Williams College Astronomer Observes Solar Eclipse from Sweden

Media contact: Gregory Shook, director of media relations; tele: 413-597-3401; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., August 13, 2018—The partial solar eclipse of August 11, 2018, was viewed by Chair and Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy Jay Pasachoff along with dedicated eclipse observers and others from the northern part of the Earth. Solar eclipses occurred at opposite ends of the Earth this summer. Both were merely partial solar eclipses as seen from the Earth’s surface, not as dramatic as last summer’s total solar eclipse, whose path of totality crossed the United States.

Pasachoff, chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses, viewed both, though weather forecasts led him to stay in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 11, where he had a view of 4 percent coverage of the sun’s diameter by the moon in clear sky. A group led by Tora Greve of Malmö, Sweden, went ahead with the original arrangements above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, where 25 percent of the solar disk was covered at maximum, and succeeded by driving from Kiruna northeast to Abisko, near the Norwegian border, in seeing the beginning of the eclipse before the forecast clouds and rain came. Robert Lucas of Sydney, Australia, gambled on the larger coverage near Kiruna, and got to see at least a little of the eclipse, while Pasachoff played it safe in Stockholm.

Xavier Jubier of Paris, France, went to Yakutsk, northeastern Siberia, Russia, where he had 57 percent of the sun’s area and 65 percent of its diameter covered. He plans to return to Yakutsk this coming winter for the January 6th, 2019, partial solar eclipse with an obscuration of 56% of the area and a magnitude of 0.66 of the solar diameter, all this with temperatures likely below –50°C = –68°F.

Passengers on a cruise ship, the Eclipse, north of Scotland sailing towards Ireland, missed seeing the eclipse because of clouds. Bill Kramer from Jamaica, keeper of a list of “eclipse chasers” and their duration in the moon’s shadow and number seen, was one of those passengers.

At Zhou Guanhuai’s location in Hefei City, Anguim in eastern China (18:48 local time (UTC+8) or 10:48 UTC), the eclipse just started 25 minutes before sunset locally; there were some clouds in the lower sky, most of the eclipse process was obscured by the clouds. However, the sun just came out for three to four minutes before so the eclipse was photographed near the horizon about ten minutes before sunset.

During this summer’s partial solar eclipses, the moon never entirely covered the everyday disk of the sun, so the eclipse observers used special solar filters throughout to cover their eyes and their camera lenses.

The International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses, in existence in some form since the IAU’s formation 99 years ago, includes members from the U.S., Canada, England, Slovakia, Russia, Japan, China, India, and France. Pasachoff will report on the history of the Working Group, and its predecessor Commissions and Subcommissions, at the Centennial Symposium to be held at the IAU’s triennial General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, in late August.  The Working Group is joint between the “Sun and Heliosphere” Division and the “Education, Outreach, and Heritage” Division.

After 2017’s major total solar eclipse, 2018 is a year without a total or annular (“ring”) eclipse, so there was a Solar Eclipse Conference (http://sec2018.be). It was held in Genk, Belgium, during August 3-6, and various professional and amateur astronomers discussed scientific and non-scientific eclipse-related matters.

The following solar eclipse to the ones discussed above will be a partial eclipse visible in eastern Asia—including Siberian Russia, Japan, eastern China, South Korea, and North Korea, as well as southwestern Alaska on January 6, 2019. (There will be 42% coverage in Tokyo and 20 percent coverage in Shanghai.) A total solar eclipse will cross the Pacific in the South American winter on July 2, 2019, reaching Chile only 13° above the horizon and then extending until sunset near the Argentinian Atlantic Coast. An annular eclipse extending from Saudi Arabia and Oman through southern India and Sri Lanka to southern Malaysia and Singapore and on to Guam in mid-Pacific will occur on December 26, 2019. Following will be another annular eclipse with a path of annularity from Africa through southern Asia to the Pacific on June 20, 2020.  A total solar eclipse peaking over Argentina, and with its path of totality crossing Chile and Argentina, will occur in the South American summer on December 14, 2020.

For American viewers, the northeastern states will see partial phases of the annular solar eclipse of June 10, 2021. All of Europe and the Middle East will see the partial eclipse of October 25, 2022. Almost all of North America and South America will see partial phases of the annular solar eclipse, whose path of annularity passes from the United States into northern South America.  The path of totality of the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse crosses Mexico and the United States from Texas to Maine, and on into easternmost Canada, with partial phases through all but northernmost North America and all of Central America. Total and annular solar eclipses, in which the sky darkens during daylight, are much more dramatic than eclipses of the moon, the next of which will be visible in the United States on January 20/21, 2019.

Pasachoff is a veteran solar-eclipse observer, having started as a first-year student at Harvard.  He has observed at 34 total solar eclipses and a total so far of 69 solar eclipses of all types.

Working Group on Solar Eclipses:


Pasachoff’s eclipse expeditions:


Eye safety link from the American Astronomical Society:


Fred Espenak’s eclipse website (evolved from the “NASA eclipse site”):


with a Google map for 2019:


with a Google map for 2020:


Jay Anderson’s eclipse weather/cloudiness statistics and maps:


Maps from Xavier Jubier:

July 13:


August 11:


Pasachoff and Williams College expedition: 2017 total solar eclipse webpage:


Maps linked at timeanddate.com, including views on a rotated globe:


Solar Eclipse Conference:


European Space Agency’s spacecraft view of the partial eclipse doubled:


IAU Working Group on Solar Eclipse Members

Jay Pasachoff (USA, Chair), Iraida Kim (Russia), Jagdev Singh (India), Vojtech Rusin (Slovakia), Yoichiro Hanaoka (Japan), Zhongquan Qu (China), Beatriz Garcia (Argentina), Patricio Rojo (Chile), Xavier Jubier (France), Fred Espenak (US), Jay Anderson (Canada), Glenn Schneider (US), Michael Gill (UK), Michael Zeiler (USA), Bill Kramer (USA), and Ralph Chou (Canada).


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.







Published August 13, 2018