See the solar eclipse at Aberystwyth University

18 March 2015

The Old Observatory at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where scientist from Aberystwyth will be studying the solar eclipse: Credit: Aberystwyth University / Nathalia Alzate
The Old Observatory at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where scientist from Aberystwyth will be studying the solar eclipse: Credit: Aberystwyth University / Nathalia Alzate

Members of the public are invited to join students and staff at Aberystwyth University to watch the solar eclipse this Friday, 20 March.

An array of telescopes will be set up at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to view the eclipse and scientists and technical staff from the Solar System Physics Group at the University’s Department of Physics will be on hand to talk about the sun and their research.

At Aberystwyth, 90% of the sun will be obscured by the moon, with the eclipse starting at 8.24am and reach its maximum at 9.29am. It will be all over at 10.38am.

Images of the eclipse will also be shown on screens in the Arts Centre, should weather conditions be overcast, and the Arts Centre café will be offering a special eclipse breakfast deal.

Members of staff will also be on hand to advise on how to view the eclipse safely.

According to Dr Huw Morgan, Reader at the Solar System Physics Group and a veteran of four total eclipses, great care should be taken when viewing the eclipse.

“It is vital that people do not look directly at the sun as its UV radiation can burn the retinas in the eyes leading to permanent damage or even blindness. This can occur even if a person’s eyes are exposed to direct sunlight for just a few seconds.

“Make sure you have special eclipse glasses or welder’s goggles, or you can make a simple pinhole projector, or of course, you can join us at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to watch it through specially adapted telescopes.”

Two members of the Solar System Physics Group, Joseph Hutton and Nathalia Alzate, are joining an international team of scientists from the USA, the Czech Republic and Germany this week to study the eclipse on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

They will use up to 14 specially adapted cameras to photograph the sun at different frequencies during the eclipse to catch images of light emitted by the plasma of the sun’s corona.

The best way to observe the corona is during a total eclipse. The images will be used to calculate the temperature of the corona.

The temperature of the sun is known to be around 6000oC. However the temperature of the corona is around 1,000,000oC, with some areas reaching 2,000,000oC.

Data and images captured during the eclipse will be used to develop mathematical models to try and understand this difference in temperature.

A third PhD student at the Solar System Physics Group, Duraid Al-Shakarchi, will be on an Irish Air Corps observing plane flying along the path of eclipse totality in the North Atlantic. The plane has a special dome window through which he will observe the eclipse using a custom-built compact system of 3 telescopes.

The team on Svalbard is being led by Professor Shadia Habbal, Professor of Solar Physics at the University of Hawaii and a former Professor at the Department of Physics at Aberystwyth University.

Based at an old observatory on Svalbard that has been adapted to view this eclipse, the team is being joined by three Aberystwyth undergraduate students who are currently spending a semester at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) as part of their Planetary and Space Physics degree.

The study is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

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Contacts

Dr Huw Morgan
Department of Physics
Aberystwyth University
01970 622810 / hum2@aber.ac.uk

Arthur Dafis
Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs
Aberystwyth University
01970 621763 / 07841 979452 / aid@aber.ac.uk