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…. 🙁
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 time – but there was the Sun, with a big chunk taken out of it! We could see the eclipse! Success!
Well… sort of… 😉
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… 🙁
…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