the peaks of the crescent moving apart a few seconds after the central phase.

Observation site near El Espinar, Spain.

Experience Report:

Vigo - Madrid - Valencia - right across Spain an annular eclipse of the sun should be visible on 03. October 2005, where the center line should cross directly Madrid, the capital of Spain that lies in the center of the country.

A rare opportunity to observe a central solar eclipse independently from a travel party and in a secure environment, just ca. 2 ½ flight hours away from home. I booked just a few weeks in advance directly via the internet flights, rent-a-cars and hotels and arranged for my partner and me a round trip through central Spain, that should develop to a wonderful vacation time, that began already 6 days before the solar eclipse and ended 6 days later.

Our route led us from Madrid airport, where we landed on 27. September around noon via Toledo, Avila and Salamanca to the Sierra de Guadarrama, mountains located northwest of Madrid, that separate the planes around Madrid and Salamanca (direction to Portugal). Already in November 2004 I have seen this area from a plane and chosen as my favourite viewing area fort he solar eclipse on 03. Oktober 2005. Higher than the black forest (in Germany), but not so high as the alps, an unfamiliar and interesting montains constellation, and a center line that crossed he mountains near the highway from Madrid to La Coruña. For the case that there would be clouds, that could put the observation of the solar eclipse at risk, the highway along the centerline provided ideal possibilities of evasion.

But the probabilities of viewing the eclipse were around 50% in the whole area, so that this option did not stand so much in the foreground like the choice of a beautiful observation site in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

The visits of Toledo, the former capital of Spain, the fort facilities of Avila and the old university town of Salamanca provided many mediterranean and middle age impressions, that, amended by respective photo themes, made the comprehensive travel experience of this individual travel. Wonderful hotels with comfortable conveniences in best locations, but at affordable prices, extensive breakfast buffets and a-la-carte dinners – and during the day underway in the cities or within the half-desert landscapes – what could you get more, when additionally a solar eclipse is upcoming, which chances of visibility for this region were predicted very good even days before the event, for central Spain a probability of clouds during the eclipse time of 5 to 20%.





The 02. October, the day before the solar eclipse was planned for search of a beautiful observation site within the area. The experience of the day was provided near the centerline, at the edge of a river valley at a cattle paddock near Prador, at an aspen alley with mountain panorama north of El Espinar and finally after longer search a nature park with rocks and bushes above a new housing area of Torrelodones with a view to the skyline of Madrid. En-route we crossed the pass of Puerto de Guadarrama (1511m), but that was ca. 2 kilometers north of the center line and provided no delightful surrounding in the nearness. The view to the far from there promised much good: all around clear skies with a visibility of ca. 150 kilometers, just a few cirrus clouds in the north, that would mean no danger in the kind appeared for the observation of the solar eclipse.

Still the night before at Los Angeles de San Rafael, where out hotel was located (Tryp Comendador, chosen due to the well reachable location and the existing internet connection) there was fog, resp. a flat cloud cover, that extended from the plane west of Segovia up to the mountains high. Around 8 a.m. the sky was covered completely, around 9 a.m. the sun shone from a deep blue sky.

At the evening before eclipse-day I printed the last satellite picture taken in sunlight from, that showed a lot of clouds, even in northern Africa, but central Spain was completely free and showed as the safest viewing area. The only uncertainty was the fog - - would it be a reason to locate Torrelodones on the other side of the mountains, with the risk of a traffic jam in the morning rush hour to Madrid? (On the drive back on the evening north of the tunnel, that goes through the Sierra de Guadarrama traffic jammed!)

On this evening the air seemed to be so dry, that I gave the fog in the morning less chances. Around 7 a.m. some fog clouds were there, but also stars were visible – the fog clouds seemed more transparent then on the day before. So I decided to observe the solar eclipse in the near El Espinar. On the way to there we drove through a sparse cool mountain landscape, some mountains were already illuminated by the rose sun, others veiled in fog vapor.

A telephonical information update with Dirk Ewers, who observed at the coast showed good conditions there. I expressed my confidence, that the fog would be no problem here.

Our observation site, an up to 20 meters broad and ca. 150 meters long stripe southeast of an aspen alley, that lead to El Espinar, was a sparse dried meadow, bordered in the northwest by a street and in the southeast by a ca. 60 cm high rock wall. The panorama of the Sierra de Guadarrama was still veiled partly by clouds. A few minutes after we arrived the sun sowed up a first time between the fog vapor at 08:38 a.m. CEST.

Still there was one hour time until first contact. I assembled my observation equipment, that was stored this time in a new suitcase together with other travel equipment. One hour assembling in the cold – enough time, to take one or the other photo, but also enough time to get cold fingers. Two minutes before first contact I was prepared with all devices (2 refractors Revue 60/910 and Skywatcher 70/700, a Canon EOS500N photo camera and a Sony DCR-VX700E video camera).

09:41 a.m. CEST, one minute after first contact the moon could be recognized the first time by a respective small dint a little right beside the top of the sun’s limb. The first pictures for documentation at 1820mm focal length, and then the first partial phase smoothly goes its way. At times a photo, an assignment of the video camera, observation through the Skywatcher refractor, after I have achieved parallelism of both telescopes mounted on a single bar.

Sonnenfinsternis in Nebelwolken

10:05 a.m. CEST – Solar eclipse within fog clouds

During the first partial phase the solar eclipse is visible through fog clouds without a filter. Taken with a Canon EOS500N and a Canon tele zoom 75-300mm at 300mm, 1/500 second exposed at f22 on Fuji 200 negative film.

At times dragging fog clouds decorate the eclipsed sun. But they are so thin, that they never cover the sun completely dispose the sun, but thick enough to allow glorious views in the wide angle area – the crescent within fog clouds above the mountain panorama, the sparse beige coloured meadows in the foreground, a striking tree to the right – a wonderful perspective!

first partial Phase

10:16 CEST – Partial solar eclipse behind fog clouds

Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2x Tele-Converter behind a Revue-Refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) without filter, exposed automatically on Fuji200 negative film.

Solar Eclipse Panorama

10:19 CEST – Solar eclipse above the Sierra de Guadarrama

Due to the partial solar eclipse early fog clouds linger at the mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Highway bridge north of El Espinar

10:39 CEST – Highway bridge north of El Espinar

The fog clouds linger despite deeper partial phase only in the wind accumulation of the mountains. The highway bridge north of El Espinar already lies in the shine of the solar crescent.

Sometimes I recognize that the crescent has become very much smaller, its beginning got become exiting - the eclipse is progressing towards the annular phase. The view through the Skywatcher refractor, but also through the viewfinder of the Canon EOS500N camera behind the Revue refractor lets the moon appear almost spacious within the sun, like a giant peal, that has hung into the sun.

Die Sichelspitzen werden länger, eine Perle bildet sich über der rechten Spitze. Ich probiere einige Bilder bei 1820mm (Canon EOS500N mit 2x-Tele-Konverter hinter 60/910 Revue-Refraktor) ohne Filter!

Crescent tops shortly before the second contact

10:54 CEST – Crescent tops shortly before the second contact

Shortly before second contact photographically a big prominence becomes visible. It is located just between the crescent tops. Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2xTele-Converter behind a Revue refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) without filter, exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

Second contact – the ring is complete, just so faint, but is is complete. The moon moves from above further into the sun. I take one photo after the other, already some minutes recording the video camera captures the solar eclipse at 860mm respective small picture focal length (20x optical zoom with 2x-Tele-converter).

I continue until the moon has reached the center of the sun. Now the ring is perfect. Centrally the moon in front of the sun: Now the top of the umbra directly moves above us.

Sun Ring

10:57 MESZ – Sun Ring over El Espinar

Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2xTele-converter behind a Revue refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) with Baader foil (D=3.8), exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

Now I venture an experiment. During the partial phase we could discover within the shadows of some dry thistles that stood on the meadow small solar crescents. If we would see sun rings now? Quickly a paper board is adjusted behind a plant and the shadow photographed, but I can not see any solar rings. Maybe the photo will reveal it later?

Solar rings

Solar rings between the shadows of thistles

Indeed the photo is showing it: During the annular phase small solar rings are visible within the shadows of the plants, here shadows of thistles on a bright paperboard.

Back at the telescope I adjust the camera (after demounting of the lens, that I have unsed in the meantime fort he plant shadow photo), look for the sun and focus. Surprisingly quick I am back with 1820mm photos. Film full! A film change at this situation! Quickly it is changed, but the automatic rewind costs further valuable seconds – how good, that the annular phase is lasting 4:11 minutes.


10:58 CEST – The sky with the sun at annularity

During annularity the landscape shows unusual matt and grey. Taken with a Canon EOS500N and Canon wide angle zoom 24-85mm at 24mm, automatically exposed on Fuji 200 negative film.

Third contact

Third contact at 10:59 CEST

Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2xTele-converter behind a Revue-refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) with Baader foil (D=3.8), exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

The moon touches the edge of the sun. Third contact! Filter down and pictures taken. Carefully I venture a view through the viewfinder, and it is not so bright as suspected. I see a faint deep orange bow between the crescent tops that is significantly thicker at the center of the (already covered) lower sun’s limb: The chromosphere!

Bailey's Beads

Bailey's Beads

Bailey's Beads

10:59 CEST - Bailey's Beads - after third contact

Within a few seconds the chromosphere becomes visible right and left to a stripe of light, that beams through a broad moon valley. Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2xTele-converter focally behind a Revue-refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) without Filter, exposed on Fuji200 negative film.


11:00 CEST Chromosphere

The bow of chromosphere shows up between the crescent tops. Due to a moon valley it appears broader in ist center. Taken with a Canon EOS500N and 2xTele-converter focally behind a Revue-refractor (D=60mm, f=910mm) without filter, exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

The whole happening of the eclipse appears in delicate ogrange red tones The crescent tops move further apart. Although my view is adjusted to the chromosphere after a few seconds I mount the filter again. That’s an experiment not recommended for reproduction. Only my instinct and my experience let it allow myself carefully risk a view through the viewfinder, and a focues never to the crescent , but always to the chromosphere. A gamble with fire that I have won.

In the meantime a group of Frenchmen had arrived by car, but not until now I had opportunity to offer them a view through the Skywatcher refractor, which they accepted interestedly. A few explanations and the crescent has grown to a croissant. Later also a Belgian from a group, that were the only ones beside us, who observed the complete solar eclipse at this location. Two Frenchmen, who we met the evening before at the hotel, also joined. They drove a little furhter, because the previous fog had raised their concerns.

The second partial phase was accompanied with less pictures. It became remarkably lighter and the sun began the first time warming at this day. During the annular phase it had become significantly darker and cooler.

Observation equipment

Observation equipment with the Sonne during the second partial phase

The fog has vanished nearly completely. During the partial phase it becomes warmer.

Aspen tree alley

Aspen tree alley

Taken during the second partial phase.

Until 12:23 CEST I could track the moon, with the fourth contact at 12:24 CEST this annular eclipse ended. After about another hour I comfortably had packed all things together We stayed a little longer. Now the sun warmed up from a blue sky, so as we had experienced already the days before.

The following days our journey led us to Segovia, Manzanares and Madrid, flight back to Frankfurt on 09. October 2005.

On 04. October I could not see the moon from Segovia, but Jupiter in binolulars, at it promenaded along the arcades of the aqueduct and of course the brightly shining Venus – the moon may have already moved too far south, horizon at ca. 2 degrees. Not until one day later I could discover the moon crescent at dawn in Manzanares, two days after the solar eclipse.



Moon and Venus over Manzanares

Moon and Venus over Manzanares on 06. October 2005

The ring of fire in the land of sun Spain, the annular solar eclipse on 03. Oktober 2005, was a wonderful experience and an amazing obeservation sucess, most impressing the solar crescent within the fog clouds over the mountains panorama and the die orange red bridge of chromosphere shortly after third contact.

Also Dirk Ewers was sucessful, he observed near the coast at the northern boder of the annular zone and could capture the chromosphere photographically.

Stephan Heinsius, on 03.10.2005, amended on 04. and 10.10.2005. Pictures added on 17.10.2005, 18.10.2005, 13.11.2005, 09.12.2005, 12.01.2006.

Translation into English on 09.08.2007, 05.09.2007, 06.09.2007

Last Update of this site: 12. January 2006.

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