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Just in time for the spring equinox, here's what greeted people in northern Europe.

Solar eclipse wows millions as it rings in the spring


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, March 20, 2015, 9:59 AM - Talk about a dramatic entrance for the new season. 

The spring equinox this year was somewhat overshadowed by a major solar eclipse, with tens of millions of people across Europe seeing more than 80 per cent of the sun's face covered.

That is, if the clouds were cooperating. Luckily, that's never a problem in space, as the video above from the European Space Agency shows.

Here's a capture of what it looked like at totality, when the sun's face was totally covered:

Image: ESA/ROB

The ESA used the SWAP imager on its Proba-2 microsatellite to grab the show, and the result is definitely superb.

If you don't happen to have a multi-million-euro satellite handy, your options for getting a glimpse of the total eclipse were somewhat more limited, as 100 per cent totality was only viewable in the Atlantic north of the U.K., specifically places like Svalbard and the Faroe Islands.

The Slooh Community Observatory actually sent a team to the Faroes to livestream the event, and photographers in the islands had their own cameras out, with around 20,000 people making the trip.

For everyone else, there was good news and bad news.

The good: Viewers in the UK, Scandinavia and northern France and Germany would have been able to have seen at least 80 per cent coverage during the event's peak. Even people in Italy and the Balkans could get at least 60 per cent of totality.

The bad: It all depended on skywatchers' ancient foe: cloud cover, which actually severely limited the view in the Faroes, although the skies above Svalbard were clearer:

p>Image: UK Met Office

Most of the UK would have seen at least some cloud cover during the eclipse's peak.

The result, on Twitter at least, was a bit of bemusement, but in areas where the cloud cover was just thick enough, it allowed a dim view of the disk (although no one recommends looking directly at an eclipse, even when the sun is dimmed by clouds):

Aside from the spectacle, though, authorities had something else to worry about: The rapid expansion of solar power in Europe since the last major eclipse in 2003.

Back then, electricity generated from solar sources was negligible, but now the solar industry pumps out an estimated 38 gigawatts, with Germany a giant in the field.

The industry has been preparing for the gradual dip in solar output, and it seems to have paid off. Although the dip amounted to 13 GW at the peak, it was less than feared, and providers made up the difference with power from other sources, according to Reuters.

Now that it's over, when's the next one? 

If the Europeans missed this one, they'll have to wait until 2026 to see an eclipse similar to this scale in that part of the world.

The last one to breeze through was 16 years ago, in 1999:

Image: UK Met Office

SOURCES: ESA | SLOOH | CBC | Reuters/Yahoo | BBC

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