By Tushna Commissariat and James Dacey
The south-west of England is not exactly known for its sunny skies at this time of year, so many of us in Bristol – home to Physics World HQ – had steeled ourselves to miss out on today’s solar eclipse, which coincidently is on the first day of spring. So, we were rather overjoyed when the Sun shone through the sparse cloud cover for nearly an hour of the celestial treat. While today’s eclipse was technically visible to anyone in North Africa and Europe, totality was only visible to those lucky few who happened to be on the Faroe Islands (where it was actually cloudy for most of the time) and in Svalbard in northern Norway. Here in Bristol, the eclipse peaked at about 9.30 a.m., when 87% of the Sun’s light was blocked by the Moon.
Armed with a variety of specially adapted telescopes and filters, volunteers and members of the Bristol Astronomical Society (BAS) had set up camp next to St Peter’s church at Castle Park. We joined society members from 8 a.m. today – together with folks from @Bristol and BBC Sky at Night magazine – to get a good look at the eclipse and talk to people, who turned out in their hundreds, to look at the Sun through a variety of telescopes, cameras, filters, eclipse-glasses, colanders and many a clever home-made pin-hole camera. Indeed, BAS chairman Richard Mansfield told us earlier this week that the group hoped to attract all the people passing by the central Bristol location on their way to work, and sure enough there were many lured in by the shiny telescopes that dotted the cobblestones by the church.
Fiona Lambert, a BAS committee member, had a specialist hydrogen-alpha telescope that gave us the most wonderful orangey-red view of the Sun – you can hear her speak about how it works in the video above that we filmed this morning. You will also hear from Mansfield, members of the public and you can watch our footage of the eclipse as it nears its peak. Today’s eclipse was a rare sight for many – one that the UK won’t see in the same glory again until 2026 – making it a truly special sight; so in case you missed it thanks to a pesky cloud or being on the wrong side of the planet, watch our video and take a look at our selection of images over on Flickr.