Solar eclipse shines on Ireland despite cloudy weather

Some 1,000 stargazers gather in Trinity College as clearer conditions seen elsewhere

Everyone in Ireland was an astronomer on Friday as a near-total eclipse of the sun tracked its way across the island. Clouds spoiled the fun in most places but many enjoyed a quick glimpse as overcast skies parted and the sun appeared with a deep bite caused by the passing moon.

Some areas had no weather problems at all. Cork was mostly clear during the eclipse, which started around 8.30am and ended at 10.30am. Galway also reported almost no cloud cover when the eclipse was at its peak at around 9.30am and 90 to 95 of its surface was blocked by the moon.

Social media was buzzing all day on Friday, with pictures being shared on Facebook and on Twitter using the hastag #eclipse2015. These show that even where cloud was thickest, it was worth watching in the hope that occasional short breaks might occur, and they did. Not everyone was lucky, however, with #anticlimax also trending in the UK for a time.

And as if to prove every cloud has a silver lining, the overcast skies probably allowed more to experience the eclipse than in areas where it was clear. The cloud was thick enough to block out the sun’s intensity making it easier to see the eclipse with the naked eye.


The clouds refused point-blank to break above Trinity College Dublin's Front Square where more than 1,000 people gathered to watch the eclipse. All told there were about 10 seconds of viewing over two hours, but this did not dampen the mood with the enthusiastic crowd cheering when the sun got through.

Shared photos show however there were breaks in O’Connell Street, in Ballinteer, Swords and other places around Dublin and its suburbs.

Deep eclipse

The clouds were also a help in emphasising the dramatic loss of light that takes place with such a deep eclipse. A gloom enveloped Front Square as the midway point was reached, causing smart phones and cameras to activate their flashes for pictures.

But this disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and it was during this time when the sun peaked through.

Most of the crowd were young people, presumably students missing class to see the show. But there were people of all ages from kiddies in push chairs to seniors and everything in between.

Judy lives in Wicklow but was house-sitting for a friend in Dublin and decided to come to the event. “I am trying to do as many things as I can find to do that I wouldn’t do in Wicklow,” she said. “I will never see this again.”

Karen was there with Sam who turns two next month. Sam was not impressed but Karen was with the size of the crowd and the eclipse itself. “It is a unique event that you should try and see,” she said.

Eve, based at Trinity, and her partner Kevin were there to experience the gathering. “It must have been a terrifying thing in the past for those who didn’t understand what was happening,” Kevin said.

Eve was not deterred by the shelf of cloud overhead: “This is Ireland, you don’t expect to get clear skies.”

The organisers were delighted with the numbers who came to take part. "We are extremely happy with the public engagement, there are over 1,000 here," said Dr Shaun Bloomfield of Trinity's school of physics.

“It was great to see so many turn up when they knew it was cloudy, but they still came out,” he said. “This is a recurring interest. People come out whenever we do a science event. Everyone has an interest, students, parents, children.”

So now comes the long wait until the next eclipse of this magnitude, which won't arrive until 2026. Whatever your chances of seeing that one, the next total solar eclipse won't arrive until 2600.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.