Every astronomer would like to observe an eclipse with his own eyes, even several times in his life. An amateur solar astronomer from Bratislava (Dunaszerdahle Province), Christian Molnar He decided with his colleague to sit on a plane and take a great distance to observe the full solar eclipse on December 4th up close.
Photos: Christian Molnar, Karoly Jonas (Click on the image to open the photo gallery)
This time it was necessary to travel all the way to Chile to witness the total solar eclipse over Antarctica, as this was the only place on Earth where this rare celestial phenomenon could be observed. This wasn’t a problem for the amateur astronaut and his companion, either: They boarded a plane and landed several times in Chile, an arm’s length from their destination to take pictures of the nearby daily scene.
It was actually the twelfth eclipse that Christian could follow live. Since the total solar eclipse in 1999, which crossed our country, he has become truly “addicted”, studying astronomy, and since then there has been no stopping, participating in astronomical expeditions for 22 years, refusing to travel almost anywhere eclipsed.
At first, it was a dilemma that this time it would be worth observing an eclipse from a ship or aircraft. Christian Molnar said the ship would have been a riskier solution, even in terms of weather, and then in March they stumbled upon an airline offer and we picked a spot by the window. “Either way, this is an average salary of half a year in Slovakia…But my wife understood how important this was to me, as well as to my colleague. We made the down payment, until we were sure the window would be ours, and then started the preparations which were not easy “.
Christian and his colleague, Karoly Jonas of Hungary, cut it off on the Budapest-Amsterdam-Santiago route on November 22, then traveled on the 30th from the Chilean capital to Punta Arenas, the southernmost city on Earth.
Caroly Jonas and Christian Molnar
“We actually went to Chile just like home, we have already seen two eclipses here. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made it so difficult this time that it wasn’t certain until the last minute whether we would be able to carry out the expedition. Vaccination was necessary. “But we also had to do more PCR tests and complete the shorter quarantine procedures. It was annoying, because if any of us had a problem, it would have ended. Fortunately, things went well,” Christian Molnar said of the start of the journey. Alright, so we set off.”
Before the main celestial attraction, the team loved to spy in the distant sky, and also experienced an amazing storm over Argentina. The cameras clicked when I suddenly realized the presence of a strange, bright object.
“Then something happened that I will never forget in my life. The white body, which at first glance looked like a star, moved up and then came to a stop, which is rather strange, and then at once began to move sideways and up and down again.
It was clear to us by then that no aircraft or any structure could change direction and speed so quickly. We couldn’t believe our eyes with Selim. The object was seen for about 10 seconds and then immediately disappeared. Then we certainly saw a flying object there, that is, an unknown flying object, of course we do not have to think about aliens,” he said, adding that they believe that this phenomenon could be related to the activity of the storm, like the plasma sphere, but these are assumptions.
Back on the expedition, everything went according to plan until the night before the eclipse, but then they received an unexpected email from the organizers stating that Airbuses would not be boarding due to pandemic and capacity reasons.
“Thunderbolts. The email went on to say that if passengers wanted to save the flight, they would have to pay $75,000 for a larger plane. Since then, we have inadvertently felt that all of this was a scam and that the planes didn’t exist. Ultimately, Carxi and I decided He offered a thousand dollars and then waited for the reactions of others involved. We didn’t get an answer, no one picked up the phone, we just hoped and waited for a miracle. Then in the evening we took a taxi to the airport. Along the way, my partner and I didn’t say a word to each other, The tires roll in front of me from the long preparations before the flight, from the materials to helping friends to setting up the program.You can get nervous at the airport while you wait, everyone was unsafe.
But soon enough, a huge stone fell from our hearts when it turned out that we could board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. When the plane took off, I felt like I was sitting on a rocket that was headed straight into space,” Christian recalls.
After that, everything seemed to go according to plan, but it was nowhere near that … Christian and his companion sat by the window, preparing the equipment for their repair, and then a man approached them, and told them who – which
They will not see anything specific from the eclipse from this place.
Showing them another window, they moved into the house and started setting up the technique again. Specifically, they painted a black tent around themselves to make the lighting conditions as perfect as possible.
“We were just done when the aforementioned gentleman approached us again and asked if everything was OK. We exchanged a few words and mentioned that we wanted to photograph the crown. He looked us in the eye and said that in that case, this place wouldn’t be ideal for us either. We weren’t We know what to do, so I asked him to help us find a solution.He told us to go after him and then we took a quick step through the first row down to the meadow.
There he pointed to a small window in the plane door. We had no choice, we started pitching our tent for the third time. We tried because we didn’t have much time until the eclipse. I thought everything would be fine from now on, but the real drama only started at that time,” he says.
The window was by no means clean, in fact… “I turned around in my head to ask the pilot to borrow his belt in the cockpit for a little while. However, I wasn’t very brave, I just took it and we started taking pictures,” he continues.
The first photos were good too, but photos taken before dark were out of focus at once. After that, it turned out that the plane changed direction to a minimum, so the sun was no longer visible from the windows. In addition, the door window was made of different glass than the classic windows, so the sun was distorted in the pictures.
“I tried to salvage what I could save, I almost succeeded, I changed the original plans, but I didn’t have time to try anymore. This eventually came in part, but it didn’t change the deformity.
It’s time, it’s shade. The cameras were turned on, the camera clicked. The phenomenon was amazing in Velvet Sky. I did not even realize that I was on a plane at 12,000 meters, we were traveling at only 900 km / h and I am one of a hundred people in the world lucky enough to experience this miracle.
Seeing the thick clouds below us, it occurred to me that we would definitely not see anything from the ship’s eclipse. As I lost my sense of time, the phenomenon itself seemed shorter than I expected. I had the feeling that the plane and the glass wouldn’t let me “meet” in the day the way I wanted to. Since we were at the front of the plane, I didn’t hear any reaction from the passengers either. I felt sad especially when I saw the pictures. I’m an extremist, you can’t do without him, plus it’s been over twenty years. We rocked our tent and then started taking apart our tent and putting the tech together, somewhat unemotionally.
However, later I realized that we still had something to be proud of, that we did everything we did, thanks to the preparations and efforts that lasted for a year, we were only 450 kilometers from Antarctica, and we can see with our own eyes what few can admire about life “.
Moreover, after coming home, it turns out that things are still going well when it comes to pictures. 28 gigabytes of material went to Professor Miloslav Druckmüller, who can work miracles with pictures. “After looking at them, he said they weren’t too bad and he was sure he’d be able to get some nice pictures from them,” he said with pleasure.
Christian’s next eclipse trip is scheduled to begin in 2023 – depending on how the famine develops in Australia or the Timor Sea, you’ll be able to photograph the sun from a small boat. The organization has already started, as it once was. It’s just going to be the next trip, but it’s already an incredible feeling,” he notes.
It’s been 22 years since 1999, and Christian Molnar has 12 eclipse expeditions and 10 other astronomical missions. The work and activities of the solar astronomer from Dunaszerdahely are an example to the younger generation who, with sufficient perseverance and determination, are accessible to the stars even from Dunaszerdahely.
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