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As winter considers releasing the country from its icy grip, spring made a visit to us today in what were quite balmy conditions for the time of year. March is just around the corner and brings with it perhaps one of the highlights of the astronomical year for us mere amateurs. On March 20th 2015, a partial solar eclipse will cross the UK start at around 8.26 in the morning with the nearest point to totality that we will experience being at around 9.32. The final signs of the moon moving from alignment will be around 10.41 am. Timings are approximate because they will be different depending on where the UK you are watching from.
The path of totality actually stays out in the North Atlantic crossing between the UK and Iceland. However, if you have enough pocket money and a bit if spare time hope over to the Faroe Islands where totality will be observed.
A word of caution though, never looked directly at the sun, even during the process of the partial eclipse. And it should go without saying that using a telescope or binoculars is a major no without the use of purpose made filters for the job. This month, the BBC Sky At Night magazine are giving away a free pair of eclipse sunglasses with the latest edition of the magazine. Well worth the few quid for the magazine alone, but the eclipse glasses will allow you to observe the sun safely. There are also a few good articles in there on how to observe safely, photograph and enjoy the phenomenon.
So, where will I be during this event? The truth is, I don’t know yet. Sad as it might seem, I have booked the day off work with the intention of observing it from wherever I need to go. I’ll get in touch with Jim and see if we can decide where to observe from. If needs be, to avoid the clouds, I’ll travel to see it. The next event like this in Europe isn’t until 2026. Of course, if the whole country is clouded out, then the BBC have moved their annual Stargazing Live TV mini-series to March to cover the event. And they intend to broadcast it live as it happens. Definitely worth setting the box to record for that one.
As for the rest of March, well, around the weekend of the eclipse, SGL X will be taking place at a campsite in Mordiford, Herefordshire. SGL stands for Stargazers Lounge, a web based forum for amateur astronomers of which I am a member. They hold a star party every year, and this year have timed it to run with the eclipse. There is also an outreach event on the morning of the eclipse in conjunction with Hereford Astronomical Society which is open to the public. Depending on what happens, I may pop down to the campsite for a session or two if I have chance.
March also brings me an opportunity to visit the showroom of Tring Astronomy Centre in Hertfordshire. I’ve a feeling that aperture fever may strike and I’m not dismissing the prospect of not coming home empty handed.
So, here’s hoping that we will have good conditions for the event of the year, and that I can make my solar filter for my 150mm reflector in time for it without making expensive mistakes!
Happy gazing everyone!