Northumberland astronomer set to livestream the rare total solar eclipse from America

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A rare solar eclipse, which will be seen across America, will be captured by a Northumberland astronomer and beamed back live to the North East.

Ellie MacDonald, 26, of Hexham, will be travelling to Texas on April 8 on behalf of Kielder Observatory, the Northumberland attraction and educational charity, where she will be keeping her fingers crossed for clear skies so she can capture the rare event on camera for viewers across the world.

While lunar eclipses are more common, the last solar eclipse was in 1999 and could be viewed in the UK in parts of Cornwall. Next month’s eclipse will only be viewed in a band of sky running from south to north America and is unlikely to appear again for two decades.

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Ellie, a science communicator and science lead at Kielder Observatory, will be taking a planetary camera, a 100mm lens and her dark eclipses glasses with her to protect her eyes.

Ellie MacDonald.Ellie MacDonald.
Ellie MacDonald.

She said: “There will be thousands of people travelling to see it from across the world. It will be the first time anyone from Kielder has attempted to livestream it and the first time we’ve tried live streaming from a different country.

“I’ve never seen one before so I’m very excited. Everyone says how amazing it was in 1999 and a lot of people remember going to see it in Cornwall. Hopefully the livestream will be the next best thing!

“We decided that Texas would be the best place to get a clear sky, but we’ll be looking at forecasts about five days beforehand and will make a final decision on exactly where to see it later.”

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Solar eclipses happen when the moon travels between the earth and the sun, blocking out the sun. The eclipse will last for up to four minutes, though it will take up to two hours to reach totality. Astronomers at Kielder will be on hand to answer questions about the eclipse during the livestream.

Dan Monk, director of astrophotography at Kielder, said: “Everybody loves chasing eclipses. We have partial solar eclipses every couple of years, and we can see them from the UK, but total eclipses are rare.”

As well as livestreaming the eclipse, Ellie will be attempting to recreate astronomer Arthur Eddington’s experiment to show that light rays from distant stars are bent near massive objects like the sun, providing evidence for Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Leigh Venus, chief executive at Kielder, said: “Ellie came up with a brilliant proposal to not only livestream the eclipse but also to recreate this iconic experiment, so we’re thrilled to have her in Texas experiencing and sharing the wonder of this incredible cosmic event.”

For more details on the livestream check out Kielder Observatory’s social channels on Facebook and Twitter.

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