Home Science ExEclipse: Exeter Celebrates the March 2015 Solar Eclipse

ExEclipse: Exeter Celebrates the March 2015 Solar Eclipse


Were you amazed by the first solar eclipse over Exeter since 1999? Okay we weren’t either, but Games and Tech Editors Josh Creek and Harry Shepherd were there so you didn’t have to. We also interviewed Simon Clark, Xpression FM’s Science Hour co-host and PHD maths candidate, to explain the science behind the event, alongside a selection of our beautiful photography and a time lapse from Josh and Exeposé Photographer Edwin Yeung:  



Hundreds of students and staff took to the back steps of the forum to take in a solar eclipse with a supermoon witnessed by millions across the world. Peaking at 9:27am, the supermoon covered 84% of the sun over Exeter as its shivering audience gripped their Costa cups in anticipation.

While Exeter may not have been plunged into absolute darkness, the solar eclipse had varied affects across the world. Cloud may have inhibited our ability to view the event at its fullest, and you may have needed a trip further north to the Faroe Islands to see the eclipse at its best in Great Britain. Few land masses were in sight of the moon’s total darkness however, known as the umbra of the eclipse.


Image Credit: NASA


‘The moon made the sun go dark for a bit’ is, admittedly, the extent of our knowledge of the science behind the solar eclipse, so we asked an expert, Xpression FM’s co-host Simon Clark:


Exeposé: What did you think of the eclipse?


Simon Clark: Incredible! Despite knowing the science behind what is happening, it’s still awe-inspiring to see the sun almost entirely disappear from view. Also, I wasn’t expecting it to get quite so cold during the peak of the eclipse — for at least half an hour it got noticeably colder and took most people by surprise, I saw plenty of coat-less people shivering!


E: What was the atmosphere like on campus?


SC:  The atmosphere was buzzing. We had a huge crowd of about 1,500 students who came to watch the eclipse and use our viewing equipment, and everyone was clearly excited to be there. It was really fantastic to see so many people so enthusiastic about science, and asking lots of questions about what was going on.


E: How do eclipses actually work exactly? 


SC: So a solar eclipse is where we see the sun covered — either partly or totally — by the moon, which casts a shadow on the surface of the Earth. This happens when the sun, moon, and Earth all align exactly —  it doesn’t happen all that often. This is the first eclipse in Europe for a decade, and we won’t see another one until 2026. What we saw in Exeter was a partial eclipse (with 84% of the sun covered at the peak of the eclipse), with the centre of the eclipse being more towards the arctic circle — people lucky enough to be there saw the sun completely blotted out by the moon.


Lots of students and staff turned out on a chilly Exeter morning to commemorate the event      Image Credit: Xpression FM


A question that most people ask is ‘surely the sun is much larger than the moon?’ — so how can it get completely covered? The answer is one of the universe’s neat coincidences; while the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, it is also exactly 400 times further away, so the sun and moon appear as the same size in the sky. This is unique in the solar system, and is only possible because the Earth has such a large moon relative to its size. It’s also rather unique in time, as because the moon is gradually drifting away from the Earth it’s getting smaller and smaller in the sky, while the sun stays the same size. So we’re very lucky to be living at the moment in time where moon is just the right size to cover the sun!


E: What did we (the uni and students) do to commemorate this event?


SC: So the students, led by Hannah Wakeford of the Science Hour on XpressionFM, organised a mass viewing party on campus, which featured a live broadcast of a three hour special of the Science Hour talking about the science of the eclipse, featuring a themed playlist. We also provided multiple ways that students could safely view the eclipse — solar glasses, pinhole cameras, and projected images of the sun through inverted binoculars.

We were really helped by the Astrophysics research group in this manning these viewing methods. In total, we had over 1,500 students attend, which for a cold morning we thought was a great turnout. The university has been really supportive of the event, helping us clear the many health and safety requirements and giving us space on the campus to host the event.


Well done to Hannah for driving the event and being a key player in making the event happen. Here is a selection of our best snapshots of the eclipse, with thanks to Exeposé photographer Edwin Yeung and Josh Creek:


Image Credit: Edwin Yeung


Image Credit: Edwin Yeung


Image Credit: Josh Creek


Image Credit: Edwin Yeung


Image Credit: Josh Creek
Image Credit: Josh Creek


Josh Creek and Harry Shepherd, Games and Tech Editors


Well done again to Hannah Wakeford for organising the festivities and thanks again to our brilliant photographers Josh Creek and Edwin Yeung! 

Send us your best snaps of the eclipse via Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ExSciandTech. For more from Exeposé Features check us out on Facebook and Twitter, and keep an eye out for our new Science and Tech section coming next month!


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