Sky At Totality

The total phase of an eclipse is accompanied by the onset of a rapidly darkening sky whose appearance resembles evening twilight about 30 or 40 minutes after sunset. The effect presents an excellent opportunity to view planets and bright stars in the daytime sky. Aside from the sheer novelty of it, such observations are useful in gauging the apparent sky brightness and transparency during totality. The Sun is in Virgo and a number of planets and bright stars will be above the horizon for observers within the umbral path. Figure 11 depicts the appearance of the sky during totality as seen from the center line at 3:30 UT, which corresponds to the western coast of Myanmar. Venus is the brightest planet and can actually be observed in broad daylight provided that the sky is cloud free and of high transparency (i.e. - no dust or particulates). During the 1995 eclipse, Venus is located 17 deg. east of the Sun, having recently passed through superior conjunction in mid-August. Look for the planet during the partial phases by first covering the crescent Sun with an extended hand. During totality, it will be virtually impossible to miss Venus since it shines at a magnitude of mv=-3.3. Although two magnitudes fainter, Jupiter will also be well placed 42 deg. east of the Sun and shining at mv=-1.4. Under good conditions, it may be possible to spot Jupiter 5 to 10 minutes before totality. Since this is a morning eclipse for observers along the Asian path, Jupiter will be low in the southeastern sky and will be below the horizon during totality from Iran through India. Only four days past greatest western elongation, Mercury is 18 deg. west of the Sun at mv=-0.3 and should also be an easy target provided skies are clear. The most difficult of the naked eye planets will be Mars (mv=+1.3), appearing 32 deg. east of the Sun between Venus and Jupiter. Saturn is near opposition 138 deg. east of the Sun and will be below the horizon for all observers. Among the brighter stars visible during totality, Spica (mv=+0.7) is located 7 deg. west of the Sun. Other stars to look for include Regulus (mv=+1.35), Arcturus (mv=-0.04) Capella (mv=+0.08) and Procyon (mv=+0.38). East of India, watch for Acrux (mv=+1.33), Gacrux (mv=+1.63v), Alpha and Beta Centauri (mv=-0.01 & mv=+0.6v) all low in the south while Antares (mv=+0.9v) stands low in the east 7 deg. from Jupiter. Sirius (mv=-1.46) may be seen setting in the southwestern sky for observers along the Iran-India segment of the path.

The following ephemeris [using Bretagnon and Simon, 1986] gives the positions of the naked eye planets during the eclipse. Delta is the distance of the planet from Earth (A.U.'s), V is the apparent visual magnitude of the planet, and Elong gives the solar elongation or angle between the Sun and planet. Note that Saturn is near opposition and will be below the horizon for all observers during the eclipse.

Planetary Ephemeris:  1995 Oct 24   5:00 UT    Equinox = Mean Date

Planet       RA        Dec        Delta      V      Size   Phase  Elong
           h  m  s  deg  '  "                       "              deg
Sun       13 52 50  -11-34-47    0.99476  -26.7  1929.4      -      -
Mercury   12 50 26   -3 -9-41    1.07410   -0.6     6.3    0.69   17.6W
Venus     14 59 26  -16-50-37    1.61647   -3.3    10.3    0.96   17.0E
Mars      16  0 43  -21-18-40    2.21358    1.6     4.2    0.97   32.1E
Jupiter   16 52 51  -22-10-18    5.96082   -1.4    33.0    1.00   44.2E
Saturn    23 22  2   -6-36-26    8.83178    0.1    18.7    1.00  138.3E

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