2006: Total Eclipse in Antalya

I have always been fascinated by eclipses. But I never got to see a total solar eclipse until I was sixty.

The Friedel Chronicles
5 min readOct 7, 2023

My father was a part-time astronomer who had explained to me at an early age the mechanisms of the celestial events in which one body temporarily obscures another. I have seen dozens of lunar eclipses, and even the 2012 transit of Venus across the Sun. That occurs only once in around 250 years. But I had never seen a total eclipse of the sun, which occurs once in around 1½ years, somewhere in the world. The path of totality, which is the narrow band on Earth where the Moon completely blocks the Sun, is typically only a few miles wide. This means that only a very small fraction of the Earth’s population will have the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse in their lifetime.

In a previous article I described how in 1999 the universe had transpired to stage a total solar eclipse in the birthplace of my father. I traveled to Wellheim in Germany and waited for the minutes of totality in the hilltop city burg. But then clouds spoiled it all for us. All we saw was day turn into night, for a few minutes.

In March 2006 a total eclipse was due, in an area that was not too far from home. The path of totality crossed southern Turkey, where I had a good friend. He arranged for us to stay in Antalya, where the moon would completely block the sun.

Antalya was in the path of the umbra or the 2006 total eclipse

Well, my friend Ali Nihat booked us in a luxurious hotel in Antalya, from where we explore the historically fascinating surroundings.

Our hotel in Antalya, Turkey
It was in an area of very imaginative hotel construction. Here is a group of hotels that are inspired by Moscow.

We also drove to Aspendos, 40 km east of Antalya. Aspendos is an ancient Greco-Roman city, known for having the best-preserved theatre from antiquity. This was built in 155 AD by the Greek architect Zenon, is 96 metres in diameter, and provided seating for 7,000. The theatre is still in use today, and hosts a variety of performances, including concerts, operas, and ballets. It is also a popular tourist destination, and is one of the most photographed sites in Turkey.

The Roman theatre of antiquity in Aspendos

In addition there are many other well-preserved ruins, like this aqueduct, which was 19 km long and transported water from two springs in the Taurus Mountains into the city of Aspendos.

This aquaduct provided a reliable, clean water supply to the city for over 140 years.

But of course the main reason for our visit in Antalya was the eclipse, and I had prepared carefully for the event.

We had solar eclipse glasses, and binoculars which we could only use during the three minutes and eleven seconds of totality — I am wearing a stopwatch to warn us when the sun would begin to reappear and we had to abandon the binoculars.
The bright day started to dim..
…until it got quite dark. At totality there were even stars in the sky.
With my single-lens reflex camera I got a couple of shots, but did not waste time adjusting aperture and light. There would be thousands of professional pictures on the Internet. You can even see an animation of the Antalya eclipse with full data here.

The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, could be clearly seen, but is exaggerated (overexposed) in my photo. Through the binoculars it looked like the following image taken by Luc Viatour with his Nikon SLR. It is of the eclipse we had missed seven years earlier.

In Luc Viatou’s picture you can see protuberances and “Baily’s beads” around the edge. We could see them during the Antalya eclipse, and they even turned up in my photo.

During a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely occludes the Sun’s disk, protuberances, which are normally too faint to be seen, become visible as bright, flame-like features around the edge. The Bradly beads are caused by sunlight shining through the valleys and mountains on the Moon’s jagged edge.

And this is a NASA photo of the March 29, 2006 total eclipse taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station:

We were sitting there below, in the shadow cast by the moon!

The ISS was in position to view the umbral shadow as it moves across southern Turkey. The astronaut photograph was taken at approximately 2:00 p.m. local time. Unfortunately the magnification is not high enough to show us reclining on our deck chairs in Antalya, watching the moon occlude the sun.

It is a testimony to the power of mathematics that astronomers can predict solar eclipses so accurately. New computer technology allows them to map out the path of the moon’s shadow on Earth to within feet, and that for centuries in the future.

Addendum on April 7th 2024

Tomorrow there will be a total eclipse, visible across North America. The path of totality stretches from Texas to Maine in the United States and into Canada. Go out, quipped with proper eye protection, and watch the “Great North American Eclipse”, as it is being dubbed.

Here are some of the times when totality will occur — when you can briefly remove your eye protection:

  • Dallas, Texas: 1:40–1:44 p.m. CDT
  • Cleveland, Ohio: 3:13–3:17 p.m. EDT
  • Buffalo, New York: 3:18–3:22 p.m. EDT
  • Burlington, Vermont: 3:26–3:29 p.m. EDT
  • Caribou, Maine: 3:32–3:34 p.m. EDT

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The Friedel Chronicles

Frederic Alois Friedel, born in 1945, science journalist, co-founder of ChessBase, studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford.