Stargazing.. Without a BBC Budget


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Where would we be without duct tape?

Especially with some cardboard and a pair of binoculars thrown in.




At 08.30 this morning it was cloudy and we wondered if we’d see anything at all.

But slowly, very slowly, the sun came out. Or at least the bit of it that could.


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At 09.20 the light in the valley took on a peculiar blue/grey hue, the effect heightened by the mist that had lingered since dawn.


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About five minutes after the maximum extent of the eclipse the grocery shopping turned up and I had to run up the hill to collect it.

Does Brian Cox have to do this? Somehow I doubt it.


But to me it was all a bit of an anticlimax really. The light is often a strange colour here, especially close to dusk, and I’d expected it to be a whole lot darker. The delivery driver had forgotten about the event entirely and obviously hadn’t noticed the difference at all.

From the image generated through our Blue Peter style contraption the estimated 90% coverage of the sun had obviously occurred. How awesome then is the strength of our star. Even with so much of it shielded it still has the power to light up the earth.


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2017-10-24T19:32:48+00:00March 20th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Marian St.Clair March 20, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Good capture! I can really get a sense of the eeirness from your photos.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      It was quite eerie. But just a strange coloured light really, rather than dark. And only lasting a few minutes.

  2. Jennifer March 20, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    What a spectacular contraption you’ve made to capture it all – conditions here were much as yours, and I was interrupted too! The light did go a bit strange I thought, but not quite as much drama as expected.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Having been teased like this I would love to view a total eclipse. But if you’d had to book years in advance, travel to some virtually impossible to get to corner of the world.. and then it was cloudy..

  3. Dorothy @ The Nature of Things March 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    How wonderful that you were able to observe and enjoy this event. It demonstrates once again just how dependent we are upon our star.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      It seems odd to me that it doesn’t happen more often. But then if it did it would no longer be an event would it.

  4. Rosie March 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Wow – good image! We had the binoculars and a sheet of paper and then a piece of cardboard with a pinhole in it. It did go quite dark here and the smaller birds stopped chirping but the pigeons were still around and the frogs were croaking in the pond. Love your Blue Peter contraption:)

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      I don’t remember any change in the birdsong. Certainly the ewes and lambs in the top field were as noisy as ever when disturbed by the grocery delivery van! We stopped to watch them when they came over to the fence.. so cute.

  5. Polly March 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    wow, brilliant. I was at doggie club (a dog walking group in the grounds of a local stately type home), it was overcast and cold and the light was eerie but couldn’t see a thing. Your eclipseometer will be the envy of all astronomers ! 🙂

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      Damn thing kept falling apart. It ended up with more tape holding it together than can be found in Homebase. But in spite of everything, it worked!

  6. Freda March 20, 2015 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Too cloudy here sadly! But I love that image.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 8:14 pm - Reply

      Oh what a shame! You guys would have seen something closer to a total eclipse than us.

  7. Alain March 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    I suppose most of the time we are not conscious how strong the light is. Apparently the quantity of light produced in a whole sunny day in late December is about the equivalent of only one hour of a sunny day in late June.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Now that I think about it, I guess that must be true. But you are right Alain, are eyes are just not sensitive enough to comprehend that level of difference.

  8. sustainablemum March 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    We were naughty and looked straight at it! It was cloudy enough that you could do so without any glare, it was more atmospheric than if the sky had been clear I thought. We had about ten minutes of very reduced light at one point which coincided with heavy cloud so we were not quite sure if it was cloud or not but it was the eclipse!

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      Some of the photographs circulating on the internet, of the eclipse seen through cloud, are quite stunning. I really regret that I didn’t take a picture early on when it was cloudier here. How long am I going to have to wait to get another chance??

  9. Mark and Gaz March 20, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Great capture Jessica! Your simple set up is more than enough to savour the essence of this phenomenon 🙂

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      It was good to see it so clearly.. and with retinas intact!

  10. Anne Wheaton March 20, 2015 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Alas it was too cloudy here. I was supposed to have a meeting to check footpath signs at 9.30 and the other person postponed it for fear of it being too dark to see our way – we both felt a bit silly when we met later. Love your contraption.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      I did think it would be a lot darker than it was. More like 10% loss of light than 90!

  11. Kris P March 20, 2015 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    How enterprising of you! This eclipse wasn’t visible in Southern California but, then, I wasn’t prepared for the one that was last October either.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I’d love to see the real mccoy. Saw it just now on the telly from a plane over the Faroe Islands.. truly spectacular.

  12. Linda aka Crafty Gardener March 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Love your Blue Peter c contraption … is that show still on British tv? I remember it well from our days of living there.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      I think it is.. it was THE programme I grew up with. What couldn’t you do with sticky back plastic? The forerunner of duct tape perhaps!!

  13. Backlane Notebook March 20, 2015 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Good image, great contraption. We pierced a hole in a roller blind (sorry lodger) and held up white paper and there it was reflected on the paper.It was an awesome reminder seeing these beautifully balanced players steadily moving round the solar system helping to keep us alive. But I came down with a bump when I turned on the news and it’s violence, destruction and terror again on much of our beautiful planet.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      I do know what you mean, it’s a sharp contradiction isn’t it. And it makes us look very small, in the scheme of things.

  14. Pauline March 20, 2015 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Wonderful results from your apparatus! It was very misty here, but when I came out of Sainsburys at just gone 9am you could see it quite clearly through the mist. Half an hour later it was bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine so I didn’t dare look at it again.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Yes, very misty. Perhaps that’s why the effect of the eclipse didn’t seem particularly dramatic. But it was a beautiful day after that!

  15. Rosemary March 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    I used a colander to capture it and ended up with lots of little moons. Fortunately I found my old eclipse glasses after rummaging around in the drawers last night. I was so pleased as the view was spectacular – our sky was as clear as a bell and the sun and moon brilliantly clear.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      I wish I’d got some of those glasses now.. It must have been a beautiful sight. We were lucky with the weather, so many were under cloud.

  16. Sarah Shoesmith March 20, 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    This is great! We didn’t see anything apart from cloud. The sun eventually shone and we would have been able to enjoy a magnificent eclipse a couple of hours after the event. Typical! It is as well that your delivery driver missed it – clearly he/she was focussed on what they were meant to be doing.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      I thought it would be the same here. It was really cloudy first thing this morning. For once though the west was clearer than the east.. And just how often does that happen??

  17. hoehoegrow March 20, 2015 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Oh dear, sorry you were somewhat underwhelmed Jessica! It was quite impressive in our neck of the woods, and I was out with the dogs on some heathland during the event. At its darkest point there was very little birdsong other than rooks in the rookery, and no birds in the air. As it got lighter the skylarks rose up as one and started to sing. It was a very powerful moment, spoilt only by our labradoodle flinging himself on the ground, rolling enthusiastically, and waving all 4 stupid legs in the air (he spends little time actually on his legs, and lots of time horizontal!).

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      I didn’t notice the lack of birdsong at all, which I’m sure I would have done because they’re very active at the moment. Oh well, next time!

  18. Julie March 20, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    We had eclipse glasses but they were not really necessary today, lots of cloud, but we did see a wonderful glimpse. It really does make you feel like a tiny dot in a vast galaxy. How awesome indeed.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      I’d agree, rare occasions that let us see the universe at work do make us feel very small. I’m glad we saw the extent of the eclipse through our binocular set up, I don’t think I’d have appreciated it quite as much otherwise.

  19. Denise March 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    And the eclipse news from Kent? Not a sausage. Cloudy, dull – it all passed by with no noticeable change to the sky at all. A veritable damp squib. Unlike the one in 1999 when Chris, Heather and I (a gang of three as we were then) set up a similar cardboard box contraption a la Blue Peter to yours in the garden and it worked very well and we were all rather excited! Party pooping grey skies, y’see. GREY skies. Pah!

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      In 1999 I was working in Edinburgh and I remember it well. We all trooped out into the hotel car park to watch. Ahh, Edinburgh. Beautiful city. Lots of grey stone.

  20. Vera March 20, 2015 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Down here in SW France we didn’t expect to see much of it. and we didn’t because we had thick mist instead. Nice contraption though…….

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      I’d have liked to have gone to the Faroe Islands, but as it turned out it was cloudy there too.

  21. CJ March 20, 2015 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Fantastically captured. The children had gone to school and I had no idea how to look at it, so I just mostly watched the light dim. I had the same though about the power of 15% of the sun. Other half didn’t believe that we were down to 15%, I tried to explain it but I’m not sure he believed me. Quite a moment though. Two of the children were allowed to watch it, but the middle one, who is 9, was made to do a silly recorder lesson, that is a complete waste of time anyway as he is far beyond the basics that they were teaching. It made me quite cross that he wasn’t allowed to see it. The others were given proper glasses and everything. CJ xx

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Oh how sad for the middle boy. It’s not as though it happens every day and I’d have thought all schools would have been keen to embrace live learning experiences.

  22. snowbird March 20, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Way to go with your contraption! Like you, little was seen here. At least you have an image to show for all that effort! I did notice that it got a lot colder

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      It was bloomin’ cold outside at that time in the morning already, not sure I noticed it getting any worse. Must have been all the fleeces I was bundled up in!

  23. Charlie@Seattle Trekker March 20, 2015 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    We (almost all of us) never fail to be in awe of this event; from the beginning of humans to the invention of duct tape.

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      It is pretty amazing. Similarly bundled up in fleece I do love sitting out watching meteor showers. Spectacular and with no duct tape required 🙂

  24. pbmgarden March 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    This kind of event gives us pause. I like your enterprising way to capture it. susie

    • Jessica March 20, 2015 at 11:11 pm - Reply

      There was a video on the BBC yesterday giving instructions of how to do it. I’m glad we did, it was well worth the effort. Pause indeed.

  25. Amy March 21, 2015 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Very exciting, despite your unfortunate grocery anti-climax! I remember the little eclipse-viewing contraption my Dad made of playing cards (no duct tape?) when I was small (yes, and he was working for the space program back then…!). I was too young to understand it much, but it was very impressive 🙂

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      A dad working for the space program? Now that would have been exciting!

  26. Janet/Plantaliscious March 21, 2015 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Love the contraption. I was seriously u derwhelmed, thanks to heavy mist obscuring everything. It did get noticeably darker, and the birds got quiet, but then it was just business as usual. Ah well, at least I woke up this morning to clear blue skies and the knowledge that today will be slightly longer than yesterday!

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      I think it was the mist that was the problem here too. Had the eclipse been this morning it might have been different. Hope you’re managing to spend some of this fine weather in the garden?

      • Janet/Plantaliscious March 22, 2015 at 8:52 pm - Reply

        Hah! Chance would be a fine thing, crazy amount of work. Have managed to cut – well, hack – the grass and do some (late) pruning but the weeds are laughing at me…

        • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:18 pm - Reply

          I hope the business venture is going well. Yes, the weeds have started growing again. Rain this week, which won’t help our cause. Don’t overdo it.

  27. Christina March 21, 2015 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Did you notice if the birds stopped singing? I was in Rome inside a museum, not realising the eclipse was happening, a shame as it was very sunny and It should have been clear to see. I love your contraption; perhaps the BBC could use your idea next time to save some money?

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      I didn’t notice the birds. But I wouldn’t have thought the change in the light level would have been enough given that it started from a fairly low base. I got the idea for the contraption from the BBC in the first place.. worked a treat!

  28. Sarah March 21, 2015 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Ah yes, white damask tablecloth and colander in the garden in 1999. I’m sure I made a video of the event but alas no means of viewing it today. But I have just pulled out a drawing my then five year-old made, perhaps a much better reminder of the day than my attempt to capture it on tape. Not a blogger I’m afraid; I only caught up with the fascinating world of Blogland at the end of last year so I’m standing tentatively on the edge enjoying the view.

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Enjoying the view is a good place to be. Especially in 1999. It was later in the year for memory.. quite a bit warmer!

  29. Natalie March 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    You did very well with your eclipse photo! THis week, we had the pleasure of seeing the northern lights here.

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Now that I would really love to see! We were just a bit too far south this week.

  30. Sue@GLAllotments March 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I felt like you that it was a bit of an anticlimax, After all the hype I expected something a little more dramatic

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      It sounds like much depended on your weather conditions at the time. Devon mist clearly doesn’t make for good eclipse watching.

  31. Jo March 21, 2015 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    It actually went really dark here and I heard cockerels in nearby gardens cock a doodle dooing so perhaps they thought it was dawn again. Daniel’s studying Astrophysics at uni and I had a text off him saying that he’d seen the eclipse and flares through solar telescopes,and had a great view.

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Daniel would have been in the best place with all the best equipment. It must have been really exciting for him. Clever lad. If I had my time again I’d like to have studied particle physics. Only trouble is I am useless at maths!

  32. welshhillsagain March 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    We had a good view here and a clear sky. It did go quite dark and everything went very quiet. Love your contraption!

    • Jessica March 21, 2015 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      I’d love to see a total eclipse. That must be awesome.

  33. Beth @ PlantPostings March 22, 2015 at 1:52 am - Reply

    Nicely done! Good point at the end about the strength of our star. That, combined with the beauty of our blue planet, means we are truly blessed. Thanks for sharing your photos and impressions of the event.

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Beth. I only wish we were not in the process of destroying our beautiful blue planet.

  34. CherryPie March 22, 2015 at 2:22 am - Reply

    I love your Blue Peter Eclipse viewing device 🙂

    The Friday Eclipse was unspectacular, but the 1999 eclipse (which I experienced) was WOW!!!!!

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      I do remember it getting darker in 1999.

  35. woolythymes March 22, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    how inventive!!!!!

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Not me though… I got the idea from a BBC video 🙂

  36. swissrose March 22, 2015 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Clever and a great image! We had blue skies and sunshine all morning in northern Switzerland but it got noticeably chilly, if not darker, during the eclipse…

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      Hi swissrose and welcome to rusty duck.
      It was so chilly here already I don’t think I’d have noticed the difference. A misty morning after a cold night. I do remember it got a lot warmer when the sun came back out, a beautiful day after that!

  37. Em March 22, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I thought exactly the same. Slightly eerie but still lighter than at dusk. Even the birds sounded disappointed! X

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      It was an eerie light wasn’t it. Even more so up on the moor I’d have thought.

  38. Anna March 22, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    A fabulous image Jessica! I imagine that Brian Cox would not have been bothered with such down to earth tasks as shopping deliveries last Friday! We were in a rather dull and slightly drizzly Cumbria where it just seemed to get even gloomier for a few minutes. A couple of nights before there had been fabulous shows of the Northern Lights but we weren’t quite under the right bit of sky 🙁

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry you missed the aurora, that’s something I’d really love to see. Truly spectacular!

  39. Chloris March 22, 2015 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I am very impressed with your ingenuity. Were you Blue Peter fans? No, perhaps not, I don’ t see any loo rolls. But how clever of you. It was cloudy here and it did seem to go a bit dark but there was nothing to see. I love the image you captured.

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      Yes, we were both Blue Peter children. I can’t claim all the credit for this one though having nicked the idea from a BBC video. But perhaps the introduction of the Workmate to hold the ‘screen’ up could be considered an enhancement?

  40. Annie Cholewa March 22, 2015 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    The amount of light that remains even when most of the sun is obscured struck us too. But things did take on something of an underwater quality for a while here (which sounds like I mean it rained, it didn’t).

    • Jessica March 22, 2015 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      ‘Underwater quality’ is a very good way of describing the light. And it did feel as if it was going to rain too.. the way the sky darkens with an approaching storm.

  41. young at heart March 23, 2015 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    that’s amazing….. from vantage point in London I saw……nothing!!

    • Jessica March 23, 2015 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      I was expecting it to be much darker, even with cloud. Hey ho.

  42. Mike @ A Bit About Britain March 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Great post. And I may say a fascinating looking blog. I was referred to you by Amy at ‘Love Made My Home’ (well, her home anyway). She tells me you have a rogue pheasant that eats rhubarb? Could this be the answer to our disappearing fronds? It’s not as though we have any anenomes.

    • Jessica March 24, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Mike and welcome to rusty duck.
      Amy is right about the pheasant, but it is ornamental plants that Ptolemy favours, fritillaries being his favourite. Anemones yes and, new on the menu this year, irises. Wildlife in the garden is a decidedly mixed blessing!

  43. Cathy March 25, 2015 at 11:42 am - Reply

    What a fantastic contraption and it clearly did the job! I viewed it here with the simple pinhole in card trick, but you wouldn’t have noticed it was happening if you didn’t know about it – it was still chilly and from overnight but the sky was bright and there was no change in birds singing. Ah well, there will be another opportunity in 20**…. 😉

    • Jessica March 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm - Reply

      It sounds like you had much the same experience as we did. Oh well, an interesting way to spend a morning if nothing else!

  44. lowcarbdiabeticJan March 26, 2015 at 12:03 am - Reply

    I think you did well ….. and you were part of it, which has got to be great.

    All the best Jan

    • Jessica March 26, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Absolutely Jan. And it was fun trying!

  45. hoov March 26, 2015 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Weird, wonderful light effects. Your 2nd photo is magic.

    • Jessica March 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      It needs more roses in it 🙂

  46. downbytheseadorset.blogspot,co,uk March 31, 2015 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I love the way you have both constructed something to capture the eclipse – very Blue Peter! We really noticed how the light changed, I don’t remember it happening to the same extent last time. The tide also went out a long way along the coast some landing craft were seen on the sea bed that hadn’t been seen for many years. Sarah x

    • Jessica April 1, 2015 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      We were up near the coast shortly after the eclipse and I remember thinking how low the water was in the estuary. Must have been quite dramatic to see things appear from the seabed though!

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