Babe Among the Stars: Solar Eclipse Experience

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Solar Eclipse Experience

The last time I witnessed a solar eclipse was in August 1999. I remember it was 95% totality and clear, I had a great view from my own back garden. Sixteen years on, in a different garden just around the corner, I again had a grandstand view of an 87-88% solar eclipse. I experienced the same drop in temperature and light level, and the birds fell silent. I managed to use a crystal to project rainbow-coloured eclipse shapes onto my white kitchen ceiling and photograph this as I don't own any spectacular camera equipment nor any solar filters!

Stargazing Live

The BBC's Stargazing Live programmes were very enjoyable and didn't just concentrate on the upcoming solar eclipse even though they had been timed to coincide with it. They had guest stars including the wonderfully amenable Edwin Eugene (Buzz) Aldrin, who at 85 had amazing recall of the historic day back in July 1969 when he and Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon. He was full of energy and seemed delighted to be on the programme, happily answering questions in the informal question and answer sessions following the two shows he appeared in. Buzz was heading home on the Friday - the day of the solar eclipse - and he tweeted that he'd be watching it from his plane. He said that he'd managed to visit his friend Prof Stephen Hawking and had enjoyed his visit to the UK as always, and we hope he makes many more such visits.

Another guest on Stargazing Live was The Sky At Night's Dr Chris Lintott who was requesting help from the zooites in the search for supernovae, the latest Citizen Science project. This was (hopefully) to culminate in a more accurate age of the Universe. One such supernova was detected and on the third night it was announced that the Universe is (probably) older than we had previously thought, at over 14 billion years. This had all been worked out on the back of an envelope which was passed around and much joked about! Further study is required for a more accurate estimation and if you would like to participate, you can check out Snapshot Supernova. I've already done my bit, and may do some more if time permits.

April 2015 Diary Dates

  • 01: Saturn is within half a degree of Jabbah (nu Scorpii), a multiple star system
  • 01: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
  • 03 (pre-dawn): Io eclipses Europa
  • 04: Full Moon - the Pink or the Fish Moon
  • 04: Total lunar eclipse - viewable from the Americas, Asia, Australia and the Pacific regions
  • 06: The 26m asteroid 2015 FN33 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 07: The 2.6km asteroid 2063 Bacchus will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 08: The Moon and Saturn are within 2°
  • 10: Venus is 3° south of The Pleiades open star cluster in Taurus
  • 15: The Moon passes 4° north of Neptune
  • 16: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth)
  • 18: New Moon
  • 19: The Moon passes 7° north of Mercury
  • 20: Venus passes 7° north of Aldebaran (alpha Tauri)
  • 21: The Moon passes within a degree of Aldebaran
  • 21: The Moon passes 7° south of Venus
  • 22: Mercury and Mars are within 2° of each other
  • 22: The Lyrids meteor shower peaks
  • 26: The Moon passes 0.1° south of asteroid Juno
  • 26: The Moon passes 5° south of Jupiter
  • 28: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
  • 30: Mercury passes 1.7° south of The Pleiades

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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