The big one: Total eclipse 2001

First, it goes quiet; then it goes dark. For the painfully finite seconds of totality, assorted animals, plus you and your fellow watchers, are smothered into silence by awe and abject humility as the heavens show their hand in a gesture of astronomical contempt. The meek moon reveals, briefly, its ability to suppress a swaggering sun.

First, it goes quiet; then it goes dark. For the painfully finite seconds of totality, assorted animals, plus you and your fellow watchers, are smothered into silence by awe and abject humility as the heavens show their hand in a gesture of astronomical contempt. The meek moon reveals, briefly, its ability to suppress a swaggering sun.

The great cosmic coincidence, whereby both the sun and the moon appear to be exactly the same size when viewed from the Earth, means that most years there is one day when the sun can but flare feebly behind the solid black disc. It is an event that will live with you forever.

Astronomers have long known that on 21 June next year there will be one interesting thing about the sun: it will not rise over the South Atlantic off Brazil.

The moon will, for a few minutes in each location along the eclipse trajectory, completely block out the sun. Roughly once a year, a strip of the earth's surface is flung into darkness as the moon blots out the sun.

The strip results from the rotation of the earth, which is why eclipses always "rise" in the west and "set" in the east. (See picture, above.)

The trick for the viewer is to find a venue which (a) you can reach relatively easily, and (b) will be free of cloud cover at the right time.

The 2001 eclipse is especially promising, at least compared with the damp squib over Cornwall in 1999.

The land mass over which the total solar eclipse passes is southern Africa during the dry season - which makes it Christmas, or at least Winter Solstice, for eclipse watchers. Besides accessibility and visibility, a third consideration is equally important, according to the travel industry's eclipse guru, Brian McGee, of Explorers Tours: Ambiance.

He says: "There's a trade-off between maximising the length of totality and enjoying the surroundings."

His company has been planning its key location for the past three years. The options are considerable.

The eclipse strikes the African land mass on the Angolan coast, sweeps across the waist of Angola and central Zambia. It bestows on Lusaka the honour of being the only capital city on the track of a total eclipse this year or next - when southern Africa hits the totality jackpot, being visited by a moment of daytime darkness two years in a row.

Next, the eclipse moves uncannily along the Zimbabwean-Mozambican border, clipping a little corner of Malawi before finally departing the African continent over central Mozambique.

It then enjoys its final territorial flourish over southern Madagascar.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee