Weather doesn't deter eclipse viewers


For the dozen members of the Hawke's Bay Astronomical Society, and the occasional visitor who spotted their telescopes outside the Holt Planetarium in Napier yesterday, the blue skies to the north and west were tantalising - and just a little frustrating.

While much of the North Island was bathed in sunshine to greet the partial eclipse, the skies over the Bay were cloudy and grey.

But it was not thick enough to completely obliterate the last major partial eclipse set to be seen in these parts until 2025.

"Nature's filter," was how society member Don McLaren described it as he worked to focus and target one of the three sun-filtered telescopes which had been set up to view the rare event.

"It's unfortunate," he said of the high cloud, "but that's the way it is - not a lot you can do."

As the eclipse began to appear around 9.30am, the planetarium crew, realising the sight was not exactly going to be as spectacular as they had hoped, switched on a live feed from Auckland, which had clear skies.

It was played on the big screen in the viewing room although as one viewer said, it was "not quite the same."

Apart from the cloud cover, the skywatchers had also been caught out by the regular sun filters they used for their telescopes, and solar-viewing cards.

In the wake of "nature's filter" doing its bit, the filters were too dark and revealed only a soft, hazy image.

There was some viewing salvation however in the form of a strip of doubled over regular 35mm film negative which would normally have been too weak to look at a full-strength sun.

But with the hazy cloud doing much of the work, it was able to do the rest quite clearly.

At the peak of the eclipse, with about 85 per cent of the sun carved out by the silhouette of the otherwise invisible new moon, the skygazers got enough of a view to be reasonably happy with.

Groups of students from Napier Boy's High School who passed the planetarium stopped to get a brief look.

"Whoa, that's weird," was a common response as the shade did noticeably grow and the air temperature fell.

"It's gone like a crescent moon," was another.

Mr McLaren said while the timing was out in terms of the weather it was spot on in that it coincided with the society's monthly meeting that was taking place that evening.

And they were hopeful their president, Gary Sparks, would transmit images of what he saw from Cairns in Northern Queensland where a full eclipse had taken place.

If not, as one of the other members said with a laugh "2025 isn't all that far away."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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