Moon's day in the sun

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 15:31 15/11/2012

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Yesterday was a sunny spring morning but at 10.40am there was a distinct chill in the air.

A partial eclipse of the Sun caused the temperature to drop by 3 degrees Celsius as the Moon obscured the sun over Blenheim.

Clusters of passersby and retail staff used special viewers provided by BookWorld Blenheim, as well as two telescopes, to view the solar phenomenon.

Retired public servant Barry Griffiths brought his 55-year-old 6.5-centimetre refractor telescope to view the eclipse at BookWorld on Market St.

He had constructed his own sun-screen out of polystyrene packaging and a cardboard box which shielded the image of the eclipse projected on to an easel behind the telescope.

The amateur astronomer said he had a 2-metre-long refractor telescope permanently mounted at his Grovetown home which he used to observe the stars.

Astronomers did not think this kind of eclipse was a big deal as it was only partial, he said.

"But it is a good show for the public. This is what United States astronomers call public outreach."

The full eclipse traced a path that was both complicated and counter-intuitive, he said.

"The strange thing about the shadow is it will swing down in an arc. You could see it if you went 300 kilometres due east [of Blenheim], which is strange because the full eclipse is actually most visible in the northwest of Australia."

Amateur astronomer David Turner said he had been looking forward to the solar event.

"It is a big deal in Australia.

"They are expecting 50,000 people to watch it in Cairns.

"There will be wealthy eclipse-chasers from the United States in audience as well," he said.

He had brought his burnt-orange Astroscan reflector telescope for the public to view the eclipse.

Sun spots, massive solar magnetic distortions, some the size of the Earth, were clearly visible through the lens as a tiny cluster of dots.

Hemi Smith said it was the first eclipse he could remember happening in his life.

"Seeing it changes your perspective of what nature is doing.

"Things are always changing in the world and we don't know about it."

Krystal Bullen, 19, said the sight of the Sun reduced to a sliver was beautiful.

The next partial eclipse will be visible in Marlborough in 2025 and a full eclipse in 2028.

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- The Marlborough Express

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