Annular Eclipse of the Sun
Cuenca, Central Spain, 3rd October 2005

Conditions for viewing this eclipse were perfect.  Maggie and I had cycled to Cuenca from Aranjuez (about 70km south of Madrid) via Toledo and La Mancha.  We had wall-to-wall sunshine every day of this holiday, and 3rd October was no exception.  We stayed at the Posada San José, which has a gorgeous terrace, overlooked by its dining room, with the river valley beyond.

We got up early and watched the sun rise on the other side of the Huecar valley....


After breakfast, we wandered up to the top of this beautiful old city to a car park we had identified the day before as being a good viewing site.  Since it was still quite early (although Spain is 2 hours ahead of UT/GMT on 3rd October), it was quite a bit cooler than the previous week, when we had been cycling in 30-plus degC.  We waited - and we waited...  I was wondering if it was all a big con since it should have started by now.  Some other people had since arrived, including a German couple with loads of GPS equipment, which was somewhat reassuring.  Then we noticed a tiny bit at the top of the Sun was disappearing - I had got the time wrong by one hour.  As the moon covered more and more of the Sun's disc, it got noticeably colder.  As eclipses go, this was a relatively poor specimen since the moon was so far away that it could only cover 90% of the Sun - less than the maximum partial eclipse experienced in London in August 1999.  However, with the hottest part of the Sun covered, it became chilly - certainly a lot colder than the heat to which we had become acclimatised.  This was probably all the more so for being 800m above sea level with a clear sky.  If only this one had been total - it was so clear the stars would almost certainly have been visible.

We saw something you only get during annular eclipses - little annular 'suns' projected through gaps between the leaves of a tree, which formed pinhole cameras.  These were crescents before and after the annular phase.

Annular Suns

Annular 'Suns' projected through gaps between leaves

Crescent Suns

Crescent 'Suns' projected through gaps between leaves

As in Bucharest before and after totality, the light during the annular phase was a strange steel blue - bright, but dim at the same time - rather like looking at a sunny scene through tinted glass.  The view was particularly good, being the old city of Cuenca, including the famous Hanging Houses, with the modern city beyond.

Hanging Houses

Hanging Houses with the Huecar gorge below.

Eclipse Sequence

Annular Eclipse sequence.
All times are UT (within the accuracy of my camera's clock).
Click here for an enlarged view, or here for a GIF animation (400Kb).

Since GIF animations can run jerkily in in some browsers, I've put an AVI version (ZIPped - 650kB) as an alternative here.  Download and unZIP it, then run the result in your Windows Media Player.

The sequence above was taken on an Olympus C730 digital camera with a photographic quality version of the filter used in those solar glasses that everybody had in 1999.  (Strangely enough, we only saw these glasses for sale in one shop, which was a chemist's in the rather dour town of Mora, in La Mancha.  Although Mora was rather reminiscent of Ceaucescu's Romania, with its dreadful 1960's blocks of flats and the Intourist-style hotel where we stayed, it has an interesting town hall, built in the Moorish style in 1927.)

Oh yes - and I had to find a means of holding the filter and its Cokin mount onto the Olympus, which is a semi-compact, not an SLR.  This had to withstand being packed with my other luggage in a cycle pannier.  The solution was a Tesco yoghurt pot with its bottom removed, which fitted snugly over the Olympus's lens barrel.  I glued its top flange to a piece of cardboard that fitted into a slot in the Cokin mount, and sprayed the whole interior matt black to prevent reflections.  Perfecto!

Update: Tesco has since changed the design of its yoghurt pot.  The new one doesn't fit - but I'm sure you could improvise with something else (and not offend your local traders by shopping at the big 'T' !)