Jon Marchant of the Liverpool Telescope group was joined by Astrophysics Research Institute astronomers Matt Darnley and Simon Prentice at this year's StarGazing Live event in Leicester. Hosted by the BBC, the event coincided with a spectacular partial solar eclipse witnessed by millions of people in the UK and across Europe.
The day was split into a morning session of eclipse watching, followed by an evening of star-gazing from the Racecourse at Leicester and the fields surrounding Jodrell Bank. Although the eclipse's path of totality missed mainland Britain, those watching were still able to enjoy a deep partial eclipse, with 85-95% of the Sun's diameter being covered by the Moon, depending on the viewer's location in the UK. Here in Liverpool the weather was kind: at around 9:30 am the skies darkened and a thin crescent "sun" could be viewed by projection or through protective glasses as the moon covered almost 91% of the solar disc.
Back in Leicester, when not marvelling at the eclipse, the team were able to share a range of exhibits and activities with members of the public. These included a fine collection of meteorites and a spectroscopy demonstration. A live feed to the telescope was also set up, although the weather in La Palma was poor so the robotic control system was unable to open the enclosure, even for Stargazing Live. Instead, some fine observations of galaxies and nebula acquired earlier in the week were presented to visitors alongside a live infrared view of the inside of the enclosure, the latter showing the telescope patiently waiting for conditions to improve. Better luck next year.
Members of the public visiting the LT exhibit at this years Stargazing Live event in Leicester and - centre - the stand before opening for business (click to enlarge).