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Friday, March 20

Eclipse watch report

We did manage to see some the solar eclipse from Cockermouth this morning, much to the delight of everyone who came along to Memorial Gardens.

The morning started early, with three society members arriving around 8am to set up, joined a short time later by a photographer from the News and Star. We were met with skies heavy with cloud, and a forecast that didn't look promising. However, as the saying goes, "the only guarantee in astronomy is, if you don't look you definitely won't see anything!". So we set up 'scopes and waited for the crowds to arrive and the clouds to clear.

Not looking too hopeful . . 
Soon the people started to arrive, or at least notice us loitering in the park. With no prospect of showing them anything through our scopes at least we are able to keep up with progress on the Internet, and hand out some BBC Stargazing LIVE leaflets.

Eclipse watching via the internet
As the time of maximum eclipse approached at 9.30am the sky was noticeably darker and cooler and there was a hint of the "eclipse breeze" being researched by the University of Reading. Totality was observed over the Internet, live from an aircraft above the Faroe Isles.

Then the sky started to brighten. At first, because less of the Sun was blocked out by the moon, but then we realised that the clouds were breaking up. The lower level of cloud had gaps which showed brighter patches of cloud above. Then, suddenly, we saw the eclipsed sun through the clouds. Just a second or so, but enough to raise a cheer from the gathered crowd.

After that spirits rose, and we were eagerly watching gaps in the clouds drifting across the sky, willing them to move to just the right place to reveal the sun again. Some did, and before long we were starting to capture images.

Eclipse glasses at the ready
Eventually the cloud was thin enough to require the eclipse glasses to view the Sun safely. Special filters went on the the cameras. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to align telescopes.

Solar filters deployed
The gaps continued to align with the sun, giving us views for as long as 30 seconds through our eclipse glasses, as the moon gradually moved away from the Sun.

Eclipsed Sun through one of the many gaps in the clouds
So, overall a successful morning. Yes it would have been nice to bask in glorious sunshine for the whole event, but this is Cumbria! Given the forecast we had I think we definitely came out on top.

I'm sure there will be more photos to come, watch this space.

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