‘Near-total eclipse day’ had finally dawned and the only thing to do was jump out of bed, open the curtains to be greeted by never-ending cloud, start singing some Bonnie Tyler and wish for the skies to clear.
It was a very different day for Prof Peter Gallagher and a select few lucky scientists who were up at the crack of dawn to board an AirCorps plane and fly over the Atlantic (ABOVE THE CLOUDS!) to take measurements. Irish scientist and BBC presenter, Liz Bonnin, also boarded a plane to chase the total eclipse near the Faroe Islands.
Keeping my spirits up, I walked into Front Square in Trinity College which was one of the designated watching spots. When I arrived, it was a shock to be greeted by about 1,000 people staring at the clouds. It was amazing to see so many eclipse enthusiasts turn out on a pretty miserable day… all in the name of astronomy!
So what is a solar eclipse? This happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. To find out more about why eclipse’s happen even though the sun is around 400 times bigger than the moon, check out eclipse2015.ie [no longer online].
Every time the clouds parted, the crowd started cheering. This was quickly followed by clapping when the sun once again disappeared. It was like catching a brief glimpse of our more primitive selves in pagan times. During these 20-second-long clear patches, I managed to catch the eclipse at different stages… so here is what you missed if you weren’t there:
At 9:28am over 90% of the sun was covered by the moon (so I was told… we didn’t get to witness this). The crowd began to leave, many disappointed and a bit damp. If you were there but left at this point… I’m sorry to report that you missed the best glimpses!
Just before the moon vanished from sight, the clouds scattered and we put good use to the glasses that the TCD Physics Department had handed out (if you could find one at that late stage).
So as with many things in science, it was worth the wait (as well as waiting that extra few minutes). I’ll be back in Trinity in 2090 to report the even more exciting total solar eclipse. Stay tuned… just 75 years and counting!