Libya 06 @ TravelQuest Tobruk Site

This is a report on the results of the Sky and Telescope/TravelQuest trip via the MSC Sinfonia to the eclipse site south of Tobruk, Libya.

First   Let me thank our Libyan guides, security personal, and the people of Libya. All of the visitors from the MSC Sinfonia felt welcome and safe. Hopefully this exchange will help foster understanding between our two peoples.

I would also like to thank Aram, his TravelQuest Staff, and his Libyan partners for a job well done. I unconditionally recommend TravelQuest for future astronomical travel.

Quick Summary

Details on the Site

We traveled to Libya on the Sky and Telescope/TravelQuest International trip aboard the MSC Sinfonia arriving in Tobruk harbor Tuesday evening.

Tobruk Harbor
MSC Sinfonia in Tobruk harbor

About 60 of us decided to travel to the site the night before and sleep out there.  In principle this would avoid problems the next day getting to the site and would allow us to polar align our equipment.  The site was about 2 hours south along the road to Al Jaghbub.

Site Map
Espanak,etal NASA/TP--2004-212762

Our overnight accommodations were a tent camp set up specifically for our group and one other.  Our hosts provided us with dinner and some of the nearby residents provided a program of music and local dance.

tent camp

The next morning we were told that the viewing site was in a different location further from the road.  We packed up and headed inland about 2 kilometers. 

The site there was like no other eclipse site I have been to.  I heard estimates that almost 2000 people from the boat and other groups were bused to the site. There were people stretching into the distance plus Libyan TV, boy scouts, and other local groups.

site 2

The coordinates of the new site were 30° 57.577' N  24°  16.852' E. The estimated event times were by the Javascript Eclipse Calculator to be

1st Contact
09:17:43.7 UTC
2nd Contact
3rd Contact
4th Contact

The surface was hard packed dirt with a layer of rocks on top and clearly windblown. It was flat extending to the horizon in all directions.  It evoked thoughts of the Utah Salt flats more then the traditional view of Sahara as sandy dunes.

It had rained a couple of days before which probably reduced the dust.


This was my sixth eclipse.  The last two were on the sea and both had problems with clouds.  This time I set for myself a couple of goals
These goals sounded like they were conflicting, but it meant that I had to automate the collection process much more than I did in the past.

Author with EyepatchChris pic
Courtesy of the Felds                                                          Courtesy of Chris Erickson                                                 

Thus it meant
Computer controlling the camera was high risk, but it also meant the possibility of capturing far more pictures.  I started evaluating various image capture programs last fall.  Right from the start ImagesPlus was the clear favorite.  The author worked up a version (which eventually became 2.75) that was capable of taking a shot about every 3 seconds.  For a 4 minute eclipse this presented the possibility of capturing over 60 images of  totality.

My old digital camera did not permit computer control (it did not even have a blub port).  So I decided to get the Canon 20Da.  This is a standard camera that has a number of modifications for astrophotography including higher sensitivity to H-alpha. It can be fully controlled using a USB cable.

For a telescope I chose a TeleVue 76.  This is a relatively small APO and it mates well with the 20Da. The combination yielded an effective focal length of 768 mm at f/ 6.3.

The tracking mount was an Orion EQ-3.  This is not a very high quality mount if it is being used for astrophotography, but it proved more than adequate for my use in Libya.  I did a rough polar alignment the night before the eclipse at the tent site. When we moved the next day I aligned it using a compass.

The capture scenario, the thinking that went into it, and the results are a whole other discussion.  I will revise this web page sometime in late April to cover this topic.

There were also some detailed items such as using an existing Atlas case as a suitcase/field table.  Using a box that fit inside the case to shield the laptop from the sun.  I bought a low end handheld GPS that allow me to sync the laptop to the correct time and (at least I was supposed to) also sync the camera to GPS time.  Finally I bought a small program that made voice announcements during the eclipse.  This was useful, but less so than in practice sessions since it got very nosy during totality.

Images were processed with a combination of the Canon EOSViewer Utility, ImagesPlus, and Photoshop CS.

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Creative Commons License

All photos and text concerning the Libya 2006 Eclipse 
by Robert J. Hawley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. This permits the non commericial use of the material on this site, either in whole or in part, in other works provided that I am credited for the work.

rjh 2/24/08