First Contact and Moon's Shadow

After getting the telescope correctly aligned, I watched the sun through my telescope in anticipation of the moon’s initial bite out of the sun’s disk (first contact) at 11:26:10 a.m.  A minute or so later, I could notice the moon’s first small coverage of the sun.  In addition, there were a remarkable set of sun spots on the lower portion of the sun’s disk.  Shortly thereafter, I saw a few members of the Marina hotel staff wandering by, and asked them if they would like to take a look through my telescope.  The hotel had given their staff eclipse glasses, but after they looked through my 5” telescope, they said they very much liked the better view.
Hotel staff using eclipse viewers to see beginning of eclipse
Hotel staff using eclipse viewers to see beginning of the eclipse

Hungarian waiter enjoys the view of partially eclipsed sun
Hungarian waiter enjoys view of partially eclipsed sun through my telescope

After a few minutes, they moved on.  However, they soon returned with their fellow co-workers in greater numbers.  No longer would I be alone during the rest of the eclipse.  Thereafter, I was in the company of anywhere from 10 to 25 hotel staff on the balcony.  Most of the time there was someone looking through the telescope to see the partial eclipse, and often there was a line.  The authorities had led my new Hungarian friends to believe that they could not look at the sun at any time without their eclipse glasses (or proper filters).  I told them that the ONLY time they can look directly at the sun without protection is during the total phase of the eclipse, and if you kept the glasses on you would not see a thing.  Looking back, I’m amazed that none of them bumped or moved any of my equipment.  All of the staff were very careful, and quite appreciative of me answering their numerous questions about the eclipse.  I periodically looked over the balcony at the rest of the ATMoB group to see how they were doing.

Hungarian Visitors
The hotel staff gets ready for the eclipse

Hungry for an eclipse
ATMoB folks wait for totality

ATMoB group readies for the eclipse on the ground below
Looking down from my balacony site at ATMoB group as they await the eclipse

With the arrival of moon’s shadow (e.g. totality) about ten minutes away, I started the camcorder running continuously.  All of my equipment was ready.  The temperature was perceptibly cooler and the light from the sun was more gray and noticeably dimmer than normal.  Shadows became very sharply defined.  During the last five minutes before totality, the light level became dimmer at increasing rate, as if a dimmer was slowly turning off the sun.

After taking a quick look at the sky near the mostly eclipsed sun and judging the general movement of the clouds, I could tell that no thick clouds would obscure the corona, only some thin transparent clouds.  The hotel staff and myself looked for the shadow bands on the sheet I had laid out, but did not see them.  I think the thin clouds prevented us from seeing the shadow bands since they are very low contrast.  At one minute, I instinctively yelled “one minute--filters off,” later realizing that this statement only applied to me since I was the only one in the area with a telescope.  Shortly after taking the solar filter off my telescope, I looked to the west and noticed some darkening clouds low on the horizon--it was the moon’s shadow.  As I watched, I could see the edge of the moon’s shadow progressively darken first the distant clouds then the nearby ones as the shadow moved towards us at 1600 miles per hour.  Quite amazing!  I explained the whole phenomenon to my hotel staff companions as we all watched in amazement.  Additional video frames in a separate page clearly show the approach of the moon's shadow.

Moon's shadow seen in the west!
Eric points out the rapidly approaching moon's shadow darkening
clouds in the west (about 50 seconds before totality)

With about 15 seconds left, I took a quick glance skyward to see the emerging diamond ring, with the “diamond” at about the eight o’clock position.  It was beautiful but still quite bright.  Uncontrollably, I started jumping up and down in excitement yelling “diamond ring, diamond ring”, and just after the diamond disappeared I raised my hands yelling “Totality!”  The lighting dropped suddenly, and then the entire corona and Venus both flashed into view.  Everyone was yelling in celebration.  It was 12:48:48 p.m. (local time)--second contact and the start of totality.  Rare mid-day darkness was upon us!


Last bit of diamond ring at second contact
Last bit of diamond ring at second contact

Next Chapter - Totality!

Previous Chapter - Planned Environmental Measurements

Table of Contents

Eric's 1999 Total Solar Eclipse Home Page
Eclipse Circumstances and Where to View?
Vacation in Budapest
Eclipse Day Eve
Eclipse Day
My Equipment Setup
Planned Environmental Measurements
First Contact and Moon's Shadow
Third Contact and Beyond
Environmental Measurement Results
Additional Video Frames
Additional Eclipse Photos
Eclipse Links
Email comments, questions, or suggestions to Eric Pauer at
This page was last updated on 23 October 99.