Stargazing Live is an offering from our very own BBC. The event of a Solar Eclipse on 20 March resulted in excited studio performances from presenters Dara O Briain and Brian Cox, aka the Professor. Information was offered of best locations, weather conditions, and health warnings on the event. They both sported eclipspecs for safe viewing.
“These special glasses are not widely available, so you may have some difficulty in acquiring them,” they informed
“Oh thanks for that lads, guess I’ll just wear my Da’s welding goggles or go blind”
Billed as a unique event though most of Britain would only experience a 98% eclipse, it was still worth the watch. A bit like a rare Royal visit to some remote neck of the woods, the Royal personage requiring a visit to the throne room after a hearty breakfast with the resulting loss of 2% body weight.
Dara O Briain has the benevolent face of a full moon on a summers evening which tips you a wink while transiting the sky. He explained the geometry of the earth-sun-moon relationship from which an eclipse occurs. Using a clever device, a Kojak lollipop by any other name, he moved it ever closer to the camera lens to obscure the solar graphic behind. A eureka moment? Far better had he used his own face and comedic genius to add some levity to the ‘astronomy for all’ lesson.
The Professor toyed with a model of NASA’s moon lander, the Eagle, more high tech than Dara’s lollipop, but what caused me concern was his propensity for exuberant gestures could have had Dara’s eye out with that thing. Considering he had crashed the lander in a flight simulation this was a real worry. He went on to number crunch earth-moon-sun distances and explain why the moons disc can eclipse the sun though 400 times smaller. This will not always be the case, he continued, as the moon is retreating from earth at 3.78cm per annum with the consequence that in 5 million years a total solar eclipse will not be a happener. Fuck it! I’m going to miss that.
However on the upside some future enterprising youth of the Cox mould will be able to demonstrate the phenomena with a Kojak lollipop. They will be available, unlike the eclipspecs, and sell by the shedload allowing that future generation to have their eclipse and eat it.