Something to Declare: the column that gives the global picture
Destination of the week: go north to see the sun disappear
Monday 12 May 2003
The next big astronomical event takes place three weeks from today – and Scotland is one of the places to see it. The attraction is an annular eclipse, when the moon passes over the sun but does not cover it entirely. Unlike a total eclipse, this phenomenon leaves a ring of light around the moon's circumference. "When you watch an annular eclipse through protective glasses, instead of total darkness you see a spectacular ring of gold up in the sky," says Michael Threllfall of the eclipse specialist Explorers Tours (01753 681999,
The next big astronomical event takes place three weeks from today – and Scotland is one of the places to see it. The attraction is an annular eclipse, when the moon passes over the sun but does not cover it entirely. Unlike a total eclipse, this phenomenon leaves a ring of light around the moon's circumference. "When you watch an annular eclipse through protective glasses, instead of total darkness you see a spectacular ring of gold up in the sky," says Michael Threllfall of the eclipse specialist Explorers Tours (01753 681999, www.explorers.co.uk).
On 31 May, the eclipse will cross the Isle of Lewis, Orkney and Shetland. The best places to view it from the mainland are Durness or Duncansby Head on the north coast. Scotland is well positioned for witnessing the phenomenon of Baily's Beads: when the moon skims the edge of the sun, causing the sun to shine through the valleys on the edge of the moon and create bead-like bursts of light.
Unfortunately, there is likely to be some cloud over Scotland, which is why two companies are leading tours further north. The path of the eclipse continues over the North Atlantic, through Iceland and central Greenland. It finishes at sunset in Baffin Bay, Canada.
Explorers Tours is basing tours in Iceland, which is positioned in the centre of the eclipse's corridor, ensuring the longest totality and best visibility. A four-night tour, departing on 29 May, costs £649; this includes flights from London Heathrow, accommodation and sightseeing visits. The central event in the holiday is a trip to the observation area at Akureyri, for 3am on 31 May to witness the annular eclipse. This feature is common to a nine-day trio, departing 25 May and costing £1,385 and including places such as the volcanic crater at Kerid, the Golden Waterfall, Gullfoss and Skaftafell National Park.
The next total eclipse takes place in Antarctica in 2004, but severe weather precludes much astronomical tourism. In March 2006, a total eclipse takes place in Libya. Explorers Tours hopes to take between 500 and 1,000 visitors to the North African nation for the event.
Warning of the week: don't get hot and bothered when you reach Singapore.
Changi airport in Singapore, the main aviation hub for South-East Asia, is to introduce 100 per cent screening for Sars within the next two weeks.
All passengers arriving or departing from the airport will be obliged to have their temperature taken.
"If a passenger or cabin crew member has a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsuis or above they will be considered to have a fever and taken to one side for more questioning," says the airport authority. Since limited checks were introduced six weeks ago, 70,000 passengers have been tested, of whom two may have the disease.
The "efficient and hassle-free screening procedures" are expected to take around two minutes. The same procedures apply to travellers arriving in Singapore by land or sea.
Bargain of the week: one-fifth off French books and maps, for one evening only.
Wait until Thursday evening before you buy any travel publication for France, from the Rough Guide to Paris to the IGN 1:25,000 charts of the Pyrenees. Between 6-9pm on the evening of 15 May, Stanfords (020-7836 1321, www.stanfords.co.uk) is cutting 20 per cent from the prices of all French books and maps. The offer applies to stores in Bristol, Manchester and Covent Garden in London. Customers will also benefit from free wine and cheese. At each store, a pair of free Air France tickets will be given away to a lucky customer.
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