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Trending science: Europe eclipsed!

Some lucky sky-gazers in Europe were treated to the most impressive solar eclipse since 1999 last Friday.

Did you take a guarded peek up into the sky on Friday morning? You may have had the pleasure of witnessing a spectacular partial or full solar eclipse, or you may just have been greeted by a blanket of clouds. It all depended on your vantage point! The sky spectacle was said to be clearest in the Norwegian sea, just below the Arctic Circle, although it was impossible for anyone to view it from there. However, the Norwegian islands of Svalbard came a close second in terms of viewing spots. The Guardian reports that some 2 000 people risked both ‘frostbite and polar bear attack’ to watch from the islands and ‘they were rewarded with clear skies and spectacular views’. The hardy crowd cheered as the sun was blotted out for over two minutes. However, there was intense disappointment to the south in the Faroe Islands, the only other place on land included in the ‘path of totality’, where a full eclipse was visible. The Guardian tells us that an estimated 8 000 people turned up in the capital, Torshavn. The islands are home to a European Space Agency (ESA) ground station which hosted an eclipse-spotting expedition for the occasion. However the gathered crowd may have been a tad disappointed – a spectator told the Guardian that the conditions were overcast, there was rain and wind, and they could see nothing. During a solar eclipse the Moon moves in front of the Sun as seen from Earth. As their apparent size is similar, the Moon temporarily blocks a significant part of the Sun’s light. If we’re lucky here on Earth, we get to enjoy the show. According to the ESA, the whole of Europe experienced a partial eclipse this time. While 100 % of the Sun’s disc was obscured over the Svalbard islands, 97 % was covered from the north of Scotland, 84 % over London, 81 % over The Hague, 75 % over Paris, 65 % over Madrid and 56% over Rome. The path of totality traced only a small band across the North Atlantic. The eclipse was also visible from space, as ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti discovered. She carried out an experiment to record the eclipse from the International Space Station, and tried to track the eclipse’s ‘umbra’ on the ground. Meanwhile, ESA’s Proba-2 captured a near-total eclipse from orbit, at the same time as its sister minisatellite Proba-V peered down to snap the shadow of the eclipse on Earth. For further information, please visit: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/Proba_Missions/Astronaut_plus_Proba_minisats_snap_solar_eclipse

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Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, Faeroe Islands, France, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom