Eclipse looms of the midnight sun
May 23, 2011
Astronomers were looking forward to an unusual eclipse of the midnight sun next week that was expected to be seen over wide areas of central and northern Norway.
The eclipse was due to start over the Sunnmøre area from around 11pm Tuesday night, May 31st, and continue for around two hours over Trøndelag and northern Norway, into the early morning of Wednesday June 1st.
The best viewing area was expected in the northern areas of Nordland County, also in Troms, Finnmark and on Svalbard. The eclipse was due to begin a bit earlier in northern Norway and last longer.
Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard, Norway’s most high-profile and enthusiastic astronomer, told newspaper Aftenposten that the eclipse will be “a rare event” because around 60 percent of the midnight sun would be covered by the moon. Røed Ødegaard of the University of Oslo said 60 percent “was quite a lot” for a midnight sun eclipse.
He said local astronomy associations in Bodø and Tromsø already had special plans for viewing the eclipse, noting that the last such eclipse in July 2000 covered just 40 percent of the midnight sun.
Røed Ødegaard also said that, weather permitting, the eclipse of the low-lying midnight sun could set off a fine display of unusual colours in the early summer skies.
“Because the sun is so low, we can get unusually beautiful colours with the silvery light and rare shadows under the trees,” Røed Ødegaard told Aftenposten. “It can really be gorgeous.”
The next eclipse of the midnight sun won’t occur until March 20, 2015, he said, but another lunar eclipse is “just around the corner.” On the evening of Wednesday June 15, the moon will rise in the southeast after an eclipse has started, and be visible as far north as the Arctic Circle.
Residents of Fredrikstad, in southern Norway, should be able to see the lunar eclipse from 10:24pm, Røed Ødegaard said, and residents of southeastern Norway will have the best viewing opportunities. “It will last for around an hour and 40 minutes, which is an unusually long time,” said Røed Ødegaard, known for being keen to share his astronomical enthusiasm with the public.
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