Sergei Yazev: "We struck it lucky!"
24 March 2015

Sergey Yazev, scientific director of the First ISU Arctic Expedition, reported new information about the solar eclipse observations. Irkutsk researchers accomplished observing the total solar eclipse on March 20 at the Spitsbergen (Svalbard) archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The expedition worked as part of an international group from Russia and Belarus.

Observations on the island, which is under Norwegian jurisdiction, were held in the preserved Russian village of Pyramiden at 78.3 degrees latitude. The expedition took 120 km along a snowy mountainous route by snowmobiles to get there from the Norwegian airport Longiyr. The team reached the Pyramiden on the evening of March 18, after a seven-hour trip in the dark.

Sergei Yazev, scientific leader of the expedition:

– On March 19 we chose a site for observation and installed surveying equipment on the outskirts of the village. A spot near a beautiful Nordenskjold Glacier was rejected because of possible strong winds at expected below 20°C.

The team split up. In the morning Dmitry Semenov, Mikhail Merkulov and Mikhail Gavrilov climbed a 400-meter mountain to ensure that smoke in the surface layer would not prevent them from shooting. The astronomers were accompanied by two workers of “Arktikaugol” armed with flare guns in case polar bears appeared. Victor Ryabenko, Eugene Skaredneva, Mikhail Chekulaev and I joined the Russian-Belarusian group and put the camera on one of the fjords at the entrance to the village.

We were fantastically lucky. March 20 was the only sunny day; the weather was bad two weeks before the eclipse and deteriorated again the very next day after the event.

We managed to get a series of images of the solar corona at different exposures. All the members of the expedition completed shooting successfully – using eight cameras we got over two hundred pictures and several films within 2 minutes 27 seconds (the duration of totality).

It is early to discuss results of observations - the pictures will be carefully analyzed but we can already announce that the form of the crown is slightly different from the forecast.

The expedition continues. The observers now moved to the Russian town of Barentsburg, then would return to Longiyr by snowmobiles and fly to mainland Norway.

Photo by Reuters