Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Solar Eclipse

The magic of two pieces of card and a pin hole!

There was much excitement in the house the morning of the solar eclipse. A solar eclipse on the first day of Spring, no less! The Podlings were all walking to school with their friends, many of whom had pin hole projectors and colanders with them. As we walked, we heard the oft repeated phrase 'Don't look directly at the sun' that we parents had been drumming into them amongst their excited babble. It was wonderful to see so many children taking so much interest in an astronomical event. The maximum coverage of the sun in Staffordshire (around 90 %) happened just after half past nine, so Tom, Lily and Emma were at school when it happened. I was thrilled to learn that the entire school were out on the field for the eclipse and were watching through various safe methods arranged by their teachers.

I was at home with Alex, who probably wondered why Mummy kept popping into the garden! He was much more interested in his breakfast! I had my little pin hole projector and had a brief go with a colander, which I thought was more of a gimmick than anything else. I stuck with the two pieces of card to watch the eclipse, running into the garden for a quick look, then running back to Alex! He must have thought I was nuts! At maximum coverage the light levels were not dissimilar to an early evening sunset. Not dark by any means, but certainly darker than you would expect at half past nine in the morning. It was certainly dark enough to confuse the Dickens out of the birds, who were returning to the trees and twittering loudly in confusion. I found it all rather thrilling! Not quite as awe-inspiring as experiencing totality in the 1999 eclipse in Devon, but certainly exciting.

The Podlings were rather harder to impress! They came home from school complaining that "It didn't even get dark!". I think they were expecting to be plunged into total darkness in the middle of the day and felt rather let down!

I made 'eclipse burgers' for tea (a beef burger 'eclipsing' a chicken burger!), after which we settled down with some popcorn to watch the BBC Eclipse Live programme I had recorded in the morning. A lot of it was filmed at the Jodrell Bank observatory, which isn't very far from where we live. The programme also showed the total eclipse as experienced in the Faroe islands, which I think they all found really interesting.

The eclipse was rather a thrilling event for all of us in the end. Tom is talking of travelling the world to watch eclipses and they were all cheerfully telling Mark and me that we would be dead next time there is a total eclipse in the UK! Charming bunch! I hope that if they are watching that eclipse in their dotage in 2090, they may remember their first eclipse back in 2015 and the evening we spent talking about it together.

Another use for a kitchen colander!

The view through my pin hole!

Alex wondering why Mummy has gone mad!

Eclipse burgers!

From my photo album: Watching the eclipse with my sister and parents on Dartmoor in 1999

The irony of these pictures was that there was so much cloud coverage there was no way we needed the eclipse viewers! We couldn't see the sun at all! Experiencing totality was completely awe-inspiring though and I wouldn't have traded that for a glimpse of the sun!

Sun? What sun?

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