Saturday, 21 March 2015

Eclipse? Yawn.


Eclipse? So What? Flatcap has seen too many of them to be over-impressed  

So we all had a good look at the eclipse the other day.
For me it’s about the tenth I’ve seen, and they’re all of a muchness. I saw my first eclipse in 1959. This was the same year that I became interested in astronomy. I said to my old dad, I said, “I think I’m short-sighted, dad.”
He pointed to sky. “Look up there,” he said, “and tell me what you can see.”
“The Moon,” I promptly replied.
“That’s a quarter of a million miles away. How far do you wanna see?”
Determined to get my point across, I boned up on the subject, and I learned that my old man was a liar. The Moon is not a quarter of a million miles away. It averages only .23 million miles. This taught me never to believe anything the old man told me. When, therefore, he later told me that the light from the sun takes eight minutes to get to us, I checked up and lo, he was telling another porkie. It takes an average of eight minutes and twenty seconds.
This lack of accuracy meant I had to question his conclusion when he showed me the partial eclipse of October 1959, and explained that it was Russian satellite trying to block our share of sunlight, I had to correct him.
“It’s The Moon,” I pointed out, “the Earth’s satellite.”
“Yeah, well, it’ll belong to the Russians in a few years unless we get a move on.”
Naturally, this was back in the days of the Cold War, and Sputnik one had just gone into orbit. The theory was that if the Russians controlled space, they would control the world. As we now know, this accolade belongs to satellite television.
Talking of eclipses, the big one, of course, was the total eclipse of 1999, but it was only visible in Cornwall. I’d been ready for it for forty years, so naturally me and Her Indoors hopped in the car and drove 400 miles to Penzance, didn’t we?
Did we hell as like. The rain was hammering down in Cornwall, and in anticipation of an invasion of astronomers, physicists, New Age berks and general geeks who just wanted to say, “I was there,” the price of your average caravan in that area quadrupled for the week of the eclipse.
Like anyone with any brains, we watched it on telly and I videotaped the partial eclipse from outside the brother-in-law’s caravan in Fleetwood.
And the same could be said about yesterday. I took a shed load of pictures from our back garden and got the best views from the BBC, courtesy, Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain.
Apparently, the next total eclipse visible from the UK will be in 2090, and again it’ll be in the Devon Cornwall area.
I don’t think I’ll be there for that one either.
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