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The total lunar eclipse of July 27th 2018

A total eclipse of the Moon was visible across the UK last night – or rather, it wasn’t. After a good four, maybe five weeks of giving us clear or mostly clear skies the weather gods decided that the day of the long-awaited eclipse would be the perfect day to bring our summer heatwave to a crashing end, and by the time the eclipse had begun yesterday evening the whole of the UK was under a blanket of sludgy cloud thicker than a Love Island contestant, which every forecast predicted would remain in place right through the evening.

Not fair, just not fair. We’d been looking forward to this eclipse for a long, long time. Not just because the eclipse itself would be a striking sight in its own right but because the fully eclipsed Moon would have company as it rose up into the sky: the planet Mars, shining like a red spark close to it, at its closest to us, and its brightest in our sky, for 15 years. So we were all really looking forward to this eclipse, and to have the clouds roll in literally a couple of hours before it began was… well, heartbreaking, gutting, infuriating, you choose.

****** weather.

But the bad forecast didn’t stop eternally-optimistic astronomers and sky-watchers across the UK from heading out in the hope of seeing it anyway, trying in vain to find a ragged gap in the cloud cover to see the Moon through. Three of us from Kendal – myself, Stella and our great observing friend Carol – raced out of the Auld Grey Town just after 7pm in search of a glimpse of the eclipse, and with very few possibilities we headed up… and up… and up to the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England, which stands alone on the high Yorkshire moors surrounded by miles and miles of nothing – a perfect eclipse-watching site!

Below: the view to the south-east… the Moon would rise over there…

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We arrived to find the place heaving with people – as usual – and after ordering drinks and some food in the packed-to-the-walls bar we grabbed chairs outside and glowered at the cloud, which was completely covering the sky, checking-in on the progress of the eclipse via a live video stream on NASA TV.

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There was a great atmosphere at the pub, with a few other people there to watch the eclipse, but the cloud had other ideas…

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Above: Carol pointing towards the Moon…

Below: what we should have seen…!

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When the drizzle started our prospects looked bleak, but we kept our seats and hoped for a gap in the clouds. Then the first rumbles of thunder began to roll across the moors, the first flashes of lightning started to pop, and as the sky suddenly went from a dull grey to a charcoal black the rain got heavier and we retreated inside. Soon we were in the centre of a serious storm, with driving rain lashing the pub, flowing in under the door as it sluiced off the roof and spread across the ground outside. Inside we were warm and dry, but every few seconds the outside world exploded with a flash of white as a lightning strike lit up the countryside. It was as if nukes were falling around us and detonating every few seconds – very impressive but not exactly conducive to eclipse-watching! But we enjoyed our meals, and enjoyed chatting to people, and by the time the storm subsided there was a very soft, very squidgy sofa available inside the main – warm! – part of the pub so we went and sagged into that, checking the sky regularly but in vain. As totality ebbed away the Moon stayed hidden from view…

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By 11pm we knew we were beaten, so we headed back to the car and set off for home – and you know what’s coming next don’t you? Yes, with barely a couple of minutes of the eclipse remaining the clouds parted and the Moon shine through…

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We found a corner to park up at and scrambled to set up cameras in the hope of catching at least ONE photo of the eclipse, but I don’t think I managed to get the last trace of the Earth’s shadow before it slipped off the Moon’s face.

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Sigh…

Before we headed home Stella made a rather macabre discovery – the limp, rain-soaked bodies of half a dozen moles impaled on spikes on the fence next to where we had parked. WTF????? Why? WHY? It was all very Blair Witch I can tell you…

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So, a frustrating night but still a very enjoyable one! Ok, we didn’t get to see the eclipse, which was very frustrating, but we *missed* it in style, at a great place, and it was just nice to all be together on an adventure!

Looking at Facebook and Twitter this morning it’s clear that almost the whole of the UK was clouded-out last night. If you look at this weather plot you can see just how bad it was – no need to know any technical details, basically every black dot represents somewhere people hoping to watch the eclipse were pummelled by rain and half-blinded by lightning instead… Essentially a black river of disappointment and despair flowed relentlessly from south to north up the UK last night, and no-one under it had a chance of seeing anything…

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There’s another eclipse in January, an early-morning one, so no doubt we’ll try again then. Before then we have the Perseid meteor shower to look forward to in a couple of weeks, and Mars will still be big and bright and beautiful in the sky when the cloud clears.

But still… ***** weather..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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2 Responses

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  2. I was in seaton Carew in the s.e.corner of co.Durham for the eclipse and it was cloudy here too although we’d had unbroken sun shine for weeks before! Strange about the moles I saw some on a fence at renwick, a hamlet in the Pennines sort of between Appleby and Alston. Last lunar eclipse I saw was from sefton park,Liverpool, about 4 years ago and it was very impressive.

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