11 July, 2010: MANGAIA, SOUTHERN COOK ISLANDS
Six seconds after 8.21 am (1821 GMT) on Sunday 11 July, day turned to night on the ancient island of Mangaia as the shadow of the moon obscured the sun.  


And for the following 3 minutes 18.8 seconds, the island, its 654 residents and around 400 visitors from all over the world experienced one of earth's most awe-inspiring natural events. 


This stunning photograph was taken on Mangaia by Constantinos Emmanouilidis who was among a team of scientists studying the eclipse.

Eclipse path across Mangaia
SO, WHAT IS A TOTAL ECLIPSE?

A total eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and blocks it.  The intensely bright disk of the Sun is replaced by the dark silhouette of the Moon, and the much fainter corona of the sun is visible.  During any one eclipse, totality is visible only in a narrow track on the surface of the Earth (never more than 167 miles in diameter). 


Eclipse 2010 header
EXCLUSIVE!
This animation shows the various stages of the eclipse as seen from Oneroa  NOTE: If it doesn't start automatically, refresh your page

FOR THE SCIENTIFICALLY MINDED...
In the bottom left hand corner is the phase of the eclipse and the exact time GMT (also known as UT or universal time).  Deduct 10 hours for the time on Mangaia.  Bottom right is the azimuth - the compass direction in degrees where an object in the sky appears.  The altitude is the angle in degrees above the level horizon.   The two combined enable the positon to be pinpointed exactly.  Obscuration is the percentage of the sun's disc that appears to be covered by the moon.

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Steve Bell - Head of HM Nautical Almanac Office in the UK for creating the animation exclusively for this site.  If you click here, you can also see his illustrations showing the footprint of the eclipse as it crosses the globe, and the details of the event at Mangaia .  The Eclipses Online part of the HMNAO website has a wealth of information on solar and lunar eclipses, past, present and future.

Mangaia was almost at the centre of that narrow track (see map left, courtesy of Fred Espenak/Jay Andersoin, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center).  An eclipse also has its own lifecycle.  This is how things looked and when on Mangaia during the four phases of contact.  (Note that the photos are not of the Mangaia eclipse but for illustrative purposes)
The eclipse itself, as seen from the island,  lasted 2 hours 21 minutes from beginning to end.   The period when the sun is completely blocked out by the moon's shadow ("totality") lasted longest just south of the village of Oneroa. 
Total eclipse seen from Mangaia
Eclipsed sun over the Cook Islands
Two more stunning photographs taken on Mangaia.  The one on the left is another shot by Constantinos Emmanouilidis showing blazing prominences emerging from the eclipsed sun.  This is called "Baily's Beads".  The one on the right was taken by Neil Barabas and shows the sun just after totality
Eclipse first contact
7.1 5 AM (17:15:06 GMT) FIRST CONTACT
The moon's shadow first becomes visible on the solar disk

8.19 AM (18:19:27 GMT) SECOND CONTACT
Almost the entire disk is covered.  It starts with Baily's Beads, caused by light shining through valleys on the moon's surface
Eclipse second contact
Photos of second contact and totality are copyright Exploratorium and are reproduced with permission

Eclipse third contact
9.36 AM (19:36:50 GMT) FOURTH CONTACT
It's over....the disk of the Moon passes away completely, revealing our life giving  sun in all its glory again

Eclipse over
8.22 AM (18:22:45 GMT) THIRD CONTACT
The end of total darkness, when the trailing (western) edge of the Moon coincides with the Sun's western limb,  Immediately after third contact in a solar eclipse, the diamond ring or Baily's beads may become visible again



Ancient Mangaia
MANGAIA: Ancient, awe inspiring...and very friendly

   At 20,000 years old, this is the most ancient island in the Pacific, and even at a normal dawn or dusk the jagged rocks and thick, green landscape take on an eerie appearance.  The population almost doubled for the eclipse, but normally visitors are few and far between, which is a pity because this is a uniquely different part of the Cook Islands. 




FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MANGAIA
Overview      Personal Impressions      Video Tour
Sharp coral makatea
Mangaian family
 
STRANGE HAPPENINGS

"Nature went to sleep"
Swiss eclipse chaser
Peter Horalek witnessing the Mangaia eclipse

"As the total phase of the eclipse approaches, the lighting around you becomes very strange.  It gets much darker, but unlike at sunset, the color of the remaining light does not become orangish and reddish.  It just gets grayer.  If there are animals around to observe, the daytime animals become quiet and prepare for sleep, while at the same time the nocturnal animals get ready to come out. "
"What to see during an eclipse" by Ron Hipscham on the Exploratorium website




 
The eclipse watchers certainly agreed.  Despite clouds making it less than perfect view, Robert Botet from Paris loved his visit:   "We didn't see the eclipse clearly but we discovered (Mangaia), and it was much more than what I expected,"   And you're guaranteed a very warm welcome, especially if you're British!  Follow the links below to find out more

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This
film hosted on YouTube, was taken from the runway at Mangaia airport by a visitor from Switzerland.  Time lapse photography shows the whole event in just 42 seconds!
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See it all in less than a minute!