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Eclipse an ‘astronomer’s dream’

Saturday 17 July 2010 | Published in Regional


A Czech couple reckon that Mangaia has the “best sky” they’ve seen – quite a statement coming from a student of astronomy and an eclipse photographer who have together logged more than five solar eclipses.

Hana Druckmullerova and Peter Horalek said that though they weren’t able to see the eclipse clearly, they had a chance to study other features of the sky that they haven’t seen anywhere else.

They saw the Southern Cross, a constellation that’s not visible from the Czech Republic, and two small galaxies a hundred thousand light years from earth.

“In the Czech Republic these things are invisible so it’s very amazing and very exciting for us when we can see them,” Horalek said.

The couple said they also saw dark nebulas and a green flash on the horizon at sunrise. The flash is essentially a refraction of light in the atmosphere but only visible in a “really clear atmosphere”.

They also picked up on strong zodiac light, which is observable only in a “really dark” sky.

Druckmullerova and Horalek said that Mangaia’s lack of “light pollution” cast by artificial lighting makes the island an astronomer’s dream.

“Mangaia has the best sky I’ve ever seen. It was really amazing,” Horalek said. “If there are any astronomers who want to know where to build an observatory I will direct them to Mangaia.”

The couple also said that a lunar eclipse will be visible from the Cooks in December.