The 1998 Eclipse:
Paths, Sky and Details

All diagrams © Fred Espenak

World Path

1998 Eclipse: World

Support this web site
by making a donation

The Total Solar Eclipse of 26 February 1998. The dark blue region is the path of totality (also known as the umbra).

The umbra shadow travels from west to east (left to right on the map). At the point of greatest eclipse, totality is at local midday. The duration of totality at greatest eclipse is 4 minutes 8 seconds. This occurs in the Pacific Ocean. On either side of that point, the duration is less. To the West of greatest eclipse the eclipse will be total before local noon; East of it, totality will be seen after local noon. The umbra is widest around the time of greatest eclipse as the Earth bulges out towards the Moon in that region.

The area on either side of the path of totality (in pale blue) will provide a partial eclipse, the magnitude decreasing with distance from the path of totality. Beyond the blue region, no eclipse is visible. The sub-solar point is the location where the Sun is overhead at the time of greatest eclipse. This point is South of the equator during February. The parts in red are the regions where the eclipse occurs during sunrise (left) or sunset (right).

The blue ellipses and circles are the positions of the umbra at 10 minute intervals. The umbra becomes more circular near the region of greatest eclipse as the meeting between the Earth and the umbra becomes more perpendicular.

The path of totality begins in the Pacific Ocean, crosses the Gallapagos Islands (politically part of Ecuador), Colombia and Venezuela. Leaving South America the umbra passes over several islands in the Caribbean ending in the Atlantic Ocean (off the coast of Europe). The umbra takes 3 hours 20 minutes to traverse its entire path.


Path Across Central and South America

1998 Eclipse: South America

The path of totality is the dark blue band, moving across Central and South America from left to right.

In this part of the path the eclipse occurs after local noon. The path travels across Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. It takes about 30 minutes for the umbra to cross this land area.

The circlular regions are the positions of the umbra at ten minute intervals (all in Universal Time which is essentially GMT). For each position, the accompanying boxes contain the time, the duration of totality, and the altitude of the Sun. The umbra is almost a circle as the meeting between the Earth and the umbra is amlost perpendicular.


Path Across Venezuela

1998 Eclipse: Venezuela

The two outer black lines are the path of totality and the middle line is the centre line. The maximum duration of totality is found along the centre line. The other lines indicate locations of 2 minute and 3 minute totality.

The circlular regions are the positions of the umbra at five minute intervals. For each position, the accompanying boxes contain the time, the duration of totality, and the altitude of the Sun.

The jagged red line moving across the map is the border between Colombia (upper left) and Venezuela (right).


Path Across Paraguana Peninsula

1998 Eclipse: Paraguana Peninsula

The two outer black lines are the path of totality and the middle line is the centre line. The maximum duration of totality is found along the centre line.

The large island-like area is the Paraguana Peninsula. Within the rectangle, Punto Fijo was our base. The eclipse site was at the intersection of almost vertical line with the peninsula north of Punto Fijo. There is a tiny pointed protruberence there; our location was just north of this protruberence.


The Sky During Totality

1998 Eclipse: The Sky During Totality

This was the sky during totality close to our observation location.

Mercury and Jupiter were very close to and on either side of the eclipsed Sun. Venus was closer to the horizon. All three planets were easilly visible. We did not see Mars and Saturn.


Eclipse Details

Location El Pico, Paraguana Peninsula, Venezuela
Latitude 11° 53' N
Longitude 70° 17' W
Altitude 1m
Distance from Centre Line < 10 km
1st Contact (UT - 4) 12:37
2nd Contact 14:08:10
3rd Contact 14:11:54
4th Contact 15:35
Duration 3m 44s
Path Width 144 km
Major Axis 161 km
Minor Axis 143 km
Umbral Velocity 0.71 km/s
Solar Altitude 62°
Solar Azimuth 224°
Direction of Shadow 240°
Saros Details 130 (51 / 73)
Gamma 0.23909
Diameter Ratio 1.043
Obscuration 1.087

The Location, Latitude, Longitude and Altitude (in metres) are for the observation site. Latitude and Longitude were measured on a high quality aeronautical map. The Altitude was estimated.

The Distance from Centre Line was also estimated using the aeronautical map.

First Contact is the beginning of the eclipse when the first "bite" appears on the Sun's disk; it is the beginning of the partial phase. Second Contact is the beginning of totality. Third Contact is the end of totality. Fourth Contact is the end of the partial eclipse. The times are in local time which, for this eclipse, is UT - 4 (GMT minus four hours).

The Duration of the eclipse at the observation site was 3 minutes 44 seconds.

The Path Width is the width of the path of totality. The umbra itself is elliptical in shape. The Major Axis is the longest axis of the umbra; the Minor Axis is the shorter axis. The umbra at the observation site was 161km long and 143km wide and produced a path width of 144km. The large and almost circular umbra produced a uniformly dark totality.

The Umbral Velocity is the speed of the Moon's shadow which was 710 metres per second at the observation site. This speed and the width of the umbra determines the duration of the total eclipse.

The Sun's Altitude is measured from the horizon; the Azimuth is the direction of the Sun measured clockwise from North. The figures are for mid-eclipse. The Direction of the Shadow indicates that the umbra approached the observation site from the South West.

The Saros is a collection of eclipses belonging to a series. Each member of the series is followed by a similar eclipse approximately 18 years, 11 days and 8 hours later. This eclipse is a member of Saros number 130. It is the 51st eclipse out of a total of 73 in the series.

The series began on 20 August 1096 with a small partial eclipse in the extreme southern hemisphere. This was the first of 21 partial eclipses occurring over the next 361 years. On 5 April 1474, the 22nd eclipse of the series was the first to be total. It had a duration of 2m 08s. The 30th eclipse of the series was the one with the logest duration (6m 41s) and occurred on 11 July 1619. After this date the duration of totality began to decrease. The 37th eclipse (25 September 1745) saw the path of totality move into the northern hemisphere. Its duration was 5m 21s.

The series will produce 43 total eclipses, the final one being the 64th eclipse (on 18 July 2232). This will be followed by 9 partial eclipses in the northern polar regions. The final eclipse of Saros 130 will be on 25 October 2394, over 1298 years after the series began.

Gamma determines how the Moon's shadow, if extended, would pass through the Earth. A Gamma of zero implies that the shadow would pass through the exact centre of the Earth. A Gamma of greater than 1 misses the Earth and no total eclipse would occur. A positive Gamma passes North of the Earth's centre; a negative Gamma passes South of the Earth's centre. The value of Gamma for this eclipse is 0.23909. This means that the shadow passes North of the Earth's centre, about a quarter of the way to the edge of the Earth. This, combined with the fact that in February, the Southern Hemisphere is tilted slightly towards the Sun, produces an eclipse mainly in the Northern Tropical Zone.

The Diameter Ratio determines how much bigger the Moon's apparent radius is than the Sun's. In this case, the Moon's radius is 1.043 that of the Sun's. A total eclipse can only occur if this figure is greater than 1. The Moon would then appear larger than the Sun and could cover it completely. If this figure was less than one a total eclipse could not occur because the Moon would appear smaller than the Sun. The Obscuration determines how much larger the Moon's apparent area is than the Sun's.


KryssTal Related Page

The 1998 eclipse main page.

Maps of the path and a diagram of the sky at totality of the 1998 eclipse from Fred Espenak and eclipse details at the observation site.

The strange colours of the Moon's shadow.

General photos.

Newspapers, the day after the eclipse.

The excitement during totality is such that not all photos come out as expected.

Accounts of the 1998 eclipse sent to this web site.

Travel photos from Venezuela.