We left Tucson on the afternoon of Monday, 09 May and headed for Road Forks, NM where we met the others of our group. The purpose of our observing was timing and observation of Baily's Beads for the International Occultation Timing Assn. Our group leader was Derald Nye of Tucson, who was assigning observing stations and guiding the data reductions. In our group was: Derald & Denise Nye, Mark & Pat Trueblood, Rick Nolthenius, Al Vreeland, four observers from Germany, and Dolores, Alyson and me.
We rose early the next morning as the first light of dawn was begining to color the night sky. To our delight the sky was perfectly clear. At 6am, Tucson time, our car was instructed go south to the intersection of NM 80 and NM 9 near Rodeo and Animas, NM, set up on the NE courner of the intersection, where we would lay out 550 feet of electrical line to the north where the Truebloods would set up and provide electrical power for us and other stations further north. Rick and the people from Germany set up a mile or more south of the intersection.
The sky was clear for us but clouds were on the horizon to the west, north, and east. We were glad to be where we were. Our equipment, a video camera on the Celestron 5 that I was operating, a 35mm camera with a 135mm lens and 2X tele-extender that Dolores was operating, and a pair of 10x50 binoculars with solar filter, was set up, tested, and ready 15 minutes before first contact. I began to record video only seconds after first contact at 14:74 UT, and Dolores began photography. Seeing was around 2-3 arc seconds and the sky for us was perfectly clear. We were in a basin between four or more mountain ranges so all around were wonderful mountain views. I took a photo with a panoramic camera to compare with a later such image taken at maximum eclipse.
Many large trucks drove by us heading south towards Mexico only 8 miles away. It was hard to record our audio track of time signals and my comments with this racket. School bus loads of children went down NM 9 towards Animas giving me the foreboding premonition of bus loads of kids and teachers showing up at the last minute, all wanting a view of the eclipse. Fortunately, this never came to pass, but it was feared.
Shortly after the begining of the partial phases, a road crew stopped to see what we were doing. We chatted, and loaned them a safe filter with which they could observe the eclipse. Later, their co-workers came over to see it all. They were working on loading gravel from a large pile just across the road and slightly south. The local Sheriff drove up to the work area and there was some activity for a while. It seems that there was some vandalism to a front loader during the night.
One fellow in particular stuck around us during the partial phases. Several times he tried to use his radio to communicate with the others but was prevented by the radio noise of the video camera (which can be heard on the video/audio of our recording). Dolores was taking photos about every 10 minutes. Everything was going very smoothly.
When we set up the air was cool and we wore jackets. Then at first contact thing had warmed and jackets were removed. About 70% into the eclipse the air was cold again and jackets were put back on. It was then we realized that we forgot the thermometer!
As the partial phases narrowed we could see the very rough profile of the lunar limb that would form the Baily's Beads we were trying to record. The sky was noticably darker by 15:50 UT or so. At 16:00 UT I took the second photo with a panorama camera. Things then got busy for about five minutes. We recorded many of the Beads and at the minute of maximum eclipse we got around a dozen along the southern limb. The resolution was very good. It ended quite quickly. We thought we would see several more owing to several mountains we could see at the cusp. But this never happened for our site. Observers a few thousand feet north of us may have seen these last, late beads which would have happened several minutes after the majority of the Beads had dissipated.
The Sheriff came over about 20 minutes after maximum eclipse and wondered when the maximum of the eclipse would happen. He looked dejected after he was told it was over. But, how nice it was to be able to replay it on the monitor for him!
For two hours afterwards we measured, with a tape measure, the distance between the various stations. Our intersection was the pivitol point. Distance from the centerline of the roadway to the telescope was also taken. Then we went back to the little diner near our motel and celebrated with lunch together. It was a good eclipse and we made the most of it. Now the data reduction begins.