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Well it was billed as one of the astronomical events of the century, so Para.Science were duty bound to go and watch it.
For weeks we had been looking forward to watching a small black blob crossing in front of something so bright it would make you go blind. Well people think we're odd at the best of times. But this was a very special blob (see here for more information). The good telescope had been brought out and polished, then put away again when the cost of solar filters was discovered. The cheap telescope had been ignored as, well, cheap . The solar glasses from the solar eclipse had been dusted off and checked for scratches (pair number 3 appeared to be in reasonable condition). Bits of paper had cruelly been poked with needles in various attempts to project something slightly bigger than a penny piece.
Finally the kit was assembled - one pair of solar glasses, a spotterscope, a small solar filter, and various bits of card (oh, and a packet of needles, and some food, and a flask of pop).
The day dawned cloudy. Here we go, no-one alive has seen this event, the only one in Britain for quite some considerable time, cloud - yup that's about right. So plans to head for a hill in Wales were abandoned, and the slightly shorter 2 mile trip to Eastham was undertaken. The equipment was set up overlooking the River Mersey, looking straight at the Liverpool skyline (well we assume it was the Liverpool skyline, it was too misty to tell). And we waited. And watched squirrels. And made encouraging comments about how the cloud was breaking up, if you look just over there....
And finally - a break in the cloud! Pandemonium as glasses and equipment were grabbed, sandwiches were dropped and squirrels were startled. We've seen it! We've seen a small black blob! Hoorah! (strange looks from the dog walkers, but who cares?). Oh look , it's going cloudy again. Then a brilliant idea - we can reach Jodrell Bank in an hour. They've got telescopes, big ones. Not quite sure what good a radio telescope image will be, but they've got BIG telescopes.
An hour-ish later, and we arrive at Jodrell Bank. We had forgotten just how big that radio telescope is.
But back to that later, first a visit to the small theatre where a large screen was showing live images of the transit from Jodrell Bank, Paris, India, the Netherlands, and a feed from NASA (where a small group of Americans were watching the clouds in Greece).
After feasting our eyes for a while, we emerged into bright sunlight and headed for the small group of people from Macclesfield Astronomical Society who had set up telescopes.
We had an excellent view of a projected image, in this picture you can clearly see venus partway through the transit.
Another view of the projected image
Time for a cup of coffee - who's that sneaking into the background of the picture? We've had first and second contact of venus, now here's our first star contact - it's Fred the weatherman!
Now for a wander round the radio telescope. You know how things that seem really big when you're a child don't seem big anymore when you're grown up? Forget that, this telescope is still just as BIG as it was when we were kids.
And on viewing the back of the dish, we made a discovery! You know how men hide in the garden shed when they want some peace and quiet? Astronomers do the same thing - here we present for the first time Sir Bernard Lovell's shed, where we are sure the great man went with some butties and a flask when he needed a break from the hard work.
After this we did some more transit watching, then inside for a talk about the transit by Ian Morison (co-ordinator of SETI observations at Jodrell Bank). A very entertaining talk, done at some speed as it was now approaching midday - time for 3rd contact! A mad dash back outside, then contact!
As we all waved goodbye to venus (I blame the heat...............) a small lump appeared in our throats as we realised this spectacular event was nearly over. So back inside to watch 4th contact on the live feed screens.
And then.........it was all over. Leaving us with a lasting impression of just how small we actually are in the great scheme of things.