Letchworth astronomy group pulling out all the stops for solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse. Credit: Letchworth and District Astronomical Society.

Solar Eclipse. Credit: Letchworth and District Astronomical Society. - Credit: Archant

An astronomy group is pulling out all the stops for members of the public to wonder at a solar eclipse which is taking place this morning.

A partial eclipse – which happens when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth and partially blocks the former, casting a shadow over the latter – is due between 8.25am and 10.40am.

The Letchworth and District Astronomical Society will have four gazebos set up in Leys Avenue housing a screen with a live feed from NASA showing the eclipse and display boards with information.

Outside there will be eight telescopes – with solar filters – so that people can look directly into the sun safely, as well as 100 pairs of safety goggles.

The society’s Kevin Offley said: “The reason that the partial eclipse this morning is significant is the rarity of such events.

“In this case, at its maximum, 85 per cent of the sun will be eclipsed causing it to become noticeably dark.

“The eclipse coincides with the Spring equinox, when day and night are of equal duration, which hasn’t happened since 1662 and won’t happen again until 2034.

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“The moon will be a ‘super new moon’, meaning that not only will the sun, moon and earth be in a straight line but the moon will be at lunar perigee, when the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth in its orbit.

“This causes the moon to have a larger-than-average effect on the Earth’s oceans.

“If the skies are clear, from 8.30am, people will see the disc of the moon moving across the disc of the sun, gradually blotting out the light.”

The group have advised people not to look directly into the sun, even through sunglasses or dark materials such as a bin liner or a photographic negative.

Makeshift filters may not screen out harmful infra-red radiation that can burn the retina of the eye, so phone and camera photos – including selfies – should be avoided.

There will be plenty of LDAS members on hand to answer questions about eclipses or any other area of astronomy.