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American Express Travel Services Representatives Total Solar Eclipse Tahiti Cruise
Details About the Eclipse
(2005 April 2 – April 16)
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A Summary of the 2005 April 8 Hybrid Solar Eclipse for Those Who Want to Know a Little Bit More

 Introduction   Eclipse Site   Eclipse Path Animation 
 Eclipse Circumstances   Sky During Totality   Saros 129 


All total eclipse of the Sun are unique. Each eclipse also challenges the ingenuity of the eclipse chaser who wants to maximize the impact of this awesome event. The total eclipse of the Sun occuring on Friday, 2005 April 8 is no different.

"I look up. Incredible! It is the eye of God. A perfectly black disk, ringed with bright spiky streamers that stretch out in all directions" (Jack. B. Zirker, 1984)

Types of Eclipses

Fig. 1. Types of Solar Eclipses. Solar eclipses result from the partial or complete obscuration of the Sun by the Moon. (Left: Partial Eclipse; Center: Total Eclipse; Right: Annular or "Ring" Eclipse)

However, this solar eclipse is especially unusual due to its dual nature. Solar eclipses can be partial, annular or total (the latter two types also begin and end with partial phases). Fig. 1 illustrates each type of eclipse.

But, the April 8 eclipse is "hybrid." The narrow eclipse path crosses the width of the vast Pacific Ocean beginning southeast of New Zealand and ending over Panama, Columbia and northern Venezuela. Although the eclipse begins as an annular eclipse along the central eclipse path, the eclipse turns total about 2,200 km (1,400 mi) south of Tahiti before becoming annular again about 800 km (500 mi) west of Costa Rica. This produces a very narrow central eclipse path (see Fig. 2 below) over the remote and vast Pacific Ocean far from any significant land masses.

Note: The hybrid solar eclipse phenomenon occurs because the end of the Moon's umbral shadow extends through the Earth's surface at some points (causing a total eclipse) but fails to reach the surface elsewhere along the eclipse path causing an annular eclipse. In an annular (or "ring eclipse") eclipse, however, the Moon appears too small to fully obscure the Sun as the Moon's antumbral shadow sweeps past the observer (Fig. 1 above).

Eclipse Path (Click to enlarge)

Fig. 2. 2005 Hybrid Solar Eclipse Path (map adopted from Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC). Eclipse begins annular, turns total and ends annular. Areas of only partial eclipse border the central (annular or total) eclipse path. Click map to enlarge.

Maximum possible duration of totality is only about 42 seconds in the Central Pacific Ocean about 11 degrees south of the equator where the eclipse path is only 27 km (17 mi) wide.

Although the maximum possible duration of totality for the 2005 April eclipse is exceptionally brief, observers should see extraordinary displays of Baily's Beads at this eclipse. (This occurs because the Moon's disk will appear only slightly larger than that of the Sun.)

Especially near the beginning and end of totality observers should see a grand spectacle of dancing light beads skipping around the edge of the Moon. Meanwhile, the slightly smaller relative size of the Moon compared to the Sun should also reveal more of the Sun's ruby red prominences at the edge of the Moon.

The Partial Eclipse. This solar hybrid eclipse will also appear only as a partial eclipse over a much broader area including New Zealand, much of the South Pacific and the Americas. In the United States, Florida and South Texas will have the greatest amount of obscuration for the partial eclipse.

For example, in Gainesville, Florida, home of Continental Capers Travel and the University of Florida, the Moon will hide about 34% of the Sun's diameter (called the eclipse magnitude) on the afternoon of 2005 April 8. (See partial eclipse animation for appearance of Sun in Gainesville. (Greatest eclipse is at 6:19 p.m. EDT with a Sun altitude of 19 degrees.)

In Dallas, Texas the value is 19% and in Washington, D.C. the magnitude is a mere 5%. (For other cities around the world, see Fred Espenak's Local Circumstances Tables.)

Note: For more information about solar eclipses, see our Introduction to Solar Eclipses (opens in new window). And for a better visualization of the 2005 April 8 eclipse path over the Earth's surface, see Animation of Eclipse Path below

Eclipse Animation

Fig. 3. Total Eclipse of Sun. Partial phases lead to one of nature's greatest spectacles. (Animation by H.L. Cohen)


The animation in Figure 3 illustrates a view of a total solar eclipse where partial phases lead to one of nature's greatest spectacles, the Sun in total eclipse with its glorious coronal halo. As totality commences, notice the appearance of a large "diamond ring," beads of light and ruby red prominences at the edge of the Sun. (Animation created from images of real solar eclipses.)

Although the maximum duration of totality is typically only a few minutes, the entire eclipse from the beginning to the ending partial phases lasts a few hours. (Maximum possible duration of totality is about 7-1/2 minutes but durations over 7 minutes are very rare—none occur in the 21st Century.)

"For one fleeting moment this last bead lingers, like a single jewel set into the arc that is the lunar limb" (John Beattie)

The 2005 April 8 total eclipse duration is very brief but may show show more than the usual number of beautiful beads. The Sun's inner reddish chromosphere ("color sphere") should also more easily peak around the Moon's edge including possible reddish solar prominences.

Why? Due to the near equality of the Sun and Moon's apparent disks for this hybrid eclipse, anticipation runs high that sunlight will filter through lunar valleys at the edge of the Moon's disk producing more extensive prominences and beads (known as Baily's Beads)

"The human eye is the only instrument
that can see the corona in all its splendor"
(George Lovi)

Path of Eclipse and Cruise Area (Click to enlarge)

Fig. 4. 2005 Hybrid Eclipse Path and Ms Gauguin Cruise Area. The ship will intersect the eclipse path about 530 km (330 mi) north-northeast of Pitcairn Island. Click map to enlarge.

To view this awesome spectacle, guests of Continental Capers Travel will view the eclipse from aboard the Ms Paul Gauguin, one of Radisson's five-star luxury ships. The Ms Paul Gauguin will tour many enchanted islands of French Polynesia along one of the Radisson Seven Sea South Pacific cruise routes.

But, guests on aboard will also have the additional opportunity to witness a total eclipse of the Sun as the Ms Paul Gauguin sails several thousand kilometers from Tahiti into the eclipse path. Here the eclipse occurs during morning hours with about 34 seconds of totality.

Although no one can guarantee clear skies, the chosen eclipse intersection point has better than average April Pacific weather (see April cloud cover map). In addition, viewing the eclipse from on board allows one to maneuver up or down the eclipse path to find clearer weather in case clouds prevail at the prechosen eclipse point.

Note: Guests will be given safe solar filters for non-optical use to allow viewing the partial phases of the eclipse. (No filters needed to view totality.) For more information see our page about Eye Safety.

For more information about the eclipse from our observing site, see eclipse circumstances below.


Eclipse Path Animation

Fig. 5. 2005 Hybrid Solar Eclipse Path Animation (from F. Espenak from a program by British astronomer Andrew Sinclair)

This animation (Fig. 5) shows the path of the Moon's antumbral, umbral and penumbral shadows during the hybrid solar eclipse of 2005 April 8. Upper right corner shows the Universal Time (Greenwich Civil Time) as the animation runs. Lower right corner shows instantaneous duration of the annular (A) or total (T) eclipse.

The penumbra appears as a large grayish region (approximately 4,000 miles or 7,000 km in diameter) that sweeps across the Earth from west to east. Everyone within the penumbra's path sees a partial eclipse of the Sun. Outside the penumbral path, no eclipse is visible.

The Moon's antumbral and umbral shadow appear as a tiny black dot (typically less than 27 km (17 mi) wide at the center of the penumbra. (The dot is small and moves quickly so look carefully!) Observers along the beginning or end of the eclipse path (roughly first and last 2,000 km), where the Moon's antumbral shadow moves across the Earth's surface, see an annular eclipse (maximum duration about one-half minute nears the ends of the path).

In the South Pacific the Moon's shadow moves across the Earth at velocities exceeding 2,000 km/hr (1,400 mi/hr). Only those within the narrow umbral path see a total eclipse, which lasts for only about 30 seconds or less along most locations. Maximum duration of totality (42s) occurs in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The moving dark blue area shows the nighttime areas of the Earth. From start to finish, the penumbra takes over five hours to sweep across the Earth. The antumbra and umbra take about three and one-half hours to travel from the South Pacific into Central America before leaving the Earth's surface in Venezuela.


Cruise Map Route (click to enlarge)

Fig. 6. The MsPaul Gauguin Eclipse Cruise Route. The ship sails from east from Tahiti to Pitcairn Island, then north to the eclipse path, the Marquesas Islands, and finally south to Tuamotu Archipelago before returning to Tahiti, a journey of over 6,000 km (3,700 mi). Click image to enlarge.

For those who want more details, the following table give approximate data about the eclipse as viewed from our intended location in the South Pacific Ocean (see Global Map in Fig. 5) about 2,310 km (1,435 mi) east-southeast of Papeete and 532 km (330 mi) north-northeast of Pitcairn Island. (See also Cruise Route Map in Fig. 6.) Precise location is dependent on weather conditions.

The path of totality does not pass near or over any land mass of significant size. However, the eclipse path passes just off the west coast of Oeno Island, a very small atoll (0.7 sq km or 0.3 sq mi), 140 km (90 mi) northwest of Pitcairn Island in the Pitcairn group (United Kingdom).

Eclipse Location, Duration & Times *
Observing Location  
    South Pacific North of Pitcairn Island (see Cruise Route Map)
    Latitude   20º 43.8' S
    Longitude 127º 51.7' W
Info About Totality  
    Duration of Totality 0m 35.5s
    Width of Shadow 23 km (14 mi)
    Apparent Diameter of Moon to Sun 1.007
    Sun's Area Obscured 101%
    Velocity of Shadow 0.71 km/sec (0.44 mi/sec)
Local Eclipse Times (approx.)
    Partial Eclipse Begins   9:30 a.m. (18:30 UT)
    Totality (Max. Eclipse) 10:58 a.m. (19:58 UT)
    Partial Eclipse Ends 12:31 p.m. (21:31 UT)
Location of Sun  
    When Partial Eclipse Begins Altitude 49º; Azimuth 49º
    At Totality Altitude 61º; Azimuth 18º
    When Partial Eclipse Ends Altitude 58º; Azimuth 332º

*Local zone times are given in the table along with Universal Time (UT), which is 9h later. (Universal Time is essentially Greenwich Civil Time.) Thus, UT is 4 hours later than Eastern Daylight Time, 5 hours later than Central Daylight Time, etc.
   The eclipse intersection point longitude is about 28.6 minutes east of the center of a standard time zone centered on the 135th meridian (9h earlier than UT). This technically puts the ship in the 135th meridian time zone at the time of the eclipse assuming 15° wide time zones. (See World Standard Time Zone Map.)
Note: Tahiti (Papeete) local time is UT - 10h and Pitcairn Island local time is UT - 8h. Neither keep daylight time. The Ms Paul Guaguin keeps Papeete Time which is, therefore, 10h earlier than UT. (So, subtract one hour from the local zone times in the table if you want ship time.)

"... and it became night . . . and all the animals and birds were terrified; and the wild beasts could easily be caught" (Ristoro d’Arezzo, 1239)

Fig. 7. Eclipse Sky. Venus, brightest nighttime celestial object except for Moon, will appear next to the eclipsed Sun in a darkened sky! Meanwhile, an erie twilight glow surrounds the horizon from sunlight shinning from beyond the Moon's shadow. (Click picture to enlarge.) Drawing by H.L. Cohen.

Both inferior planets, Mercury and Venus, will be near the eclipsed Sun. (Inferior planets have orbits inside Earth's orbit.)

See Fig. 7 for a view of the South Pacific northern sky to see the positions of Venus, Mercury and the eclipsed Sun at the time of the 2005 April 5 eclipse. Sunlight reaching the ground from outside the Moon's shadow, often produces a weird twilight around the horizon.

However, only Venus will be easily visible during this eclipse. Venus is the brightest appearing of all celestial objects except for the Sun and Moon. This brilliant planet (shinning at magnitude -3.9) will appear only 2.5º east of the Sun! This should add to the special nature of this eclipse.

Note: The use of the word magnitude here refers to the magnitude scale, an astronomical scale of brightness. (When applied to solar eclipses, magnitude refers to the fraction of the Sun's diameter obscured.)

Mercury will also be relatively close to the Sun (about 8º to the southwest of the Sun) but its relative faintness (mag. +2.2) will make this planet hard to see.

Finally, Mars appears in the northwest eclipsed sky 65º from the Sun but its magnitude of +0.8 may make the red planet difficult to spot.

Since this eclipse has an extremely short duration, observers are warned not to waste time trying to locate and observe bright stars and planets except for Venus which should appear conspicuous!


D id you know eclipses occur in families? The total eclipse of 2005 April 8 is the 51st eclipse of 80 members of Saros series 129. The Saros cycle is a period of about 6,585.3 days (18 years 11 days 8 hours). Two eclipses separated by one Saros cycle have similar geometry (similar duration, same time of year, etc.).

The periodicity and recurrences of solar eclipses as governed by the Saros is useful for organizing eclipses into families. A typical Saros series lasts about 12 to 13 centuries and contains 70 or more eclipses. (Saros 129 includes 80 eclipses spanning about 1,425 years.)

The most recent eclipse in Saros 129 occurred 1987 March 29, also as a hybrid eclipse with a maximum duration of totality of 8 seconds. The next after the 2005 April eclipse will occur on 2023 April 20 with a 1m 16s maximum duration of totality. This Saros began with 20 partial eclipses (the first 1103 Oct 03). The first annular eclipse occurred 1464 May 06 with 28 additional continuing annular eclipses until the triplet hybrid eclipses of 1987, 2005 and 2023. The next 9 eclipses will all be total. Saros 129 then ends with 19 partial eclipses, the last occuring 2528 Feb 21.

See Espenak's 2005 Hybrid Eclipse Page For a basic primer about solar eclipses, see our Introduction to Solar Eclipses
  (opens in new window)

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