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Solar Eclipse 2015 – Members’ Experiences

Setting up before the eclipse

Members of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh setting up equipment outside the Scottish Parliament, prior to the start of the eclipse. (Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

I wasn’t sure how the morning  of the eclipse would work out so I came dressed for the outdoors with my solar specs, bought on the internet. It was a great start with blue sky and sunshine, but just a bit cold – although that’s nothing unusual for astronomy! I was amazed at how the number of people grew so quickly that the Parliament staff had to organise a big queue for those who wanted to see through the telescopes that the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh members had brought and set up.

The sunshine gave way to broken light cloud but it still looked ok.  Setting up took quite a while and when viewing started there were hundreds of folk waiting. As each telescope became available, a hand would go up and the organisers would send the visitors off to have a look. Many people asked where specs could be bought but, of course, there was not a local supply so I found myself lending mine. People were really good about it, polite and careful and very excited. Some used my specs to take photos as a lasting reminder.

The eclipse through eclipse glasses

The eclipse, as viewed through eclipse glasses. (Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

I felt really involved and there was a community feeling about it. The atmosphere was terrific. Folk were gasping and laughing, and when a thin film of cloud covered the sun, suddenly everybody could see it and there was a real “Ohhh” from the crowd. This cycle kept going until the eclipse ended. There was a worrying time when dark cloud came over and those with the telescopes could not track the sun because of the strong filters and had to wait to find it again when the thick cloud passed. However, most of the eclipse was visible one way and another and I was very glad that I was able to take part. Well done to all of us. I think we did a good job.

Dorothy Mackie

This is one of a series of personal accounts recorded by our members of their experience viewing the partial solar eclipse on the 20th of March 2015.

Solar Eclipse 2015 – Members’ Experiences

Observing the eclipse

Geraldine & Pat observing the eclipse through eclipse glasses and a solar filter. (Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

This was my 4th solar eclipse – all were different, all were exciting, but this one stood out as the friendliest of them all.

Solar Filter

A home-made solar filter mounted on a DSLR. (Photo: Pat Williams)

On August 11th 1999 on a residential street in Inverness, by chance, two strangers shared with me their welding masks*, revealing my first partial eclipse. I was hooked! The second was the July 11th 2010 total eclipse viewed from Hao, an atoll in the South Pacific. Atoll idyllic; latrines less so… Total darkness was followed by the diamond ring and Baily’s Beads – awesome! The third eclipse was viewed from Bryce Canyon U.S.A. 20th May 2012 and was where I first made my “Blue Peter” camera solar adaptor for the annular eclipse. Fortunately the eclipse was more impressive than the adaptor, and the adaptor did its

*Please note: only welding glass shade 14 or above is safe for solar viewing – if in doubt, don’t risk it!

Which brings us to Edinburgh – outside the Scottish Parliament, March 20th 2015 for a partial solar eclipse. My two previous eclipses had been spent alongside dedicated eclipse chasers. This one was spent with hundreds of the general public – all keen to view the eclipse, largely without equipment, but it was encouraging to note that some had made very effective pin-hole cameras.

Solar Glasses

A collection of solar glasses and film used to filter the sun’s light to a safe level. (Photo: Pat Williams)

Eclipse glasses are one of the easiest and cheapest methods of viewing an eclipse. Baader film eclipse glasses show a white sun and mylar (left, centre) ones a warm orange-yellow. My collection of glasses were handed round from person to person, nationality to nationality – it was a truly international gathering – until the cardboard of the glasses was limp but the glasses still effective. The camera adaptor was also very much in demand, and I was fortunate that it was borrowed by Priyanka Lele who produced some lovely images.

Eclipse Montage

A montage of the progress of the eclipse, with totality in the middle. (Photo: Priyanka Lele)

Solar Panels

Electricity generated by solar panels on the day of the eclipse. (Photo: Peter Williams)

Coffee was kindly brought to me by Alison and friend who were just as hooked on the eclipse as I had been when seeing it for the first time. “ Awesome”, “Incredible”, “Can’t believe the eclipse is going on and yet the sun seems the same” – quotes from bystanders, the last without solar glasses. Everything at that moment did seem as normal to the average bystander. As “totality” was reached it grew darker, the birds stopped singing and returned to the trees and those at home with solar panels noticed that their electricity generation dropped to zero.

The increasing cloud cover meant that the final phase could be viewed with the naked eye and was appreciated by many of the new-comers.

Finally the ASE participants gathered for a commemorative photo (see initial eclipse event report) followed by Sean’s welcome treat of coffee and eats in the Scottish Parliament.

A wonderful solar event to witness on the streets of Edinburgh in relative warmth, certainly with a very warm welcome from the general public. My personal thanks to all the members of the ASE present, especially Rachel, Ken and Sean for organising the event, not forgetting Alan Pickup for checking that Arthur’s Seat would not get in the way! My thanks also go to Karl, Dorothy and Sean for subsidising my parking – I will pay you back. Finally, thank you Geraldine for your enthusiasm, and for carrying my gear.

Pat Williams

This is one of a series of personal accounts recorded by our members of their experience viewing the partial solar eclipse on the 20th of March 2015.
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