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      Stephanie Lester was part of an expedition to the ancient city of Isfahan, Iran in August to witness the last solar eclipse of the millennium. Now she’s here for two-weeks to answer your questions about her experience.  
Eclipse 99 by Crabtree
Stephanie, Thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts on the eclipse. I've heard that during the eclipse, some saw the planet Venus. Did you happen to see Venus or any other objects normally obscured by sunlight?

Eclipse 99 by StephanieLester@att.net
We did get to see Venus during this eclipse, and we were actually able to see it even before totality occured. I'm not sure who it was that spotted it first, but when the partial eclipse was about 60% or 70%, someone alerted the rest of us that Venus was visible. I remember that I had a bit of difficulty finding it initially because I was afraid to look near the sun (the rays during a partial eclipse are still very harmful of course). I was told that I should be able to see the planet a hand's length away from the sun, to the left, and so I extended both hands out in front of me -- my right hand covered the sun so that I wouldn't look at it by accident, and the left one served as a ruler for locating the planet. I searched the sky very carefully until I saw it, and then once I did it was very easy to find it again after that. During totality though, Venus appeared much brighter and was much more obvious as a small bright light in the darkened sky not far off from the corona. We searched for Mercury as well, although we didn't see it because the sky was unusually light for a total eclipse. This was because dust in the air scattered light from surrounding areas to make the sky brighter than it would otherwise be during an eclipse.

Eclipse 99 by shashikant@ieee.org
I want to know whether the animals (and plants) there behaved as if it was really night time or was there a lot of confusion? Thanks a lot. Shashi

Animals and Plants by StephanieLester@att.net
Hey Shashi, To view the eclipse, we stayed at a resort called Chadagin not far from the city of Isfahan. This resort area was completely different from any other place we had been. The grass was a perfect green and there were flowers everywhere, but there still weren't very many animals around. The only animals I remember seeing were a few birds that were nesting in the roof of one of our villas, and they had been quiet the whole day so their behavior didn't really change much as totality approached. Therefore, I didn't get to see the phenomenon you are talking about, take place. I did take note, however, that all the people around got very quiet as the moon got close to entirely covering the sun. Nobody had to tell everyone else to be quiet, it was just something that we all did. I guess those few moments were so amazing that no words seemed like they would do justice to what we were all feeling. Stephanie (By the way, I'm not sure that I would have noticed if the plants were acting any differently (if it's possible that they can act differently, of course). Like I said before, we had only grass and flowers around us, and most of the time during totality I was looking up, not down! :-))

Eclipse 99 by c.gibson
Did you take alot of pictures? Can you post any to this page for us to see? thank you.

Pictures by StephanieLester@att.net
I certainly did take a lot of pictures during this trip, and in fact I'm still out searching for the "perfect" photo album to put them all in! While the pictures I personally took aren't on the internet, one of the scientists on the trip, Doug Biesecker, put the ones that he took onto his website. You can see them at: http://sungrazer.nascom.nasa.gov/iran/ where they are sorted mostly by the day they were taken. http://sungrazer.nascom.nasa.gov/iran/0811/ for instance, is the address of the pictures daken on the day of the eclipse. These include photos of Alan and Rusty being interviewed by the local Iranian news stations, pictures of us getting prepared for the event, and also ones of the eclipse itself. There is a neat photo of the great mass of people who gathered nearby to observe the event, too. Plus, if you check this particular day's pictures out, make sure to enlarge the one of the teddy bear with eclipse glasses on! (His name is Krepta and he didn't want to miss the last total solar eclipse of the millennium!) If you have the chance, check out pictures from the other days too. Some of them are really nice shots of our group interacting with the local people.

Eclipse 99 by Fiona
Hi Have Fun Next Eclipse

Next Eclipse by StephanieLester@att.net
Hey, thanks Fiona. I'm certainly hoping that I'll get to see another eclipse in the not-too-distant future. After this one, we all joked about going to the one in Africa together in June 2001. Who knows? Maybe we will! :)

Eclipse 99 by amber g.
I read a news story about how some people are superstitious about eclipses--like its bad luck to be in the path of one. I have two questions 1)Did you meet anyone superstitious of the eclipse on your trip? and 2)Do you think people should try to educate the ones who are still affraid or shuold we let people believe what they want about it? Thank you. P.S. You might want to check this thing, it took a long time for my message to show up!

Superstitions by StephanieLester@att.net
To answer your first question, Amber, I did not encounter anyone in particular on this trip who was superstitious about the eclipse. This is mostly because the Iranians we met and spoke with were usually astronomy students or teachers who knew a lot of science. The locals who gathered near our viewing site in Chadagin, however, did chant prayers during totality, and I’m sure that many other locals in Esfahan spent the time in mosque to avoid being exposed to the “evils” of the eclipse. Now, as for your second question about educating people about eclipses, I certainly do feel that people should be educated about them. This goes beyond just correcting false superstitions, though. After the eclipse I read so many articles about people being taken to the hospital for eye problems resulting from viewing the partial eclipse without proper eye protection, that I became very upset. More information about the dangers of looking at partial eclipses should be available. In answer to your particular question about superstitions, however, I do think that more education about the science behind eclipses should be offered as well. Old myths, such as the one about a dragon coming to eat up the sun, have some historical value and are interesting to listen to and tell, but should not be thought of by anyone as factual. I don’t think any amount of knowledge, however, will wipe out superstitions altogether. This is clear because of our own attachment to everyday superstitions such as those about ladders and black cats and Friday the 13th bringing bad luck. Although we know that there is no scientific evidence to indicate that they do indeed bring bad luck, many of us would be disinclined to walk underneath a ladder if faced with the opportunity. Similarly, no matter how much knowledge some people have about eclipses, they might still believe that they bring bad luck. This should not be an excuse to not educate the public however. Education is very important, and we should continue to try and replace false superstition with scientific fact. (Just a side note, by the way, since the topic of this post is about superstition -- A day before the eclipse, a few of us were playing a game of Scrabble on a laptop computer that one of the scientists brought, as we often did on long bus rides. The letters of our last word in the last game we played before seeing the phenomenon could be rearranged to spell “TOTALITY.” I took that as a good omen!)

Eclipse 99 by gb
i like eclipse it makes me happy

Eclipse 99 by (unknown)
Do you know who invented the first telescope? I cannot seem to fins it anywhere.

First Telescope by StephanieLester@att.net, Sat Nov 20 22:02:33 1999
I didn't know who invented the first telescope, myself, so I looked up the answer for you. Apparently there is some controversy over who should get the credit, but Hans Lippershey, a Dutch spectacles maker, probably invented it around 1608. Galileo, however, was the first person to use the telescope for astronomical purposes.

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