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.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas