Eclipse viewing at the Orchard

On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, an event to view the partial solar eclipse was held at the H&I Community Orchard.

Pictorial sheets and verbal explanations about various aspects of how the sun and the earth’s orbit affect us were provided; the picnic tables were used as focal points for each subject.

The tutorials were on:

  • how to view safely, with the provision of pinhole viewing boxes. In the absence of the real thing due to the dense cloud cover, a powerful bicycle lamp was shone through the pinhole to illustrate what would have been seen.
  • how to navigate by the sun including how to account for the phenomenon of analemma and in what manner sophisticated sundials are corrected for this fact.
  • why seasons occur and how in 1,000s of years’ time summer will occur in December.
  • how the earth not only tilts on its axis but wobbles around a lot, contributing to minor ice ages.
  • the oscillating tilt and rotation of the earth’s orbit which is thought to be a factor in major ice ages, and how the offset centre of the orbit results in sunrise continuing to occur later even after the Winter Solstice.

Although there was thick cloud, at the height of the eclipse it was noticeably cooler and the birds stopped singing.

It has been widely stated that the next partial eclipse will occur in 2026, but this is not strictly true. There will be several before then but they will be very insignificant and barely noticeable since there will be not much more than 10% occlusion. Remember how even during the recent 85% coverage partial eclipse the sky went only a bit gloomy? There was actually a 60% partial eclipse on Monday 4th January 2011 but that didn’t get noticed, partly because it occurred at sunrise.

The next major partial eclipse in Cambridge will be during the early evening of Wednesday 12th August 2026, although the orchard trees may have grown too much by then and obscure the view.

The Community Orchard provided an excellent natural setting for such a mystical occurrence with birds singing in a rural backdrop, and the event presented an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the Community Orchard and village.

Thank you to those who attended, to Elaine Brown and Paul Christie for helping to set up the event, to Paul Christie for the photographs, and to two visitors who helped to dismantle the event. Interesting eclipse information is available here.

The materials have been saved for a repeat performance for those who will still be around in 2090, or more likely, 2026!