On March 16, 2015 Irkutsk astronomers set off for an expedition to the Spitsbergen (Svalbard) archipelago to observe the total solar eclipse to take place on March 20, 2015. Director of the ISU Astronomical Observatory, Doctor of Sciences (Physics and Mathematics), Sergey Yazev will lead the ISU First Arctic expedition as announced at a press conference.
The expedition includes Sergei Yazev, Dmitry Semenov, Evgenia Skaredneva, Mikhail Merkulov, Mikhail Chekulaev, Victor Ryabenko, and Mikhail Gavrilov. The participants plan to observe a total eclipse of the Sun which will last for 2 minutes 27 seconds in Spitsbergen, in a preserved Russian village of Pyramid, where until 1998 coal was mined. The itinerary of the expedition is as follows: Irkutsk - Moscow - Oslo - Longyearbyen (capital of the Spitsbergen) - Pyramid. The last stage of the path, 70 km long, the participants will drive by snowmobiles. According to the preliminary forecast, on March 20, 2015 weather in Spitsbergen (Svalbard) is expected not very cold - minus 22 degrees Celsius.
- We hope that the weather won’t let us down, but we are ready for anything -the Sun during the eclipse is just ten degrees above the horizon, it's pretty low - Sergei Yazev said. - We plan to take pictures of the solar corona with different exposures. In case we fail to make good shots, we agreed with our colleagues on the exchange of data. One of them, an astronomer from New York Alexander Krivenyshev, who will observe the eclipse in the Faroe Islands, and a group of amateur astronomers who will fly from Murmansk and will take pictures from the aircraft.
The longest a total solar eclipse will last in the Faroe Islands (2 minutes 47 seconds), the maximum width of the Moon shadow will be 462 km.
According to Mikhail Merkulov, the expedition will not most likely be divided into several groups, for safety reasons, because of a lot of Spitsbergen bears. The expedition members are planning to make a film about their trip, later shown in the Irkutsk planetarium.
The previous expedition of the Irkutsk astronomers held in October - November 2013. In equatorial Africa, they observed a total solar eclipse, lectured Kenyan schoolchildren and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro which was dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the Irkutsk State University.