UPDATE: Teachers! Educators! Don’t miss out on the learning opportunity of a lifetime! This partial eclipse will be the best seen in Scotland and much of the UK since 1999, and the best until 2090. And you don’t need eclipse glasses to experience it.
Indeed, looking at the Sun is a very minor part of the experience. The most incredible thing to happen on Friday morning will be the darkening of the day, as the Sun gets covered by the Moon and much of its light gets blocked out. This will create a dusk-like atmosphere; birds will start singing, insects will come out, flowers – if you can find any – may close up! This is such an unusual and rare event that I really hope every school pupil in the country will get the opportunity to experience it. The best time for this is straight after register (0900) until around 0945.
If you have eclipse glasses you could let some of the pupils use those but I understand that you probably don’t have many pairs and fear the younger children might not use them correctly. Don’t use them then! Just get outside, tell the kids not to look at the Sun, and explore the wonderful daytime darkness. I really hope you can turn this into the learning opportunity of a lifetime.
On the morning of Friday 20 March 2015 there will be a total eclipse of the Sun. Between 0830 and 1042 the Moon will pass across the face of the Sun, blocking out part of its light. The maximum extend of the eclipse will happen at 0934 for a few minutes.
Unfortunately the “path of totality”, i.e. those parts of the world that will see a total eclipse, is in the far north Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Residents of the Faroe Islands get a ring-side seat at the total eclipse.
That said, it will still be a dramatic event in the UK, south of the path of totality, as we will see a partial solar eclipse where the Moon blocks some but not all of the Sun’s light.
The further north you are in the country the more of the Sun will be obscured, but wherever you are in the UK it’ll look quite dramatic. Here’s a handy table showing what % of the Sun’s disk will be obscured by the Moon from where you are.
|Town/City||% Eclipse on 20 March 2015|
Compare this with the August 1999 eclipse, where totality passed across the SW of England. During that eclipse the further south you were in the UK the better. Indeed the SW of England and the Channel Islands saw a total eclipse. I was in Glasgow and saw an 82% eclipse. For me, this eclipse will be even better. In fact for anyone north of Liverpool, the 2015 eclipse is better than that in 1999!
|Town/City||% Eclipse on 11 August 1999|
Wherever you are in the UK though it’s worth watching, but BE CAREFUL. Never look at the Sun directly, even when it’s eclipsed. Here are some safety guidelines for viewing eclipses.
On Monday night one of the year’s most spectacular meteor showers is set to peak.
You’ll get a great view of it if you’re somewhere dark with clear skies. But those of us stuck in the city can see plenty too.
I’ll be heading to the grounds of Glasgow Science Centre to view it, and you’re welcome to join me. A few things first:
If it’s cloudy or raining DON’T COME! I won’t be there.
I’ll be there from around 10pm, probably till around midnight.
If you want a great view then head somewhere dark, but if you’re in Glasgow and don’t want to head out of the city this is a decent site.
This ISN’T a formal event; I’ll be hanging out there and you’re welcome to come under your own steam. You’ll be responsible for your own safety and comfort; bring extra clothing, a torch, and a deck chair if you have one.
You can park in Glasgow Science Centre car park for £3. Public transport at that time of night is pretty sparse.
Glasgow Science Centre will NOT be open, so there’s no access to refreshments or toilets etc.
Thanks to Glasgow Science Centre for letting us use their outside space.
I was delighted to hear that two groups from Glasgow were winners in last night’s UK Space Conference‘s Arthur Clarke Awards 2011.
Clyde Space, a “leading supplier of small and micro spacecraft systems”, was given the Arthur Clarke Award 2011 for Achievement in Space Commerce, while the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, which “undertakes frontier research on visionary space systems”, was given the Arthur Clarke Award 2011 for Achievement in Space Research.
Congratulations to both, and it’s exciting to me as a Scot and a resident of Glasgow that these two groups, located within 5 miles of one another, are leading the UK in space research and commerce.
A few weeks ago I was waiting for it to get dark so I could go out into my garden and use my telescope. I decided to wait until the end of astronomical twilight (when there is no light from the Sun left in the sky) so that the sky was “properly dark”, but of course given that I live in a city (Glasgow) the light pollution from street lights means that it never actually gets “properly dark”.
So I decided to figure out exactly how long I should wait after sunset before going out to observe, or put another way, at what point does light pollution take over from twilight as the dominant source of light in the sky?
I carried out this little experiment on 28 April 2011, in my back garden on the Southside of Glasgow, under the following conditions:
Sunset Time: 2050 BST
Civil Twilight Ends (Sun 6 degrees below horizon): 2134 BST
Nautical Twilight Ends (Sun 12 degrees below horizon): 2232 BST
Astronomical Twilight Ends (Sun 18 degrees below horizon): 2358 BST
Longitude: 55.866 N
Latitude: 4.257 W
Sky conditions: 100% clear
[Incidentally, sitting out in my garden for four hours as it darkened was an absolute delight: I saw, as well as the emerging stars, many bats, some ducks, two foxes, and two passes of the International Space Station!]
Using a Sky Quality Meter I took readings of the sky brightness at the zenith every two minutes. The SQM-L makes measurements of the sky in magnitudes per square arcsecond, i.e. brightness per unit area in the sky. As a general rule, in city centres you would expect readings of 16-17, while in dark places you can get readings of 21-22. The higher the number the darker the sky. The darkest reading possible under a starry sky is around 22, as at that point the starlight itself becomes the limiting factor.
From experience I know that in my garden the darkest reading possible is around 18.5, so I decided to continue taking readings until I got fifteen in a row that were above 18.4, i.e. for half an hour the sky had not been significantly darkening. I got my first reading of above 18.4 at 2244 and the sky did not appreciably darken over the next 30 minutes.
At 2244 the sun was 13 degrees 07 minutes (13.117 degrees) below the horizon.
I graphed the results to see how they looked, and placed them alongside the projected results if I were under a dark sky free of light pollution i.e. so that the results could get as low as 22.0 at the end of astronomical twilight at 2358 BST
Result: After sunset, and throughout civil twilight (Sun between 0 and 6 degrees below the horizon) and nautical twilight (Sun between 6 and 12 degrees) the dominant source of light in the sky is sunlight.
However shortly after the end of nautical twilight light pollution became the dominant source of light in the sky, when the Sun was a little more than 13 degrees below the horizon.
This means that, while observing from my garden in Glasgow, I shouldn’t wait much later than the end of nautical twilight to go out observing, since beyond that point the sky will not significantly darken.
CAVEAT: It should be noted that this information is really only relevant for my specific circumstances, i.e. the light pollution in your sky may be better of worse than mine, and mean that the point at which it begins to dominate twilight is different for you.
Just finished filming the first of two evenings for BBC’s Countryfile programme. This evening was just some footage of me taking Sky Quality Metre readings in a brightly lit urban environment; in fact just outside the BBC Scotland building and Glasgow Science Centre.
It was, amazingly, a clear night, but even with no clouds we could only make out a few dozen stars through the glare of the local lights and the glow of the light pollution from the whole of Glasgow. If you’re interested, the SQM read 17 or so.
I set my DSLR camera up to take some pics of the filming, just for posterity, and in between I took some scenic shots of the viscinity, like this nice one of GSC and Glasgow Tower, showing the skyglow.
The best part of the night though, by far, was seeing the ISS flare up towards the WSW and having just enough time to set my camera up to capture this shot of it passing through Orion! Didn’t have enought time to figure out exposure times to get the best possible shot, but still, my first attempt at astrophotography paid off big time!
Off home now, chuffed with my pic, and looking forward to tomorrow night’s filming in Glasgow Planetarium and then later in Galloway Dark Sky Park.