I’m a bit partial to a solar eclipse


October was a washout for stargazing, but astrophotographer Rob Nolan captured the eclipse – and is looking forward to some crisp clear nights

Of course, it was predictably cloudy during the partial eclipse on the 25th October. However, perseverance and a bit of luck with a break in the clouds meant that I was able to get a decent image of the event!
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, thereby obscuring the earth’s view of the sun, either totally or partially. Such an alignment always coincides with a new moon, as the moon is closest to the plane of the earth’s orbit. In a total eclipse, the disk of the sun is fully obscured by the moon. In partial and annular eclipses as we saw in October, only part of the sun is obscured, around 15 per cent during this partial eclipse.
If the moon were in a perfectly circular orbit and in the same orbital plane as Earth, there would be total solar eclipses every new moon. Instead, because the moon’s orbit is tilted at about 5 degrees to the earth’s orbit, its shadow usually misses Earth. Solar (and lunar) eclipses happen only during eclipse seasons, resulting in at least two, and up to five, solar eclipses each year, no more than two of which can be total. Total eclipses are more rare because they require a more precise alignment between the centres of the sun and the moon, and because the moon’s apparent size in the sky can be too small to fully cover the Sun.
The next partial solar eclipse will be visible from the UK in March 2025, with a total eclipse not forecast over UK mainland until 2090! Yes, 2090! So if you want to see a total eclipse in person sooner, you’ll need to travel to a different continent to catch one!

This month’s image
The image opposite was taken in a single shot using my standard DSLR camera equipment and 400mm telephoto lens. I used a strong 10-stop Neutral Density filter to allow me to sufficiently darken the sun to be able to see details including 2 sun spots. Usually a dedicated solar filter would be used, but because of the clouds, I was able to use this filter instead. NEVER look at the sun under any conditions without the appropriate solar glasses or filters for your photographic equipment!

The night sky, November 2022 – Rob’s guide for your stargazing this month:

October was a pretty grim month for stargazing; we seemed to have a lot of very cloudy nights which meant we didn’t get to see much, including the meteor showers! Hopefully as it gets colder we’ll see some crisp and clear nights this month. Heading out on a clear night in November will provide stunning views of our very own Milky Way as it looms overhead. Spend some time looking at the structure and you’ll see that it is spangled with glowing diadems. Grab those binocular or a small telescope and those blurry jewels will reveal themselves as distant star clusters.
Constellations to look out for this month include Perseus, the legendary hero who slew Medusa. Look out for the stars in this cluster including Mirfak, and Algol, the demon star, which represents the eye of Medusa. Also look out for the double cluster within Perseus, h and chi Persei, which borders with Cassiopeia.
One of the best planets in our solar system to look out for in November is Uranus. On very dark nights, you stand a good chance of spotting the planet with the unaided eye looking towards southern skies. Uranus is four times the size of the earth, and is unique because it orbits the sun on its side – most likely due to a collision when it was in its infancy.
On the 5th of November, Uranus will be opposite the sun in our skies and at its closest to the earth, so it’s a good time to try and spot it.
Look low towards the south western skies on the evening of the 7th to see the narrowest crescent Moon with brilliant Venus visible to the left.
On the 10th and 11th, the moon will dance with Jupiter and Saturn, passing below the two planets.
The Leonid meteor shower will peak on the night of the 17th/18th, however due to a nearly full Moon, the display this year will likely be washed out by the moon’s brilliance.
See the moon set below the backdrop of the Pleiades on the 19th, above the bright stars Aldebaran and the Hyades.

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