Five-year-old Killian MacSweeney has never seen the moon eclipse the sun before, but he’s done his homework and knows exactly what to expect.
The budding astronomer is a wealth of knowledge, even taking time from his solar explanations to promote the necessity of suitable eyewear.
“I know a lot about space. The solar eclipse is when the sun is blocked by the moon and the partial eclipse is when you see a bit of an eclipse and a full eclipse is when you see all of it gone. It’s cool but you need protection, otherwise if you look straight at it you would damage your eyes,” he said.
Fellow skygazer Thomas Coakley, who is five years and 10 months old, and also goes to Cork’s Gaelscoil na Duglaise, said the eclipse was strange, but an interesting kind of strange.
From early yesterday morning, schoolchildren and adults of all ages could be seen congregating near Blackrock Castle, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare astronomical occurrence.
Some were lugging around expensive-looking telescopes and camera equipment, while others sported homemade light boxes and cardboard eclipse glasses.
Hugh Hayden from Glounthaune brought some welder’s glass to look through, while an inventive group from Turner’s Cross produced some X-rays.
Dr Maria Hurley was in work during the 1999 eclipse, when her colleagues decided to see if they could see the eclipse through X-ray film. It worked well, she said, so this time around she got her niece, Jodie Burton, to bring X-rays of her hip she had taken a few years ago.
“I don’t really mind, they work really well, you can see pretty good through them,” said Jodie as her mother and aunt lifted the X-rays high in the sky, squinting past the milky white bone to see the stunning eclipse.
And they were in luck — our characteristically temperamental weather decided to remain calm for the event, the eclipse peeking out from behind the clouds for most of the morning, rewarding the crowd with spectacular views of a celestial event.
Rory Fitzpatrick junior and senior were among the onlookers, and were delighted with an unexpected reunion with a former science teacher who had taught them both — Greg Ahern from Christian Brothers College. Rory jnr lost no time in showing Mr Ahern his homemade projection box, while his father praised Blackrock Castle and Cork’s Astronomy Club for organising the event.
Lynda O’Mahony, secretary of Cork Astronomy, said the club had been gearing up for the event for the last six months. “Kids, especially young kids, it just grabs their imagination and they think ‘oh, there’s something happening up there’. And when they see it their imagination gets caught and they might think ‘oh I’ll have a look in Blackrock Castle and see what they’re doing’ and then they might even go to the camps in the summer,” she said.
Club members were so impressed with the eclipse, they’re planning to see another in 2017 from Nevada in the US. “Every 18 months, somewhere in the world there is an eclipse. The next one visible from Ireland will be a partial again in 2026.”
For more information on Blackrock Castle or Cork Astronomy Club, log onto www.bco.ie or www.corkastronomyclub.com
Data captured by a satellite monitoring the sun offered a unique view of the eclipse, according to an Irish astronomer. Dr Daniel Ryan, a research scientist for the European Space Agency’s PROBA2 solar satellite mission, said: “PROBA2 gives us an opportunity to get beyond the Earth’s weather and see the eclipse from space.
“As well as being a mesmerising spectacle, this solar eclipse gives us a unique glimpse of the sun’s atmosphere — the corona — which can give rise to solar storms, huge explosions which can affect our satellites and power grids.”
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