The day had come; the 20th March was the day people all around Europe had been waiting for, the day of the solar eclipse. For most of the people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. To see an almost total eclipse is a very exciting thing! The Moon passing in front of the Sun, covering its full disk happened this time too, however only the lucky few were able to see it from the scene, since the track of the totality covered mostly the Norwegian Sea.
In St Andrews we were watching the weather forecast since Monday, to see how the weather changes; if we would have a nice, clear sky on Friday, even though we knew the weather here changes from hour to hour, making it impossible to predict it properly days before the event. It didn’t seem good, especially at the beginning of the week. By Thursday it cleared up a bit, however, by the end of the day new clouds covered the sky.
On the morning of the solar eclipse, half an hour before the event, it was still pending if we would be able to see it: half of the sky (towards the east), was cloudy, while the other half was clear. But we were optimistic. Some of the enthusiastic PhD students and stuff members set up three telescopes in front of the Physics and Astronomy (PandA) building of the University of St Andrews. The two 8 cm telescopes (Meade ETC 80) were equipped with solar filters and cameras, one of which was connected to a tablet. The third telescope (Maksutov-Cassegrain, ~8 cm) was an older set up: it projected the Sun on a white plate (projection screen). We were ready for the big event.
And we were lucky! The sky cleared up! The clouds only bothered for a couple of minutes. We saw the eclipse from the beginning to the end. In St Andres the Moon covered about 95% of the Sun, which resulted in a slightly darker daytime around the maximum of the eclipse. It started at 8.31 with maximum at 9:36 finishing at 10:45. The event drew the attention of the public too. Families with children, students and stuff members, residents of the town came along to watch the eclipse with us. At some point a TV screen appeared, which was connected to the other camera, satisfying the popular demand.
At the meantime, the totality was streamed in one of the lecture theatres inside the building. By the time the Moon covered the full disk of the Sun, the lecture theatre was crowded by people, who were about to see what the visitors and inhabitants of Svalbard could see: a beautiful diamond ring around the fully covered Sun.
The event was successful. The weather was kind to us, we had a sunny, warm morning, perfect for eclipse watching. The next eclipse, with similar (>90%) coverage will be visible from the UK in 2026.
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