The various stages of the eclipse – deepest eclipse top, right and last contact bottom, right. (Photo: Horst Meyerdierks)
The solar eclipse of 2015-03-20 was total in the North Atlantic, with the path of totality crossing the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. In Edinburgh, the eclipse was partial with 94% of the solar diameter covered by the Moon at deepest eclipse. The weather forecast was not good, but slightly better for Angus and Northumberland. The afternoon before, I decided to drive to Angus, but at 04:15 on the morning of the eclipse I checked the forecast and changed plan. At 05:10 I headed to Northumberland, where the eclipse would be 92%. Stopping between Wooler and Morpeth, the weather seemed better further inland and I first settled for a spot between Thropton and Harbottle at 07:30.
However I decided to explore further up the road, and by the time I came back at 08:00 it was too cloudy. I decided to try further south, but by the time I reached the main road I changed my mind again and went for the blue sky to the Northeast. At 08:36 – five minutes after first contact, I finally settled for a field track outside Bolton near Alnwick. Before setting up, I tried to take a few free-hand shots at 200 mm focal length. But I lost them in a memory card reformat and had to take one more on the refreshed card. Also, I messed up and left the lens at 55 mm focal length instead of turning it to 200 mm. By the time I had set up the telescope and took the first proper image, it was 08:55, the phase already 39%.
There was varying cloud in front of the Sun; mostly I used a foil filter, but at times I used the cloud as only filter. I am still a bit annoyed, because the sky in general was reasonably clear. A spot a few km away might have had better weather, and at home -as it turned out – people saw the eclipse as well. But the weather forecast was particularly tricky and ultimately meaningless that day, and I tried to be sure of the best chance of seeing the eclipse.
The images at the top of the article were taken with a VEB Carl Zeiss Jena Telementor II refractor (63 mm aperture, 840 mm focal length, f/13.3), Baader foil filter, and Canon EOS 600D camera (pictured above). The second and fourth image show the deepest eclipse and the last contact. I am grateful to have this telescope, which I got through the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh from a member of many years who is no longer able to make use of the scope. It is a perfect replacement for my previous solar imaging setup. The optical quality is outstanding – as good as optical theory will permit – and the mount is very sturdy for its size, weight and load. Being entirely manual, the mount is ideal for this sort of project.
The media constantly compared this eclipse with 1999 as the last major eclipse. In fact, the 2003 eclipse was deeper at 98%, the 1999 eclipse was only 86% in Edinburgh. UK-wide, 1999 and 2003 would have been about the same depth, one being total in Cornwall and the other annular in Caithness.