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Cloud spoils views of solar eclipse for Ipswich skygazers

PUBLISHED: 17:26 20 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:49 21 March 2015

Orwell Astronomical Society Ipswich's Martin Richmond-Hardy shows Mikki Hart and Rowan Hart, 5, where the eclipse would be if the clouds weren't covering it at the OASI's Solar Eclipse Observing party at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.

Orwell Astronomical Society Ipswich's Martin Richmond-Hardy shows Mikki Hart and Rowan Hart, 5, where the eclipse would be if the clouds weren't covering it at the OASI's Solar Eclipse Observing party at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.

Hopeful observers were faced with disappointment this morning as a blanket of cloud covered the UK’s first solar eclipse in 16 years.

Jay Kansara looks up to see if the clouds will shift to show the eclipse at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.Jay Kansara looks up to see if the clouds will shift to show the eclipse at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.

But the enthusiastic skygazers were not perturbed by the ecliptic damp squib, with around 30 people turning out at Ipswich Waterfront alongside members of Orwell Astronomical Society.

Society secretary, Roy Gooding said: “It’s a very good turn out but it’s a shame we can’t show them something.”

Thousands of pounds of the society’s specialist telescopes and screens were set-up at Isaacs on the Quay so people could look at the sun safely.

John Wainwright, equipment curator, said it was “most dangerous” to look at the sun through anything other than a dedicated solar instrument.

sa 015 OASI Eclipse Isaacs 5sa 015 OASI Eclipse Isaacs 5

He added: “It’s one of the coincidences of nature that the moon and sun appear the same size but one is actually 400 times further away, and 400 times bigger - It’s pretty special.”

University Campus Suffolk students, Andrew Lim, 27, Melanie Prince, 20, and Billy Fenton, 19, took a break from their studies in the hope of catching a glimpse of the rare celestial occurrence.

“I was running and saw all the equipment so thought I’d stop,” Mr Lim said.

“It’s a great atmosphere, I’m really enjoying it.”

The clouds cover where the eclipse would be at Orwell Astronomical Society's Solar Eclipse Observing party at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.The clouds cover where the eclipse would be at Orwell Astronomical Society's Solar Eclipse Observing party at Isaacs on Ipswich Waterfront.

Keen astronomer, Richard Walling was lucky enough to see the last eclipse in August 1999 from the south coast of England.

“It was weird, it didn’t go dark but it went quiet,” the 62-year-old said. “The birds stopped singing, as if it was a dawn chorus.”

“It’s a shame about today but that’s part of the British weather.”

Mr Walling said he wasn’t too disappointed by this morning’s cloud cover because Isaacs did a really good breakfast.

Shapla Begum, 28, and Shane Woollard, 36, were enjoying the views from the warmth of the pub, which had set up screens inside for chilly observers.

“It’s really great to see a good crowd of a lot of people,” Miss Begum said.

She said it was disappointing to not get a sight of the eclipse, but added that it was still good to be part of the experience.

Spectators in Europe were set to experience a partial eclipse, with up to 97% of sun blocked out.

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