“O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day!”
I have always been rather disappointed when observing eclipses. I’ve tended to either be in the wrong place or in the wrong weather. In 1999 I motor-biked all the way down to Cornwall from London to sit in a field and feel a slightly darkened earth at around 11 am beneath all those clouds which tend to descend on that Island at the most inopportune times.
Although it was a total eclipse over Cornwall and parts of south Devon (at least the trip was worth it for visiting an old school friend who lives down there) it was almost totally clouded out where I was. My wife, who remained in London where the eclipse was partial, told me she actually got a better view of the phenomenon. I’m told that I should have gone to Newquay where the clouds did clear for a while and would have allowed me to see the totality in all its darkest glory.
Apart from the actual astronomical phenomenon there are allied natural ones. Birds are supposed to fall silent and temperatures fall. Certainly the temperature fell and the birds became silent in Cornwall – a very eerie effect.
A local friend of mine was lucky enough to be in Hungary at the time of the 1999 eclipse and told me that it was one of the most spectacular things he’d ever seen. At the time of the sun’s aura emerging from the moon’s circumference he said that the whole landscape was suffused with twilight and dawn merging into one strange crepuscular light which completely encircled the landscape from the east to the west, quite unlike our standard sunrises and sunsets.
Another eclipse, of which I have only the vaguest memories, due to my age at the time, was the eclipse of the 5th February 1961. Perhaps it was because it occurred so early in the morning that it was not so immediately noticeable but 95% of the sun was covered by the moon in south-east London, where I lived at the time.
The eclipse of a couple of days ago was remarkable in that it combined three major astronomical phenomena into one. Apart from the actual eclipse itself, the full and reddish moon was seen at its largest dimension at its perigee, being the closest distance to the earth, and it was also the spring equinox.
As far as the eclipse affected Longoio I experienced a dimming of the sun at around ten-thirty but much spookier was the sudden drop in temperature which was amazing. The cats were sleeping on my bed, but then they usually spend most of their time sleeping on my bed. The ducks seemed unaffected and continued pecking for titbits on the lawn and the gold fish didn’t bat an eyelid, (if they had any).
A local man remarked to me that the end of the earth would come soon but then he belongs to a sect that strongly believes in pre-determined dates for this event.
A photograph was pasted on facebook by an acquaintance in Brandeglio.
The lines from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra
There is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon.
came to mind more than the great lines from Milton’s Samson Agonistes which prefaces this post.
Anyway, the partial eclipse started in our part of the world at 9.23 am reached its maximum coverage of the sun, which was 60.1%, at 10.31 and ended at 11.43. The local astronomical society of Lucca set up a telescope on the city walls from which this picture was taken:
I didn’t feel like taking a flight to the Faroe islands to get a better view of this eclipse although I might well revisit that lovely country, Vietnam, which is due to receive a good partial eclipse on the 9th of March 2016 with little hope of clouds as it’s outside the rainy season (although Palangka Raya in Borneo might be a better bet as the eclipse there will be total.)
In the meanwhile, I suppose I could always re-watch that iconic Antonioni film “L’eclisse” from 1962, with its breath-taking silent final ten minutes showing an eclipse in progress….