So… after all the preparation, build-up and anticipation, how did The Big Day go..?

Typically the weather let us down. Thursday was a spectacularly sunny day, beautiful, blue sky, fluffy white clouds, the works. But 24 hours too early. Overnight cloud rolled in from the north, bringing with it rain, and it looked very bleak indeed for our Eclipse Watch. But when I got up Friday morning and looked outside the cloud was patchy, with hints of pale blue here and there, so I headed over to the field to set up at 7.30 and hope for the best.

Soon after I got to the park a couple more EAS members arrived with their gear, followed shortly after by the BBC Radio Cumbria crew! Radio Cumbria – having already supported our event by promoting it heavily in the preceding weeks – was going to be broadcasting live from our event all through the morning, a real coup for us, and for Kendal, and as I wandered over to do my first radio interview a ragged tear appeared in the cloud and the Sun burst through! Was it a sign? Were the Weather Gods going to smile on us and grant us a grand view of the eclipse? I hoped so…

Soon the Park was starting to fill up with people, EAS members and visitors alike, and we were joined by our friends from Lakeland Radio too, who had also supported our event very generously, and by the time of First Contact, 8.30, there was already a sizeable crowd with us.

But the sky…. ๐Ÿ™


It was SO frustrating! The Sun was there, we could see a brighter patch of sky behind the cloud showing us where it was, but the cloud refused to part, and all everyone could do was stand around waiting, waiting. It was still fun tho, everyone anticipating seeing the eclipse, ever optimistic, and the Radio Cumbria and Lakeland Radio teams interviewed lots of people, including big groups from one local school and another school all the way from Carlisle, as we waited –

Suddenly there it was! The Sun! The gap wasn’t totally clear, it was still hazy, but that meant the eclipsed Sun could be seen, briefly, with the naked eye. It wasn’t bright enough to be seen through any of the solar filters or viewers we had there, and it was nowhere near bright or clear enough to project, which was a great shame – and I know from a comment left on the Society Facebook page that at least one family was disappointed by that, but hopefully they now realise it was totally out of our control, and they wouldn’t have been able to see **ANYTHING** if they’d looked through our telescopes, even if there had been timeย  – but there was the Sun, with a big chunk taken out of it! We could see the eclipse! Success!

Well… sort of… ๐Ÿ˜‰

For the next 40 mins or so the Sun played an expert game of hide and seek with us from behind the cloud. It popped out again a handful of times, just for a few seconds at a time, to the delight/frustration of the crowds (and ourselves!) but as the time of maximum eclipse approached the Sun retreated behind the thickening cloud and refused to come back out. Maximum eclipse time came and went… no sign of the Sun…

But it did get very gloomy, and chilly too, and the Park felt very eerie and… wrong, certainly wrong for that time of day. People across the field looked at images of the eclipse on their phones, pictures taken from places across the UK with better weather, and they looked fantastic. But all we could do was stare up at the big, grey, clotted sky and think of what might have been… ๐Ÿ™

…then the sky started to brighten again, the temperature began to rise again, and the cloud began to thin again, and a couple of times, for a few fleeting moments, we caught glimpses of the eclipse going into reverse, with the Moon now moving away from the Sun –

And then it was all over. 11am – and, of course, the cloud began to tear open like wet tissue paper, revealing a glorious, *whole* Sun. By half eleven the park was deserted again, with just Stella and I left to pack up the last few remaining eclipse things and head home.

So, all in all a frustrating day – but great fun too! While it was very disappointing that we didn’t get good views of the eclipse because of the weather – and I hope people who came along know better than to blame us for that! – we did see it a few times, which was brilliant, and to have (we estimated) between 400 and 500 people join us in the Park between 8.00am and 11.00am was wonderful, a real sign of how much people are interested in astronomy, science, and things going on “up there”.

Thanks to all EAS members who came along, especially our Chairman, Graham who worked tirelessly all morning to make sure people had a good time. Thanks also to Radio Cumbria and Lakeland Radio for their support, and to Kendal Metalworks for their support too. It was a brilliant day, despite the weather, and was definitely worth doing. And it was great to see so many kids there – even if some of them found hunting for worms more thrilling than the eclipse!:-)

Here are some pictures from the day…







During the eclipse…


…after the eclipse!


Some eclipse photos taken by our members on the day…


(above) Dan Beale




(all above) Carol Grayson



Imaging last night March 8th

After days of wind, rain and cloud – not in any order but sometimes all at once! – we had a clear and moon free early evening. I took advantage and set up in back yard to try and capture M1, the famous Crab Nebula. After an irritation with the mount choosing align stars on the horizon, I finally got it sorted with only two star rather than 3 star alignment. I decided it would do, got M1 in the field of te 66mm Williams Optics scope and took a five minute exposure with my modified Canon EOS 400D – fitted with an EOS light pollution filter. It looked like I had some drift [alignment?] so I compromised on only 3 minute exposures. Just over an hour later I had 21. I then took the usual flats, bias and darkย  frames [oh it takes so long to get darks… [3 minutes each of the back of a lens cap!!]. The Moon was rising, I was tired so I then packed up. Having processed this tonight, I’m quite pleased with the result – but as ever, more time needed.

M1, The Crab Nebula

M1, The Crab Nebula

It is just soo small –ย  this is a crop from the frame. North is up. This is the remnant of the supernova that the Chinese observed in 1054. The angular diameter is 6′ x 4′ – 1/5th of the Moon. Still at 6500 light years away and only 5 light across…

* Solar Eclipse Update for Members *

This update was sent out via email to members this morning. It is reproduced here to ensure that members who are not on the email list, or who don’t check their email regularly, are kept informed…


By now everyone should know – from emails, attending meetings, or reading the blog – that we are holding an “Eclipse Watch” down at Abbot Hall Park on the morning of Friday March 20th, to show members of the public, and the media, the eclipse, in safety. Our event will begin at 8.00 in good time for the start of the eclipse at 8.30. By 9.30 the Sun will be over 90% eclipsed for us, and the whole thing will be over just over an hour later.

poster eclipse watch

As it is (to my knowledge) the largest eclipse-watching event being held in Cumbria, there is already a lot of public and media interest in our event. BBC Radio Cumbria will be coming down to broadcast live from the park, and will be promoting it the week before. Our own Dan Beale and John Pye will be there for Lakeland Radio, and The Gazette will be sending down reporters too. There’s even a chance Border TV might come down to film us. Assuming it’s a clear sky – actually, even if it isn’t – we’re in for a busy and exciting morning!

But there is still a lot of planning and preparation to do to ensure our event is the success we all want it to be. Firstly, with time ticking on, I really need to know how many of you are going to come down, and what telescopes/equipment, if any, you’re going to bring with you. I anticipate quite a large number of people will be coming to the park, so we need to have enough members there to ensure no-one has to wait ages for a view of the eclipse. So, if you can come and help on the morning, between 8,00 and 11.00, please do! But take a moment to reply to this email letting me know you’re coming, and telling me what you’re bringing with you to show people the eclipse. Of course, you’re very welcome to come and join us just to *watch* the eclipse, no-one is obligated to show members of the public the eclipse with their telescopes, and we will have solar viewers etc for you to borrow if you just want to see the eclipse. But, as ever, all help will be appreciated.

If you are planning on coming along to show members of the public the eclipse with your equipment, it’s important to take a moment to think, seriously, about the safety aspects of the day. Observing solar eclipses needs special care and attention, and all of us down on the field will have to make absolutely sure that our guests enjoy this amazing event safely. So, everyone helping on the day MUST follow these safety guidelines:

* NO TELESCOPE BEING USED ON THE MORNING MUST BE LEFT UNATTENDED. There will always be someone who looks at an unattended telescope at an event like this and thinks “Oh, they’re busy, I’ll just have a look…” and then they could injure or even blind themselves. So, if you come down with a telescope to observe the eclipse, and to show others, you must stay with it at all times. If you need to leave it – and I know everyone will want to enjoy looking at the eclipse through others’ telescopes and equipment, I know I will! – then you must try and find someone to stay with your telescope for you. If no-one is available, then you must a) swing your telescope well away from the Sun, b) cover it with one of the covers being provided on the day (NOTE: this is another reason why I need to know in advance how many people are coming down to help – I need to know how many covers to buy), and c) place one of the safety signs, also being provided on the day, on it. That way, there will be no risk.



* ALL FINDER SCOPES MUST BE EITHER COVERED OR REMOVED. This will ensure no-one hurts themselves if they wander into the path of any stray sunlight finder scopes can project.


There will be safety signs on display in the park, instructing the public on how to enjoy the event safely…

public safety guidleines jpg

We will also be giving people safety advice slips.

As an additional layer of safety, EAS Committee member Liz Hodgson has kindly volunteered to be our Safety Officer on the day. During the eclipse, Liz will go around the park ensuring all the above safety guidelines are being followed. She will also be on hand to offer advice and assistance to anyone who needs it. Many thanks to Liz for taking on this important job!

If this all sounds like overkill, it isn’t. It is our responsibility to run a safe event, an event where no-one is put at risk. Observing the Sun takes special care and attention, and there is a real risk of injury to anyone who is not supervised properly. So, while the above guidelines might seem strict, they are what is needed to ensure we run an enjoyable but safe event. I know you will all support them, and follow them, and come along on the Friday morning to watch the eclipse and share it with others!

And importantly, after all that serious stuff – HAVE FUN! Eclipses like this are rare, and if the weather is kind to us we will see something **fantastic** in the sky! If you come and help on the morning that will be great, but I absolutely **insist** you take some time for yourself to just ****LOOK**** at the eclipse without any interruptions, or, trust me, when it is over you will realise that you didn’t really see it at all…

The Eclipse Watch will officially begin at 8.00, but I’ll be down there from 7.30 setting up and co-ordinating all the media people, so I hope to see some of you then!

Finally, this is absolutely the last email which will go out to the old mailing list. As soon as I’ve sent it I will be deleting the old list and making a start on drawing up the new one, which will then be passed on to our new Membership Secretary (thanks Liz!). So, if you STILL haven’t answered my previous emails, you need to as soon as you’ve read this because tomorrow the slate is wiped clean and the new list will come into use.

Thanks everyone.