A Smile in the Sky

cloudy skyWe’re disappointed that, with a near total eclipse due at about 9.30 this morning, cloud is covering the eastern sky but we’ve located our eclipse glasses from 1999, so, with ten minutes or so to go, eclipseI try looking towards the bright patch in the bank of cloud.

I’m astonished and delighted to see, in sharp focus, the disc of the Sun neatly perforated by the eclipsing Moon.

eclipse 2015As it progresses towards near-totality, the crescent shrinks to a slither which reminds me of the end of a finger-nail but which has been better described as a smile in the sky.

eclipse near maximum

It gets surprisingly dim considering that there’s still a blazingly bright crescent behind the thin cloud. The birds go quiet as if tricked into thinking that night is fast approaching.

A Second Sunrise

As the Sun’s disc begins to reappear there’s strange kind of second sunrise. It’s like sunrise but more brilliant, because the Sun is already quite high in the sky. The brightness over the fields reminds me of sunrise on the east coast where light reflected off the sea intensifies the growing brilliance.

Total eclipse, 1999.
Total eclipse, 1999.

I’m reminded not just of the total eclipse in France sixteen years ago but more recently of an annular eclipse that we viewed from Sandsend; a ring of fire rising above a hazy North Sea.

Back in 1961 I was lucky to be able to observe a partial eclipse by looking through smoked glass in the school playground at St Peter’s Junior’s, Horbury. We were told then that the next total eclipse visible in England would be visible from Cornwall in 1999. It seemed an impossibly long time in the future but I remember thinking how amazing it would be to see it. When the time came, the easiest option was for us to go and stay with my penfriend from schooldays, Philippe, in Lille. We made the right choice because on the day thick cloud obscured the eclipse in Cornwall.

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