2013 Eclipse

The Partial Solar Eclipse as seen from Melbourne, on May 10 this year was once again well attended by the TiS schools. I think we can easily boast well over 1,000 students that viewed the eclipse that morning and I wanted to share with you some of the stories and photos of the day.

Firstly, this eclipse was an Annular Eclipse and the best place to see it was Tennent Creek in the Northern Territory. This type of eclipse provides the famed ‘ring of fire’. Here in Melbourne we saw a maximum coverage of 36% at around 9am, not enough to notice the daylight dim, but certainly plenty to be in awe about as we watched the Moon slowly make it’s way across the Sun. Want to know the difference between a Total Eclipse (like the one in last November) and an Annular Eclipse? Eclipse Chasers has the answers. Missed out on yet another eclipse? Here are the dates and locations for the next series of eclipses.

In Australia;

29 Apr 2014       Annular

9 Mar 2016        Total

13 Jul 2018        Partial only in southern Australia

26 Dec 2019       Annular

Unfortunately, none of these eclipses will be a maximum in Australia, so you may want to start planning a holiday and save up your plane fare. It does seem we have had a rather bumper crop of eclipses in Australia lately!

The first school I will take you to is Pascoe Vale Girls College. The science club there, ‘Rephract’ were responsible for organizing the event. They coordinated classes to come out and have a look, lists of students attending, photography and equipment, they even kept a close eye on the Solar glasses the students were using. An amazing effort and as a result hundreds of girls got to see the event and their teachers had a relaxing time of it too!

Using the colander to view the Eclipse at Pascoe Vale Girls College

Using the colander to view the Eclipse at Pascoe Vale Girls College

PhD student, Craig, was there to help out on the day and answer all those curly questions as the eclipse had certainly piqued their interest.

Lots of Eclipse images from the colander

Lots of Eclipse images from the colander

The Pascoe Vale Girls had the telescope out and the Solar glasses and were having a great time viewing the eclipse, but they also explored another method which proved quite popular. The girls had a colander and were using the small holes to project the Sun’s image onto some cardboard. It was like 50 pinhole cameras all at once. Thanks to Dr Duffy who suggested this at the last eclipse. The colander also made a good sunhat too apparently…

Every man and his dog came to see the eclipse at Northcote HS. Including students, Michael (who brought out his telescope) and Dr Katie Mack from Melbourne Uni

Every man and his dog came to see the eclipse at Northcote HS. Including students, Michael (who brought out his telescope) and Dr Katie Mack from Melbourne Uni

Northcote High School also had quite a few students come out and see the eclipse using the projection method with Dr Katie Mack and Michael the maintenance guy, who is a huge astronomy enthusiast. We even had a couple of dogs come by to see what was happening as dog walkers and joggers passed through the oval.

The projected image of the Eclipse at Northcote HS

The projected image of the Eclipse at Northcote HS

PhD student, Brad, and Dr Duffy headed out to Footscray City College to view the eclipse out there. Once again the students were able to look at the eclipse as they arrived at school. Hundreds of students looked through the telescope and the Solar glasses. Passers by on the street were encouraged to have a look, the youngest being a three year old. He was going to impress the kids at kinder that day! The construction workers were also regaled to come over and have a look, apparently they had to keep coming back out for more equipment or coffees and snuck in another look as they passed by. But that is only rumour…

Lots of students milling around as Dr Alan and (almost) Dr Brad get the telescope ready at Footscray City College

Lots of students milling around as Dr Alan and (almost) Dr Brad get the telescope ready at Footscray City College

McGuire College in Shepparton were finding it difficult to get around meetings so they could not get the telescope out, but determination, outside of box thinking and a bit of fresh air fixed that problem. Meeting venue was changed to the front steps of the school, the telescope was set up a few meters away and as a result, all the students and teachers got to view the eclipse on their way into school, as did the primary school students on their way past to the school next door and any other passersby. Oh, and don’t forget those having the meeting a few meters away, I am sure they got a look or two… Gisborne Secondary College also had hundreds of students view the eclipse. As the event was an hour later than last years, it meant that all the students in the school had a good opportunity to look at the Sun before they started school. It is hard to keep track of numbers on these days, but it was estimated over 350 students had a look! The Macedon Ranges Guardian came out as well and wrote up an article in the next week’s edition.

Gorgeous collage of the Eclipse experience at Gisborne SC. Put together by Dale Barry and displayed with thanks.

Gorgeous collage of the Eclipse experience at Gisborne SC. Put together by Dale Barry and displayed with thanks.

Suzanne Cory High School also had their telescope set up on the basketball court which attracted over half the school to come and have a look. Again we are talking hundreds of students witnessing this astronomical event and getting inspired about Science and Astronomy. Lastly, Masters student, Steph, and a few helpers, Jack, Patrick and Tristan, set up a telescope on the University of Melbourne grounds. Afterall, University students and staff are just as interested and deserving as High School students. They had quite a few people come by and take a look before their lectures started.

Projected image of the eclipse on the Melb Uni sports oval

Projected image of the eclipse on the Melb Uni sports oval

I just wanted to say, thank you to all the schools that got their telescopes out and organized the students to have a look. Thank you to the students who got involved and took the time out to have a look, I hope you know how lucky you are! A big thank you, also to all the Astro members who got up super early and helped out on the day, manning telescopes and answering questions. I know everyone in the program really appreciates your help and presence, especially me.

School visits

The last few weeks of this term have been extremely busy with lots of night-time observing at many of the schools in the program. This post is a snapshot of the sessions and activities of the last few weeks.

First up is Taylors Lakes Secondary College who has been holding an observing session every Monday night since the first week of term! The weather has not been that great in Melbourne so far this term, but we do find patience and determination pays off, especially for the dedicated group of students, teachers and parents who regularly attend the Monday night sessions. The group has had the chance to see Saturn and Jupiter, the Moon, binary stars, the Great Orion Nebula and star clusters.

Shane making the final adjustments at Taylors Lakes

Shane making the final adjustments at Taylors Lakes

I tweeted at the time that Year 7 student Brad captured the view through the telescope in one succinct word, but here is his short report on what he saw through the telescope;

We looked at Saturn and Jupiter and we saw Saturn’s rings. It was pretty cool and I felt amazed as I can’t believe I actually got to operate the telescope to look at the moon. I also saw the moon’s craters and I have to admit it was awesome. One word to sum it up would be “SICK”! Year 7 Taylors Lakes student, Brad

They have also been learning how to use the telescope and have been treated to some fascinating talks by PhD student, Craig, on merging galaxies and by Masters student, Steph, on Supernovae. Pulsars will be the hot topic next week and I know everyone is looking forward to hearing about that and not wanting to jinx it, so just quietly, the weather is looking a little better too!

Listening closely to every word, with some cool light fx from teacher Rob Davie.

Listening closely to every word, with some cool light fx from teacher Rob Davie.

There has also been a lot of questions from some dads about telescopes to buy and what are the advantages and disadvantages for the different types of telescopes. I hope that doesn’t mean they will stop coming to look through our telescope!!

Pascoe Vale Girls College have started their season of observing as well this term. This year they are really focusing on training their Rephract science club students on the telescope and taking on the responsibility for some of the organization of the observing sessions, but more on that in a future post. The telescope has come out for the partial solar eclipse and an information night as well. Last Tuesday, I visited the school to help out with some observing, but the clouds (and rain) forced us inside. We did get some planning and reviewing done and it was nice to take the time to do this with one of the students and get their perspective. Just as we decided to make it an early night, a quick glance outside revealed an almost clear sky! So we quickly took the telescope outside and Year 8 student, Gaby, got the opportunity to try and align the telescope and then find Saturn. This process is a huge learning curve and Gaby did a great job and learnt a lot. And best of all, is keen to try it all again soon.

Gisborne Secondary College has been working with the local community groups including primary schools and the Girl Guides. PhD student, Jenny went to Gisborne last week to do some observing with the Girl Guides and spent some time reminiscing about when she was a member of the Gisborne Girl Guides… They also discussed the Solar System and fought the clouds to have a look at the Moon. The girls had a great night – hopefully they got a badge for that! Gisborne also had a big day for the Partial Solar Eclipse, but that event deserves a post all to itself.

Northcote High School has started off the program this year with Dr Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) and myself talking to the Year 7 and 8 students in their assembly. It was great to hear about Katie’s career so far as a Cosmologist and I am sure the students are going to have heaps of questions for her in the weeks to come. Northcote also looked at the eclipse and will be holding weekly observing sessions for the remainder of the term, starting tonight – hopefully the weather will clear up like the weather app told me it would… crossing fingers and touching wood. Not superstitious but covering all bases just in case.

Footscray City College had their second night-time observing session last Wednesday. It was probably the worst day of the week, wet, black clouds, cold. Typical Melbourne weather… As I headed out, planning the talk and activities I would be doing with the students that night, the thick black clouds were slowly moving away, leaving a nice clear sky and it had finally stopped raining. The optimistic me started to shine through and I forgot all about the talk. Adam had already set up the telescope in our usual observing spot and the Moon was starting to fight through the clouds, no stars as yet though. So a snap decision to move the telescope so we could manually track the Moon while the clouds moved away and we could finally align the telescope.

That would be Saturn. Where? Up there!  Having fun at Footscray City.

That would be Saturn. Where? Up there!
Having fun at Footscray City.

By 7pm the clouds had pretty much cleared the sky, the stars were crisp in the clean atmosphere and we were in for a perfect night of viewing. We had also converted a Dad who had been dragged along by his Year 7 daughter. Afterall it’s not every day you get to see the Moon this up close with your own eye. We spent the next hour or so looking at Saturn, the Great Orion Nebula, Alpha Centauri, and star clusters, trying to take photos with our phones and talking all things Astronomy. There was also a concert at the school and the musicians kept popping out to look through the telescope! Each interval had more and more visiting us until I am not sure anyone was left actually playing?? Just goes to show, Astronomy and science can inspire anyone.

A number of other schools are also gearing up for observing in the coming weeks and rest assured, you will be hearing about them soon.