Contact Timings from the Path Limits

Precise timings of beading phenomena made near the northern and southern limits of the umbral path (i.e., the graze zones), are of value in determining the diameter of the Sun relative to the Moon at the time of the eclipse. Such measurements are essential to an ongoing project to monitor changes in the solar diameter. Due to the conspicuous nature of the eclipse phenomena and their strong dependence on geographical location, scientifically useful observations can be made with relatively modest equipment. A small telescope, short wave radio and portable camcorder are usually used to make such measurements. Time signals are broadcast via short wave stations WWV and CHU, and are recorded simultaneously as the eclipse is videotaped. If a video camera is not available, a tape recorder can be used to record time signals with verbal timings of each event. Inexperienced observers are cautioned to use great care in making such observations. The safest timing technique consists of observing a projection of the Sun rather than directly imaging the solar disk itself. The observer's geodetic coordinates are required and can be measured from USGS or other large scale maps. If a map is unavailable, then a detailed description of the observing site should be included which provides information such as distance and directions of the nearest towns/settlements, nearby landmarks, identifiable buildings and road intersections. The method of contact timing should be described in detail, along with an estimate of the error. The precisional requirements of these observations are ±0.5 seconds in time, 1" (~30 meters) in latitude and longitude, and ±20 meters (~60 feet) in elevation. Although GPS's (Global Positioning Satellite receivers) are commercially available (~$150 US), their positional accuracy of ±100 meters is about three times larger than the minimum accuracy required by grazing eclipse measurements. GPS receivers are also a useful source for accurate UT. The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) coordinates observers world-wide during each eclipse. For more information, contact:

Dr. David Dunham, IOTA
7006 Megan Lane
Greenbelt MD 20770-3012, USA
+1 (301) 474-4722

Send reports containing graze observations, eclipse contact and Baily's bead timings, including those made anywhere near or in the path of totality or annularity to:

Dr. Alan D. Fiala
Orbital Mechanics Dept.
U. S. Naval Observatory
3450 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20392-5420, USA

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