2010 ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE IN UGANDA RESULTS 2022-07-21T17:06:06-05:00


By Paul D. Maley, NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society


Eclipse path over Africa. Courtesy X. Jubier.

Circumstances at our site. Courtesy X. Jubier.

Annularity from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda. At central eclipse the observer was located 40km from the true center of the eclipse path. That is why the ring is not completely symmetric. Photo by B. Braswell

The main reason to visit Rwanda! Photo by P.Maley.
Our location in Africa. L.Palmer photo.
RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS succeeded in observing the annular eclipse of the sun from three locations in Uganda on Januar 15, 2010. This eclipse path was more than 350km in width with maximum duration of annularity expected to be around 8 minutes at the centerline; solar elevation at max eclipse was only 18 degrees at approximately 8.25am local time. The expedition traveled first into Rwanda, then over the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and northward into central Uganda. The team divided into three groups. The first group remained at our base at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary: Byron Braswell, Jeff Pohlman and Linda Pohlman.

The second group with Carolyn Whitman and Barbara Flack, led by Lynn Palmer traveled to the centerline where a site was found in real-time along the main roadway near Nakasolongo.

The third group was composed of our science team with Paul Maley, Richard Nugent, Charles Herold and Bhanu Pratap Sharma. Two sites were set up at 4.5 and 3.5km south of the central graze zone southeast of the town of Gulu. Coincidentally, both sites were located inside the zone of totality for the future total solar eclipse of November 3, 2013! The principal science team objectives were to videorecord the Baily’s Beads formation and dissipation at the northern edge of the annular eclipse path. Since at an annular eclipse the beads are from the opposing lunar pole the north edge team observed Baily’s Beads created by the South pole of the Moon. The team depended on successful observation by others in Kenya or India of Beads from the southern edge of the eclipse path in order for a solar diameter correction to be determined.

Along the route we stopped at a restaurant and during lunch noticed that one of the fried onion rings had a remarkable resemblance to the annular eclipse.

A simulated annular eclipse using a flashlight, paper and Ugandan fried onion ring. Photo by R. Nugent

You never know what animals might be thinking. This baboon was possibly contemplating using a garbage can lid to help him safely observe the annular eclipse! Photo by B.Braswell.

Bhanu Pratap Sharma (left) and Richard Nugent at the eclipse site. A Questar is in the foreground and was used as their principal instrument for capturing Baily’s Beads. Local onlookers were quite polite compared to those we have encountered in other countries.


The team at Ziwa including a dog. B.Braswell photo.

Centerline site using the popup game viewer to watch the low elevation eclipse. Driver Joseph in foreground, Carolun up top. Visual observations were made at this site and more than 8 minutes of annularity were experienced. Unlike the other sites there was minor fog that appeared off and on around the site area. Photo by L.Palmer.

The partial eclipse in progress from Ziwa. B.Braswell photo.

Short lived Baily’s Beads from 40km north of center at 2nd contact. Unless one has a method of recording still exposures in a rapid and stable manner, manually controlling a camera means that you miss vital details since the beads last just a few seconds. It is important to know that the beads were not visible through eclipse glasses due to their small size. B.Braswell photo.

Limited Baily’s Beads from 40km north of center at 2nd contact. B.Braswell photo.

Eclipse coverage in the local paper NEW VISION. A photo here shows a local boy observing the eclipse through a guitar pick! Also people observing through x-ray film. Little publicity and information on safety precautions to take were available. Photo by P.Maley.

Prominent Baily’s Bead between two solar cusps as viewed on the small camcorder screen in real time while the video is being recorded. The beads have varying sizes proportional to the depth of lunar valleys that create them. The spacing and duration are dependent on the location of the observer relative to the edge of the eclipse path. An 80mm Orion f/5 refractor was used with an ND3.8 filter. GPS was inserted using a KIWI time inserter and a Canon ZR camcorder bought off Ebay recorded the entire show. What you do not see here is the fact that the IOptron alt-azimuth mount needed a lag screw to hold it to the tripod. The screw was left behind at the Ziwa lodge and retrieved later. But the driver had to manually hold down the mount to the tripod while I was recording the data. During earlier setup the mount was secured by duct tape but the mount gave way and the telescope hit the ground coming completely apart. Such experiences are typical of things that can happen no matter how well prepared one appears to be. The mount/scope were reassembled just in time (literally as the Baily’s Beads began!!) and refocused, though the lack of manual gain control on the PC164 and the rather strong ND3.8 filter contributed to overdriving of the camera response. This made focusing somewhat difficult. Attempts were made to reduce the focal length of the system by stopping down the aperture. Photo by P.Maley.

Paul Maley and driver Paul along with 80mm refractor used for capturing the beads at site 2. Note the clothes I had on for four days due to Kenya Airways having lost my checked bag. Note a Questar 3.5 in the background which could not be used because the tripod legs were inadvertently left in a bag in another vehicle. The PC164 black and white camera is attached to an adapter which is screwed into the Orion 80mm f/5 refractor. There are strong shadows on the ground, indicative of a visual effect that is apparent during annular eclipses. C.Herold photo.

Charles Herold and driver Joseph use eclipse glasses to watch partial phases at our edge site. The sky was quite clear. As we moved farther south burning of brush created air pollution in the Murchison Falls area. P.Maley photo.

The main reason tourists come to Rwanda is to see the dwindling population of mountain gorillas. Of the 16 tracked families in the Volcanoes National Park we had a difficult but successful adventure to meet one of them. This included driving through rain, fording a swollen stream, being set upon by safari ants, and a strenuous 2 hour hike into the park as well as a bumpy 4-wheel drive experience.

The park entrance

The only way to get across this swollen stream was to use mud boots. Paul had the only pair and had to take them off and get them to each person who was helped across the stream by the trekking guides. Photo by L.Palmer.

The gorilla trek through the forest. Photo by B.Braswell.

Baby gorilla. Photo by P.Maley.

A gorilla crosses our path behind one of the trackers. P.Maley photo.

A dominant male silverback. The trackers were able to make repetitive specific sounds in their vicinity that confirmed that we were no threat to the gorillas. P.Maley photo.

Gorilla sleeping up in the trees. Not only were they resting at ground level but in some cases well over 20 feet above the ground. P.Maley photo.

In proximity of gorillas. R.Nugent photo.

Bullet holes from a prior attempt to take over parliament in Kigali. Photo by P.Maley.
Fresh vegetables for sale along the road. P.Maley photo.

Perhaps not the most inviting tourist destination, we had to pay a bribe in order to get our visas approved at the border crossing between Gisenyi and Goma. This was a short border crossing lasting about 2 hours where we drove through what amounts to a huge refugee camp created by prior eruptions of the Niyragongo Volcano and also by civil war within the DRC. The UN has a large presence there and most people live amidst encrusted lava flows; streets, fences and houses are constructed around and inclusive of volcanic rock. We took the time to examine one of the flow areas where houses are still encompassed and a new road has been built over and through the flow. Attempts were made to coerce our group into paying for photos of the lava flows but our guides were successful in negating this.

Nyragongo laval flow from 2002. Photo by L.Palmer.

Stores and shacks set amongst the lava flows. P.Maley photo.

The most enjoyable part of Uganda was not being bumped and jostled along many of the unimproved roadways but as a result of seeing Uganda’s natural resources–its population of animals, the Nile River, and Murchison Falls.

How game viewing was carried out. Here R.Nugent watches for animals. Note the tied down plastic chair borrowed from a nearby hotel for use at the eclipse site the previous day. Photo by P.Maley.

Hyena along the road in Murchison Falls National Park where most of these images were taken. Photo by B.Braswell.

A hippo yawns along the Nile River. P.Maley photo.

Park rangers armed with automatic weapons are necessary to protect the animals from poachers. P.Maley photo.

Face to face with a forest elephant. Photo by B.Braswell.

So many animals that a Rothschild’s giraffe and topi can be seen in the same image. P.Maley photo.

A fisheagle along the Nile River. P.Maley photo.

One of the large herds of wildebeeste. P.Maley photo.

Species of colorful birds. P.Maley photo
The Uganda eclipse group. (L-R) Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Carolyn Whitman, Byron Braswell, Richard Nugent, Lynn Palmer, Paul Maley, Charles Herold, Barbara Flack, Jeff Pohlman, Linda Pohlman.

At a water hole. P. Maley photo.

Zebras on the roadway. P.Maley photo.

Termite mounds can be rather elaborate. P.Maley photo.

Lynn runs the eclipse 5k past a group of forest elephants and a baboon. P.Maley photo.

A chimp at Ngamba Island acknowledges that he wants a trip back to the US in first class. B.Braswell photo.

A multiplicity of wildlife including egyptian geese, hippos, a warthog and deer-like animal. P.Maley photo.

Lake viewing had its rewards with closeups of dozens of hippos. P.Maley photo.

The chaos that is Murchison Falls. P.Maley photo.
Getting very close to a giraffe. P.Maley photo.

The tented camp at Lake Mburo featured private tents for everyone. P.Maley photo.

Crocodiles were huge (about 3 meters long or more. One was so close he could have jumped into our boat. P.Maley photo.

Lake Mburo wildlife viewing. P.Maley photo.

When crossing the Nile River at Murchison Falls, we came across this sign a day after the eclipse. P.Maley photo.

Partial eclipse precursors on a local Coca Cola bottle. R.Nugent photo.

Maribu stork. P.Maley photo.

Crown crested cranes. P.Maley photo.

Hartebeest. P.Maley photo.

Aged cape water buffalo kicked out of the herd. P.Maley photo.

Tiny oribi. P.Maley photo.

Two owls hiding in a tree during the daytime. P.Maley photo.

Ankole long horned cattle. P.Maley photo.
Warthog at Lake Mburo. P.Maley photo.
Weaver birds and their unique nests. P.Maley photo.

Kob, unique to Uganda. P.Maley photo.