There’s an old Robert Heinlein saying that goes “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get,” And the weather certainly kept folks guessing right up until the start of today’s eclipse. And though much of the UK and tracks along the Faroe Islands were clouded out, folks who made the trek up to Svalbard were treated to a fine view of totality, while observers across Europe caught stages of the eclipse through its partial phases. Many more managed to capture glimpses of the eclipse thanks to our good friends over at Slooh and the Virtual Telescope project.
Here’s a quick sampling of images that have come our way thus far… we’ll be dropping in more as they become available from far flung corners of the globe and beyond:
Though the live feed from the International Space Station was unavailable as the astros flirted with the Moon’s umbra, the crew did manage to get some quick shots of the eclipse from low Earth orbit:
And while the fake “eclipse seen from SPACE!!!” image made its predictable rounds, ESA’s solar observing Proba-2 spaccraft caught the eclipse from space for real:
No word yet if anyone caught the ‘money shot’ of the International Space Station transiting the Sun during the eclipse as seen from southern Spain.
UPDATE: Scratch that… Theirry Legault did indeed capture the ISS transiting the partially eclipsed Sun:
And while many observers and events were clouded out, many still noted the drop in ambient light levels.
The Sun was relatively blank during the eclipse, with one lone sunspot group currently turned Earthward saving us from spotlessness.
As of this writing, more eclipse pics are still pouring in. Watch this space, as many eclipse chasers —especially those who traveled to distant Svalbard to witness totality in person — are still making their way in from the field and are no doubt hunting for stable internet connections as we speak.
And as always, the big question after every eclipse is: when’s the next one? Well, the next total solar occurs over Southeast Asia on March 9th, 2016, and the very next solar eclipse is a partial over South Africa on Sept 13 2015. And North America gets to see another total lunar eclipse in the ongoing tetrad in just two weeks on April 4th, 2015… and we’re well inside two years away now from the total solar eclipse spanning the continental united States on August 21st 2017!
Let the first of two eclipse seasons for 2015 begin!
Update: although it was cloudy, Marco Langbroek did indeed catch the drop in light levels over the Netherlands:
And check out this amazing Vine of the dark umbra of the Moon crossing the North Atlantic courtesy of Meteosat-9:
And sometimes, the simplest shots are the easiest to get out over social media immediately, be it at a rocket launch or during a solar eclipse:
There also been no word as of yet how Germany’s solar power grid fared during the eclipse, though it will be interesting to see what possible data was generated during the partial phases for future planning.
It was truly inspiring to see how many folks captured images and filled our feeds this morning with pictures of today’s eclipse.
Can’t wait til 2017? NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set give us a total solar eclipse from the edge of the solar system this July when it flies through the shadows of Pluto and its giant moon, Charon:
Hey, maybe if we colonize Pluto by 2017 AD, we could witness said eclipses… in person, once every 6 days:
The first of two eclipse seasons for the year is upon us this month, and kicks off with the only total solar eclipse for 2015 on Friday, March 20th.
And what a bizarre eclipse it is. Not only does this eclipse begin just 15 hours prior to the March equinox marking the beginning of astronomical spring in the northern hemisphere, but the shadow of totality also beats path through the high Arctic and ends over the North Pole.
Already, umbraphiles — those who chase eclipses — are converging on the two small tracts of terra firma where the umbra of the Moon makes landfall: the Faroe and Svalbard islands. All of Europe, the northern swath of the African continent, north-central Asia and the Middle East will see a partial solar eclipse, and the eclipse will be deeper percentage-wise the farther north you are .
2015 features four eclipses in all: two total lunars and two solars, with one total solar and one partial solar eclipse. Four is the minimum number of eclipses that can occur in a calendar year, and although North America misses out on the solar eclipse action this time ’round, most of the continent gets a front row seat to the two final total lunar eclipses of the ongoing tetrad on April 4th and September 28th.
How rare is a total solar eclipse on the vernal equinox? Well, the last total solar eclipse on the March equinox occurred back in 1662 on March 20th. There was also a hybrid eclipse — an eclipse which was annular along a portion of the track, and total along another — on March 20th, 1681. But you won’t have to wait that long for the next, as another eclipse falls on the northward equinox on March 20th, 2034.
Note that in the 21st century, the March equinox falls on March 20th, and will start occasionally falling on March 19th in 2044. We’re also in that wacky time of year where North America has shifted back to ye ‘ole Daylight Saving (or Summer) Time, while Europe makes the change after the eclipse on March 29th. It really can wreak havoc with those cross-time zone plans, we know…
The March 20th eclipse also occurs only a day after lunar perigee, which falls on March 19th at 19:39 UT. This is also one of the closer lunar perigees for 2015 at 357,583 kilometres distant, though the maximum duration of totality for this eclipse is only 2 minutes and 47 seconds just northeast of the Faroe Islands.
This eclipse is number 61 of 71 in solar saros series 120, which runs from 933 to 2754 AD. It’s also the second to last total in the series, with the final total solar eclipse for the saros cycle occurring one saros later on March 30th, 2033.
And speaking of obscure eclipse terminology, check out this neat compendium we came across in research. What’s an Exeligmos? How many Heptons are in a Gregoriana?
The 462 kilometre wide path of the eclipse touches down south of Greenland at 9:13 UT at sunrise, before racing across the North Atlantic towards the pole and departing the Earth at 10:21 UT. The sedate partial phases for the eclipse worldwide start at 7:40 UT, and run out to 11:51 UT.
What would it look like to sit at the North Pole and watch a total solar eclipse on the first day of Spring? It would be a remarkable sight, as the disk of the Sun skims just above the horizon for the first time since the September 2014 equinox. Does this eclipse occur at sunrise or sunset as seen from the pole? It would be a rare spectacle indeed!
Alas, this unique view from the pole will more than likely go undocumented. A similar eclipse was caught in 2003 from the Antarctic, and a few intrepid eclipse chasers, including author David Levy did manage to make the journey down under to witness totality from the polar continent.
Safety is paramount when observing the Sun and a solar eclipse. Eye protection is mandatory during all partial phases across Europe, northern Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. A proper solar filter mask constructed of Baader safety film is easy to construct, and should fit snugly over the front aperture of a telescope. No. 14 welder’s goggles are also dense enough to look at the Sun, as are safety glasses specifically designed for eclipse viewing. Observing the Sun via projection or by using a pinhole projector is safe and easy to do.
Weather is always the big variable in the days leading up to any eclipse. Unfortunately, March in the North Atlantic typically hosts stormy skies, and the low elevation of the eclipse in the sky may hamper observations as well. From the Faroe Islands, the Sun sits 18 degrees above the horizon during totality, while from the Svalbard Islands it’s even lower at 12 degrees in elevation. Much of Svalbard is also mountainous, making for sunless pockets of terrain that will be masked in shadow on eclipse day. Mean cloud amounts for both locales run in the 70% range, and the Eclipser website hosts a great in-depth climatology discussion for this and every eclipse.
But don’t despair: you only need a clear view of the Sun to witness an eclipse!
Solar activity is also another big variable. Witnesses to the October 23rd, 2014 partial solar eclipse over the U.S. southwest will recall that we had a massive and very photogenic sunspot turned Earthward at the time. The Sun has been remarkably calm as of late, though active sunspot region 2297 is developing nicely. It will have rotated to the solar limb come eclipse day, and we should have a good grasp on what solar activity during the eclipse will look like come early next week.
And speaking of which: could an auroral display be in the cards for those brief few minutes of totality? It’s not out of the question, assuming the Sun cooperates. Of course, the pearly white corona of the Sun still gives off a considerable amount of light during totality, equal to about half the brightness of a Full Moon. Still, witnessing two of nature’s grandest spectacles — a total solar eclipse and the aurora borealis — simultaneously would be an unforgettable sight, and to our knowledge, has never been documented!
We also put together some simulations of the eclipse as seen from Earth and space:
Note that an area of southern Spain may witness a transit of the International Space Station during the partial phase of the eclipse. This projection is tentative, as the orbit of the ISS evolves over time. Be sure to check CALSky for accurate predictions in the days leading up to the eclipse.
Can’t make it to the eclipse? Live in the wrong hemisphere? There are already a few planned webcasts for the March 20th eclipse:
–Astronomia Practica plans to post photos in near real time of the eclipse from northern Scotland.
And stay tuned, as North America and the Pacific region will witness another total lunar eclipse on April 4th 2015. And we’ve only got one more total solar eclipse across Southeast Asia in 2016 before the total solar eclipse of August 21st 2017 spanning the U.S.
Let the first eclipse season of 2015 begin!
Next… how will the solar eclipse affect the European solar grid? Expect an article on just that soon!