Social Eclipse 2015: I have superpowers now


Photo – Alex Stuart

LET ME SET the scene for you. It’s early. Really early. You were awake until 3 in the morning gaming- I mean, working hard. 5 hours later, your alarm rings. Why would anyone set their alarm for 8 o’clock on their day off, I hear you ask. My answer: a solar eclipse.

If, for some reason, you have no idea what a solar eclipse is, then allow me to enlighten you. Very simply, a solar eclipse is when the Moon travels in front of the Sun during the day. I said it was simple. Now, this is all well and good, but does it serve any purpose aside from awakening powers in normal people that eventually leads to a 4-year long TV show of steadily decreasing quality? Well, yes, it does.

In the scientific community, eclipses are wonderful things for studying the Sun’s corona, the equivalent of its atmosphere. You see, during eclipses nearly all of the light from the main portion of the Sun is blotted out. This makes it much easier to make ground-based observations of the surrounding areas in high detail. In one word: science.

Now that you’re caught up, I’ll continue. It was cold when I reached the National Library of Wales, the place I’d decided to trek to that morning- if only because it’s a 2 minute walk from my house. I hadn’t needed to wear gloves for quite some time due to the gradually warming weather, but I donned them to stop my hands looking like a White Walker’s. Luckily, though, there was bright sunshine aplenty when I arrived, with nary a cloud in sight. I set up shop on one of the benches and watched the Moon roll across the Sun (Pro-tip: a towel is a great thing to bring to these, due to the level of condensation on the benches. That, and if you have to hitch a lift from a flying saucer then it’s a massively useful item to have in your possession).

Anyone wanting the landscape to go dark would have been disappointed. Due to our location, we didn’t get 100% blackout- that honour goes to Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago. Even so, there was still an appreciable drop in light levels, though I doubt anyone would take it as an omen of the apocalypse.

I was fully aware that there was a mass-watching of the eclipse happening at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, though personally I prefer a quieter atmosphere – hence my being at the National Library. I always find it encouraging that people will flock to this sort of event, as it’s a great time to showcase science. As someone who spent part of his summer presenting scientific ideas to the public (while getting spectacularly sunburnt, may I add), I know that most people aren’t particularly interested unless you’ve got something interesting to show them. The good news: a solar eclipse is most certainly that.

The whole event lasted approximately two hours, with maximum eclipse lasting around 3 minutes. It’s just a shame that we won’t see a similar eclipse in these parts until 2026 (or, if you’re more patient, 2090).

On the bright side, it was a great time to invade the Fire Nation.