Our winter almanac 15.01.2010-21.01.2010

Solar eclipse

Solar annular eclipse of January 15, 2010 in Bangui, Central African Republic

The solar eclipse of January 15, 2010 was an annular eclipse of the Sun with a magnitude of 0.9190. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring Earth’s view of the Sun. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the sun to look like an annulus (ring), blocking most of the Sun’s light. An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region thousands of kilometres wide.

It was the longest annular solar eclipse of the millennium, and the longest until December 23, 3043, with a maximum length of 11 mins and 7.8 seconds. (The solar eclipse of January 4, 1992 was longer, at 11 minutes, 41 seconds, occurring in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.)

The eclipse was visible as only partial eclipse in much of Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It was seen as annular eclipse within a narrow stretch of 300 km (190 mi) width across Central Africa, Maldives, South Kerala (India), South Tamil Nadu (India), Sri Lanka and parts of Bangladesh, Burma and China.

The Winter Circle

It was the invention of mechanical clocks about 650 years ago that made it possible for medieval monks in their monasteries to accurately measure out the 24 hours of the day, using a clockface that marked out the 12 hours before noon and the 12 hours after noon. They used these amazing new inventions to help them say their prayers and conduct their daily services at precise times of day and night. These times, and the hours of the day had always been marked by the ringing of bells, and the word ‘clock’ comes the German word for bell, ‘glocke’.

This week we are including a diagram of the winter constellations to help you find your way around the night sky at this time of year.

The diagram shows what is sometimes called the ‘winter circle’, but we have marked it out like a clock, so that you can find the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, in the 6 o’ clock position.

In the middle of the circle you can find the red star Betelgeuse forming part of the constellation of Orion. Orion is always an easy constellation to find at this time of year. Orion the Hunter has a belt formed of three bright stars which point towards the constellation of his faithful dog Canis Major.

At nearly the 12 o’ clock position is the bright star Capella which is part of the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. Just above the 9 o’ clock position you will find the constellation of Gemini the Twins, with two bright stars , Castor and Pollux. Just below 9 o’ clock you will find Canis Minor the Little Dog.

The clock face image helps us find our way around the sky at night as well as telling us the time.


Orion was the Constellation Logo for Winklebury School.

Orion, often referred to as “The Hunter,” is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the largest, most conspicuous, and most recognizable constellations in the night sky.

The current configuration of stars now known as the constellation of Orion roughly formed about 1.5 million years ago, as stars move relatively slowly from the perspective of Earth. Orion will remain recognisable in the night sky for the next 1 to 2 million years, making it one of the longest observable constellations, parallel to the rise of human civilization.

Because they are so bright and distinctive, the pattern of stars that forms Orion was recognized as a coherent constellation by many ancient civilizations, though with different representations and mythologies.


One of Winklebury’s students came up with this great new version of a constellation identity; a water rollercoaster!


Another bit of snow melting in Winklebury 21.01.2010

The Hindu Festival of Vasant Panchami takes place on Wednesday 20th January and is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning and Brahma‘s wife. Even though for the inhabitants of Basingstoke it is still Winter, the festival marks the beginning of Spring.

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