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About Eclipse Tours

An excerpt from "Heart of the Rio Grande" by Gene Autrey

“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas”


Ring of Fire Expeditions (ROFE) is the longest consecutive astronomical tour organization in the United States. ROFE specializes in astro-tourism since 1970 with expeditions organized and led by Paul D. Maley of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society and arranged by Direct Travel, Inc.

These include tours to observe such events as Halley’s Comet, the Leonid meteor shower, transits of Venus and Mercury across the Sun, spacecraft reentries, Northern Lights, solar eclipses, grazing occultations, and occultations of stars by minor planets.

Solar eclipse expeditions of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society  in Houston, Texas began in 1970 when Paul D. Maley traveled to the total solar eclipse in Valdosta, Georgia. As an initiative to expand public outreach of the Society, Paul continued organizing expeditions off and on during the 1970s whose purpose expanded in 1983 to including science goals of what is now the International Occultation Timing Association. In 1990 the name RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS was adopted. Several thousand people have participated in ROFE trips from around the USA and a number of countries.

While most RING OF FIRE total solar eclipse expeditions travel to the center line to obtain maximum totality, we sometimes have a small secondary expedition to observe near the edge of the path of totality. We also observe annular eclipses and will observe either from the edge where Baily’s Beads phenomena are wonderfully prevalent, or the center line. We strive to keep the group sizes reasonable; sometimes the overall demand exceeds our expectations. For our larger expeditions we conduct a site survey (when possible) in order to obtain the best observing locations, with tour group safety as our primary concern. Direct Travel (formerly Hanssen Direct Travel) handled all expeditions beginning in 1977. Direct Travel, Inc then took over in 2017.

Aurora viewing can be one of the most satisfying and exciting types of trips that one can imagine. Unlike solar eclipses seeing the Northern Lights lasts far longer and can extend over many nights.  I have been able to observe these dramatic appearances on land, sea and air.

The image on the bottom right was taken January 31, 2018 and is only a sample of what you can see visually even with a Full Moon present as it was on this night.

We are a public outreach effort of the NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society led by amateur astronomers and welcome all persons who are interested in astronomy and the natural sciences. The number of eclipse tours listed that we have completed are for separate solar eclipses, not just individual programs.

You do not need to have a science background or any prior experience to join us!

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