Flamsteed Astronomy Society

‘A little eclipse goes a long way’  — August 1, 2008

Partial solar eclipse seen from Greenwich

page 1 of 4

Report by Mike Dryland

Seen from London, the solar eclipse on August 1, 2008 offered a measly 12% coverage of the Sun’s area at most.  But when the ROG opened early at 9:15am there was already an excited buzz around the astronomer’s lawn at the back of Flamsteed House.

Around a dozen or more Flamsteed volunteers generously gave their time to come along and help run the event.  Flamsteeders put up three H-alpha solar ‘scopes, a projection set-up through binoculars, and four ‘SolarScope’ projectors.   At a guess, more than 500 visitors bowled up during the hour and a half visibility from Greenwich.   The weather was much kinder than we had dared to hope and, although the Sun and Moon ducked behind clouds now and again, we didn’t miss more than 5 minutes at a time up to maximum.  By the time the eclipse hit its 12% (by area) maximum at 10:18 BST there was a real throng of visitors on the lawn.

The Flamsteed team was kept really busy adjusting and supervising the equipment, giving explanations, and answering a host of questions.  It’s great to see a bunch of excited kids thrilled at the spectacle but you have to wish they wouldn’t swing on the eyepieces or bash the projectors!   But never mind — that’s what it’s all about.  If we can inspire just a few youngsters, and grown-ups too, and introduce them to the thrill of astronomy, our work is worthwhile!

As the view from Greenwich wound-down about 11am, we retired to the Planetarium lobby to watch the live internet feed from Russia on a big screen.  The lobby soon filled with visitors and there was general dismay when the picture appeared to cloud-out minutes before totality.  But the screen cleared in time to see the end of totality and a super diamond ring.  Now we wait for the pictures to be returned from the fortunate few who were in Novosibirsk or on the Barents Sea!

‘Through eclipse glasses’ by Mark Duwe

Visitors throng the lawn at the ROG waiting to use an H-alpha scope (Pic: Mike Dryland)

The view through the H-alpha close to

maximum seen from London (Pic: Mark Osborn)

The battery of ’SolarScope’ projectors did great service (Pic: Mike Dryland)

Eclipse glasses were available

from the ROG shop (Pic: Mark Duwe)

Many kids came along and were excited and fascinated by the spectacle (Pic: Mark Duwe)