Eclipse 2015 Report PDF Print E-mail

The star of the show this week was the sun! Not only did we get to see a great partial solar eclipse this morning (Friday 20th March 2015), we also had a couple of nights of fantastic Aurora display! Tuesday night being one of the best for a good few years!

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Solar Eclipse:
We had been told for the last few days by the local weathermen, not to expect to be able to see the eclipse as there would be too much cloud cover! For most of N.Ireland, it seems they were correct, but thankfully not for us! Our event was held at Belfast Zoo and started at 8.20am. When we arrived the sun was totally covered by the cloud but we had high hopes that would change soon and we were correct! At approx. 8.40am the sun broke through the clouds and there was a scurry of activity as everyone put on their solar glasses, which we had supplied for free. Our telescopes, 7 in total, were aligned, focused and off we went.


Images by Jonathan Bingham


At this point, approx. 100 people were seeing an eclipse, many for the first time!

There were quite a lot of families and young children, a lot of wows and ahs were heard and everyone then started to gather around the telescopes. After about ten minutes, people started talking and really enjoying the atmosphere. We started giving out our society leaflets, BBC Stargazing Live eclipse booklets and the children were all given a sticker with the NIAAS logo on.


Images by Geraldine Gribben & Collette McCourt


Right up to the maximum coverage of 93% at 9.30am we had very good observation, with only a couple of brief spells were the sun disappeared behind the clouds. When the maximum occurred, there was a noticeable drop in the daylight but more noticeable was the steep drop in temperature. At this point the number of people in attendance had grown to nearly 200. Even some of the Zoo staff got involved. At maximum the sun had quite a lot of cloud coverage, however we could still see the eclipse through the cloud. At this point our Chairman, Philip Matchett was being interviewed live on Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show by Nicola Weir!

Images by Philip Matchett

We had about another 20 minutes of good viewing then some thick clouds rolled in and there was a slight drop of rain. For most people this ended the eclipse event and they went on their way, very happy and with memories they can hold dear for the rest of their lives!

Images by Gary Reeves


The society members started packing up the telescopes and other equipment, said goodbye, satisfied on a job well done. Most left as some had to get to work after taking the morning off. That left Philip Matchett, his family, Nicola Weir from Radio Ulster and committee member Jonathan Bingham. We were dismantling the rest of our equipment and having a nice chat when a bus arrived at the zoo car park. A local primary school class was having a morning at the zoo. As the kids were getting off the bus, the clouds started to clear again! The eclipse was still on, so we went over and asked the teachers if they would like to see it. We didn't need to ask twice! We only had a camera with a solar filter attached still setup, but Jonathan was more than egger to get his massive binoculars back out again.

It would be hard to say who enjoyed the view the most, the teachers or the kids, as they all had a great time. The OH's and AH's started all over again. They were in the right place at the right time and for over 10 minutes they enjoyed the eclipse, best of all, since everyone else had left, they had the equipment all to themselves. If Nicola Weir ever decides to leave the BBC, she can have a job with us, as she really loved helping the kids to see through the equipment!

This ended the eclipse; at 10.20am we packed up and left the zoo. Thank you to everyone who came along and our members and their families who made this event, one of the best in the society's history!

Philip Matchett
NIAAS Chairman

Note: These images can be seen in large format in our gallery here! 


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