|View from my balcony - no eclipse this time :~(|
I was in London on August 11th 1999 when the last total solar eclipse visible from the UK occurred. My parents and I got in the car and drove up to Harrow Weald Common from where you get a view of the whole of London lying flat out before you.
We had our pinhole camera thingies which my Dad had made by following instructions in the newspaper. You stood with your back to the sun, held up the card with the pinhole and saw the image of the waning sun projected onto another card held in front of you (being careful not to eclipse the pinhole with your head obviously). We had all heard the warnings and we were all being sensible and not looking at the sun. I have to say that I caught my Mum peeking and she didn't go blind so who knows. However, I won't take her next time as she cannot be trusted in eclipse conditions.
Obviously we weren't the only people who came to the common. The car park filled up and then people parked in the driveways and when they filled up, they parked down the road - a narrow country road with no pavements and absolutely no parking allowed. But on this day nobody cared.
Office staff came with hampers of champagne and posh lunch. This was very funny as the whole thing lasted only 2 minutes so that was 12 minutes if you count 5 minutes waiting time either side of the eclipse. And there was no possibility of having a post-eclipse picnic for the rest of your lunch hour as the whole parking thing relied on everyone leaving straight after the eclipse or cars would be blocked in.
It definitely added to the event by enjoying the atmosphere of everyone coming together. There was a camaraderie among strangers which I know to be true because we all sat in our cars for up to 20 minutes afterwards allowing the gridlocked car park to slowly empty out, last in first out. We were all relaxed like we were saying good bye to friends. Silly really, but that's how it actually was.
There was also a bit of the end of the millennium anticipation come six months early. Was this the beginning of the end? It really did go eerily quiet as the birds were silent, and obviously the road was silent, and the people were silent with awe and wonder and suspense.
So I was a little disappointed to find out that the much publicized eclipse of two days ago was only going to be visible in North America as a total eclipse. Parts of Northern and Western Europe would see a partial eclipse but the Middle East - zilch. So I forgot about it and got on with doing nothing which is what we do in August.
Suddenly the light dimmed like when one lightbulb on a five-bulb chandelier goes but you still have the other four. I knew immediately what it was. It was a wink from the solar eclipse telling me, "not to worry love, there'll be another one - an annular solar eclipse - in your part of the world on December 26th 2019."
"In an annular solar eclipse, the moon is too far from the Earth to block out the entire sun, leaving the sun peeking out over the moon's disk in a ring of fire." NASA
I can't wait.