Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Partial Eclipse of the Sun

on November 16, 2012

This week there was a solar eclipse over Australia. My scientist boyfriend was a bit more excited about it than I was, and spent the night before making a gadget to safely watch it with. I sat there, politely bewildered, and let him go for it.

I have a fairly consistent track record with eclipses. If I remember they are occurring and make the effort to leave my house to look, without fail the eclipse will be completely obscured by clouds. Whenever I forget about them, the sky is perfectly clear and viewing is easy. I would say this applies to anything interesting occurring in space, but I have been able to spot the space station twice and several people have attempted to point out various comets to me, so the rule isn’t firm.

When I lose a lunar eclipse to clouds, it’s irritating. They tend to occur when it’s cold and I don’t want to be awake. But a solar eclipse? This was happily a different story.

After I dragged myself out of bed and saw my boyfriend sitting forlornly on the floor with his gadget, I realised the eclipse was already happening. He complained about the cloud cover and how it was difficult it was to get an image of the eclipse. There was a lot of science that I didn’t understand, but I did work out that he wasn’t terribly pleased.

Curious about how dire the cloud situation was, I wandered over to the window and looked up. As he sat there telling me about the dangers of looking directly at a solar eclipse, I stood there happily watching it. The cloud cover was so thick that my eyes had no trouble adjusting to the light, but it was still bright enough that I could see what was happening clearly. The clouds thinned slightly so I put on my sunglasses. It didn’t feel all that dangerous.

As the eclipse progressed we alternated positions. When the cloud cover thinned I wandered off and he raced back to the window, gadget at the ready. As the cloud cover thickened he gave up and I resumed watching with my sunglasses. They’re cheap and nasty, but they seemed to be doing the job.

Sometimes, knowing precious little about science is a benefit.

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