Something Different: March 2015 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse 2015 from the ChilternsA view from the Chilterns

20 March 2015

Well the solar eclipse came and went under the glare of incredible media and popular attention. Hopefully it will have ignited some sustained interest and excitement amongst the next generation!

I wanted to thank you for some really kind feedback on the previous posting (below) and some general interest in my hobby of astronomy. I’ve therefore set up an informal personal blog on the subject: www.orionwatching.org – please pay a visit if you have a spare moment!

solar eclipse near totalityhttp://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/uk/london

27 February 2015

On this Friday afternoon, perhaps a little whimsically, I’ve chosen to write on a subject that has nothing to do with pensions, investments or finance but still fascinates me: Astronomy.

Over the next few days, expect significant media coverage of one of the rarer astronomical events: a forthcoming almost-total eclipse of the sun over the UK on Friday 20 March 2015.

Weather permitting – which is always a problem for us! – the show will begin at about 8.30am as the Moon starts to move between the Earth and the Sun, thus partly blocking our view of the Sun. The best view will occur around 9.30am (the image above simulates the view from London1 ) with the Moon completely moving away by about 10.30am.

It is expected that about 84% of the solar surface will be obscured as viewed from London, 88% from Sheffield and 93% from Edinburgh2 – thus confirming the view of the innate superiority of life in the North! If you want to see full totality, you’ll need to charter a boat and bob around in the Norwegian Sea somewhere to the east of Iceland. If you do this, please send photos and I’ll be delighted to feature them.

To put the rarity of these eclipses into context, the next similar quality solar eclipse visible from the UK will not occur until 12 August 2026; in the meantime there promises to be a splendid solar eclipse on 21 August 2017 best seen from Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee – and yes, I am thinking of going …

Much less rare are eclipses of the Moon, where the Earth is interposed between the Sun and the Moon and blots out the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon, thus turning a full moon a deep dark red in colour – there will be one on 28 September 2015 at just before 4.00am …

SAFETY – it would be absolutely remiss of me to not warn about the dangers of looking at the Sun even under eclipse conditions. There are many websites with detailed advice (e.g. http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/eclipse-tips-safety.html).

Sun glasses are particularly dangerous – in my view worse than nothing – as they shield a fair amount of visible light thus reducing the immediately painful warning dazzle whilst doing absolutely nothing to stop the infrared radiation which will burn and scar the retina into blindness. Heed the safety warnings and, if you are accompanying children, please watch them particularly carefully.

I’ll be using special (and inexpensive) eclipse glasses from a reputable astronomy store.

Depiction of eclipse in Incan timesNational Geographic / Leonard de Selva

Of course, due to their dramatic nature and rarity, eclipses were historically seen as portents of great change and, often, disaster. Nowadays we think we know better … but part of me still wants to cross my fingers …

  1. Source: Time and Date http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/uk/london
  2. Source: NASA http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

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  • Author: Martin Veasey
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