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Cheering for the sun at the Leiden Observatory

Staring into the clouds hoping for a glimpse of the sun, cheering in encouragement, video recordings: there was no shortage of things to do at the Leiden Observatory. More than 600 visitors witnessed the last, almost complete solar eclipse of the decade..

A glimpse of the sun

A long queue of people made their way to the Leiden Observatory on Friday 20 March to view this unique natural phenomenon. Several telescopes were set up outside through which visitors could view the sun, or they could use the eclipse glasses that were handed out. In spite of the promising weather forecast, the clouds refused to disperse. Still, this did not dampen the spirits of the more than 600 people who had come to watch the eclipse. Astronomer Frans Snik was delighted with the turnout: ‘It’s fantastic to see that so many people have come to see this amazing natural phenomenon in spite of the weather!’ Encouraged by loud cheers from the public, the sun did penetrate the clouds a few times and all cameras were aimed at the sky to record this very special event.

Test of the heliostat, a couple of days before the eclipse. (Photo: Poppy Savenije)
Test of the heliostat, a couple of days before the eclipse. (Photo: Poppy Savenije)

Ingenious heliostat tested

The eclipse was the ideal opportunity to carry out the first test of the Leiden Observatory’s new heliostat. The device is made up of an ingenious mirror system that directs sunlight from the roof of the Observatory to the visitors’ centre in the basement. The device then projects an image of the sun 70 cm in diameter ‘live’ on the wall. The heliostat was constructed by students at the Leiden Instrument Makers’ School.

Recordings for ‘Einstein’s Light’

In the red jacket: film maker Nickolas Barris (Photo: Poppy Savenije)
In the red jacket: film maker Nickolas Barris (Photo: Poppy Savenije)

Hollywood author and producer Nickolas Barris was present to make recordings for his documentary on 'Einstein’s Light'. The film is about the pioneering discoveries made by Nobel Prize winners Albert Einstein and Hendrik Lorentz. The documentary is a modern tool to inspire viewers to use their imagination to generate innovative ideas. The documentary will be broadcast later this year to commemorate the 440th anniversary of the founding of Leiden University.

Youngest visitors

Peering through one of the telescopes (Photo: Poppy Savenije)
Peering through one of the telescopes (Photo: Poppy Savenije) 

After the eclipse, researcher Felix Bettonvil gave a lecture on telescopes and eclipses. There was also something especially for the youngest visitors: the Universe Awareness programme specially for children was an opportunity for them to learn more about the universe.

(20 March 2015)

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