Total Solar Eclipse on the Solstice

June 22, 2001


Provided by: Fred Espanak, NASA/GSFC
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

Summer officially began (for the Northern Hemisphere) yesterday at 3:38 a.m. EDT. Conversely, in the Southern Hemisphere, yesterday was the first day of winter. A rare total eclipse of the Sun occurred on the solstice, visible from within a narrow corridor, which traversed southern Africa. As illustrated above, the path of the Moon's umbral shadow began in the South Atlantic and crossed southern Africa, and Madagascar and ended at sunset in the Indian Ocean.

During this only total solar eclipse for 2001, the 1st of the new millennium, and the 1st over southern Africa in 20 years, the longest period of totality (4 minutes and 57 seconds) occurred in the Atlantic Ocean, just west of Angola. Thousands of people from all over the world ventured to southern Africa to see the eclipse, bringing with them millions of dollars - a welcome boost for the regions struggling economies.

During totality, several bright planets were visible including Jupiter (just 5 degrees west of the Sun), Saturn and Venus. Also, a number of bright stars could be observed during totality, where skies were clear, including Capella in the constellation Auriga, Sirius in Canis Major, Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion, Aldebaran in Taurus, and Castor and Pollux in the Gemini. The Sun now rises between the zodiac constellations of Taurus and Gemini.

Related Links: