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American Express Travel Services Representatives Total Solar Eclipse of 2006 March 29
Mediterranean Treasures: Eclipse Info
(2006 March – April)

A Summary of the 2006 March 29 Total Solar Eclipse for Those Who Want to Know a Little Bit More

 Introduction   Eclipse Path Animation   Sky During Totality   Saros 139   More Info 


"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)

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 solar eclipse occuring

Wednesday, 2006 March 29 has its own distinctive characteristics. (This is one reason many people become "eclipse chasers" after seeing their first total solar eclipse!)

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. Many people "think" they have seen a total eclipse of the Sun. If you "think" you have seen one, you probably have not since total eclipse are one of nature's most awesome and most unforgettable events.

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)

The 2006 March 29 eclipse is the first long duration total solar eclipse since the Africa eclipse of 2001.

The 2006 total eclipse is also the last total solar eclipse easily accessible until the very long 2009 Asia-Pacific eclipse.

In fact, only one other total solar eclipse occurs between 2006 and 2009 — the 2008 August eclipse but totality is visible only from extreme north Canada and Greenland, Siberia (where greatest duration occurs, 2m12s), Mongolia, and China!

In 2001 maximum duration was 4m57s but this occurred off the east coast of Angola. In more readily accessible and safe regions of Africa, totality lasted about 3-1/2 min.

Durations of totality are typically only a few minutes long, with the longest possible about 7-1/2 minutes, a very rare occurrence. The longest duration in the 21st Century is 6m39s on July 22, 2009. Since 2001, durations have been relatively short, especially for easily accessible regions with good weather such as Australia in 2002 and the Pacific Ocean in 2005 (each about 1/2 minute). 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.

Eclipse Path (Click to enlarge)

Fig. 2. 2006 Total Solar Eclipse Path (map adopted from Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC). Areas of only partial eclipse border the central (total) eclipse path. Click map to enlarge and see original.

However, maximum duration of totality for the 2006 eclipse is 4m07s and also occurs over some of the driest and clearest skies in the world — the Sahara Desert. Unfortunately this includes Libya, a region some people may not want tour. (Still, Libya is now encouraging tourism and is is trying to build a tourist infrastructure.) However, the long narrow corridor of totality stretches across four continents from the east coast of Brazil, through North Africa, Europe and Central Asia. (A partial eclipse will be seen over a much broader area.) See Fig. 2.

Therefore, other options besides Libya exist in the eastern Mediterranean for totality that have durations nearly as long and still have reasonable prospects for seeing the eclipse. (See cloud cover map.) For example, our Egypt and Nile Cruise Tour will observe from coastal Egypt near the Libya/Egypt border (As Sallum) with a 75% chance of possible sunshine.


See our itinerary page for some tour options that include Libya, Egypt and the Mediterranean.

Note: For more information about solar eclipses, see our Introduction to Solar Eclipses (opens in new window). And for a better visualization of the 2006 March 29 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)

Eclipse Animation

The animation in Fig. 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.)

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

Eclipse Path Animation

Fig. 4. 2006 Total Solar Eclipse Path Animation (by British astronomer Andrew Sinclair)

This animation (Fig. 4) by Andrew Sinclair shows the path of the Moon's umbral and penumbral shadows during the total solar eclipse of 2006 March 29. Upper right corner shows the Universal Time (Greenwich Civil Time) as the animation runs. Lower right corner shows instantaneous duration of the total (T) eclipse.

The moving dark blue area shows the nighttime areas of the Earth. From start to finish, the penumbra takes about four hours to sweep across the Earth.

The penumbra appears as a large grayish region that sweeps across the Earth from west to east beginning in eastern Brazil and ending over Asia.. Everyone within the penumbra's path sees a partial eclipse of the Sun. Outside the penumbral path, no eclipse is visible.

The Moon's dark umbral shadow appear as a tiny black dot at the center of the penumbra. (The dot is small and moves quickly so look carefully!) The Moon's shadow moves across the Earth at very high velocities. Only those within the narrow umbral path see a total eclipse.

Maximum duration of totality lasts for about 4m07s in southern Libya where the shadow width is about 184 km (114 mi) wide and travels at about 0.7 km/sec (abt. 1,600 mi/hr). Here totality will occur at 10:10 UT with the Sun 67° above the horizon.

Totality over the eastern Mediterranean will occur about 40 minutes later with only a slightly shorter duration (abt. 31m51s) and the Sun still high at an altitude of 57°.

See another animation by Andrew Sinclair showing the umbral shadow moving over North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

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

Venus should be conspicuous below the eclipsed Sun. See Fig. 5 for a view of the 2006 March 29 eclipse sky as seen from regions at and near Libya. (Click picture to enlarge.) The Sun will be nearly south at mid-eclipse. The most visible objects include Venus, Mercury and Mars in the SW sky with several bright stars as Vega appearing elsewhere. However, only Venus may be bright enough to be easily seen, shinning at magnitude -4.2. Keen eyes may seen some of the other planets and stars. However, do not waste much time searching for these objects lest you miss the main event!

Also see table giving elongations, magnitudes, altitudes and azimuths of most conspicuous planets and stars during totality

Eclipse Sky

Fig. 5. Eclipse Sky. Venus, brightest nighttime celestial object except for Moon, will appear below 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 for enlarged, original labeled image including magnitudes of selected objects..) Drawing by Fred Espenak.


D id you know eclipses occur in families? The total eclipse of 2006 March 29 is the 29th eclipse of 71 members that belong to Saros series 139. 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 139 includes 71 solar eclipses of all types spanning about 1262.1 years.)

Saros 139 is now in mid-cycle having begun as a partial eclipse in 1501 May 17. This cycle will end with a partial eclipse in 2763 July 3 after a length of 1262.1 years.. The most recent eclipse in Saros 139 occurred 1988 March 18, also as a total eclipse. The next in this Saros after the 2006 March eclipse is the total eclipse of 2024 April 8. This Saros cycle contains the following sequence of eclipses: 7 partial, 12 hybrid, 43 total and 9 partial eclipses.


See Espenak's 2005 Hybrid Eclipse Page For more information and details (pages open in new windows):
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Page last updated February 14, 2006
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