A perfect week in Angola. Except one thing…

Obrigado Huambo! Our Global Communication and Science project to mark the February 26th annular eclipse in the city of Huambo was a huge success – despite the fact that, just before the eclipse started, a thunderstorm descended upon the central highlands of Angola and blocked our view of events in the sky…

Sky & Telescope logo

In the week leading up to the eclipse, our hosts in Huambo, the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação (ISCED), put together a brilliant programme that included school visits, public workshops and media interviews.

Huambo Angola

At the Escola Comandante Bula, students had a go at creating a scale model of the earth-moon-sun system. There were also a lot of questions – a lot of questions! – about astronomy, space and science.

Escola Comandante Bula

We could not have done any of this without the support of our sponsors: timeanddate.com, our magnificent lead sponsor, and NCR Angola, who generously sponsored the eclipse glasses we gave away to members of the community.

Eclipse glasses

The day of the eclipse began with bright sunshine and beautiful skies.


Our observation site at ISCED quickly drew a inquisitive and enthusiastic crowd – who had lots more great questions about eclipses!


Thirty minutes before first contact – the moment when the moon took its first ‘bite’ out of the sun – we did a live broadcast with the astronomy network Slooh. (A big thank you to Tricia Ennis and Paul Cox at Slooh for making this happen.) You can click the video below to watch our segment.

But, shortly after that, the thunderstorm struck, and we were forced inside…


ISCED’s lecture theatre was packed out for an impromptu seminar using timeanddate.com’s live feed of the eclipse from other locations in the southern hemisphere.


Annularity – when the sun formed a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon – occurred at 5:28 pm local time. Alas, all we can report is that it definitely got darker!


Despite the disappointment with the weather, it was an amazing week of educational activities. I am tremendously grateful to the outstanding team at ISCED, including, from left to right below, Eugenio Calei, Mário Rodrigues, Neto Rangel and Ndjimi Malaka.


We would also like to thank the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education and the Provincial Government of Huambo for supporting this project.

Africa gets ready for another sun and moon show


The Mail & Guardian Africa has published a piece about next weekend’s African eclipse, and our Angolan “Global Communication and Science” project.


Classroom activity for Angolan schools

Solar eclipses are teachable moments! We’ve created a 45-minute classroom activity for school teachers in Angola, which can be downloaded below as a PDF in English or Portuguese.


It’s part of our Global Communication and Science project to mark the Angolan solar eclipse on February 26th: we’re running a public workshop/seminar at the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação (ISCED) in the city of Huambo; we’re giving away eclipse glasses to members of the community; and we’re doing a live broadcast with the astronomy network Slooh.

We’re extremely grateful to timeanddate.com, our lead sponsor, and NCR Angola, who are sponsoring our eclipse glasses. We’ve also had tremendous support from the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, and the Provincial Government of Huambo.

timeanddate-logo        ncr-angola-logo

Our classroom activity is called “Space is enormous!”, or “O espaço é enorme!”. It tackles a popular misconception – that the earth, moon and sun are similar size, and close together in space – by asking schoolchildren to imagine the earth was 10 cm across. It also challenges pupils to think about questions such as: why don’t solar eclipses happen every month…?

You can download the activity here:


We’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Mário José da Costa Rodrigues, Ndjimi Dumba Watembo Malaka and the rest of the outstanding team at ISCED. Enormous thanks also to Paul Cox, Tricia Ennis and all the other incredible people at Slooh.


NCR Angola supports solar eclipse project

We are tremendously grateful to NCR Angola, the leader in Angola’s information-technology sector, who are sponsoring solar eclipse glasses to give away to members of the community in Huambo later this month.


On February 26th the city of Huambo, in Angola’s central highlands, will experience an annular solar eclipse, where the sun forms a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon. We’re running a Global Communication and Science project at the Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação do Huambo. Our lead sponsor is timeanddate.com; we’re also working with the astronomy website Slooh, the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, and the Provincial Government of Huambo.

NCR Angola has given its support to the project by sponsoring eclipse glasses for local community members. The company is one of Angola’s most respected blue-chip firms, with a network of IT retail stores, and a business unit providing IT management and consultancy services.

Eduardo Lobato, NCR’s Operations Manager, said:

“The February 26th eclipse creates an exciting and important educational opportunity. Over the past year we’ve been focussed on strengthening our relationship with universities and students, in an effort to promote the values of innovation and technology, and support developments in Angola’s education sector.”


timeanddate.com to sponsor Angolan eclipse project

Our next Global Communication and Science project will be taking place in Angola. We’ll be in Huambo, Angola’s second city, where there will be an annular solar eclipse on February 26th 2017.

angola-26-febAbove: the path of annularity across Angola on February 26th. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far away to cover the sun completely – the result is a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon. (Image: NASA)

The Instituto Superior de Ciências de Educação do Huambo (ISCED) will be our hosts. We’re working on a range of educational and public outreach activities to mark the eclipse, including a live broadcast with the astronomy website Slooh. We are tremendously grateful to Mário José da Costa Rodrigues and his outstanding team at ISCED, and to Paul Cox and all the brilliant and inspiring people at Slooh. We would also like to record our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Higher Education of Angola, and the Provincial Government of Huambo.


We’re also very proud to announce that timeanddate.com – a leading website for eclipse information – is sponsoring this project. Steffen Thorsen, the Chief Executive Officer of Time and Date AS (the company that manages timeanddate.com), said:

“We are very excited about this collaboration, and we are inspired by Graham Jones’s efforts to educate and reach out to the people of Angola. The local efforts will be presented globally to people worldwide with free live images of this solar eclipse, in addition to all the eclipse information already available on our timeanddate.com website. People everywhere will be able to follow the annular eclipse in Angola as it happens, and we hope to inspire people of all ages about the wonders of eclipses.”


According to statistics from Alexa, Quantcast and Compete, timeanddate.com is easily the biggest time zone-related website in the world. According to media reviews, it is also the best: “a brilliant resource,” says BBC News. timeanddate.com offers in-depth articles and infographics on the science of eclipses, and shows information for all eclipses on all continents from 1900 to 2099.

On this day: November 24th 1859

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection is published in London.

Image: lauramusikanski, Morguefile

“Charles Darwin’s book is one of the very few books that can be said to have really changed the way we all look at the world,” notes Adam Douglas of Peter Harrington, a rare books firm.

One of the remarkable things about the book is its style. As Adam Douglas points out, it is written in “a conversational way, so that it was accessible to the general public”. Stephen Jay Gould, the late palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist, puts it like this:

Over the years, many of my graduate students in evolutionary biology, after reading and enjoying Darwin’s Origin of Species, then ask me, “Fine, I’ve now read the popular version, but where is the technical work that Darwin wrote for professionals before he watered down the Origin for lay readers?” I tell them that no such document exists, and that Darwin chose to present the greatest discovery in the history of biological thought as a volume for all intelligent readers.


Images from nature: the crescent sun

Great picture from Eriky Haritsaratiaray taken during the partial phase of this month’s annular solar eclipse across central and eastern Africa. The leaves on a tree are forming natural ‘pinhole projectors’ and producing images of the crescent sun on the ground…


Eriky is a student at the University of Mahajanga in Madagascar, and he’s done a brilliant job helping organise our “Global Communication and Science” project this year. Thank you, Eriky!


Six days to go…

… until the African annular eclipse of September 1st 2016.

Image: Thephatphilmz, via Wikimedia Commons

Our multi-talented team of students at the University of Mahajanga in Madagascar will be doing a show about the eclipse for RUM (Radio Université de Mahajanga) on August 31st. (For anyone in the local area: the show starts at 3pm on 89.00 Mhz.) We’re also running an eclipse webinar for students on August 30th.

In the meantime, Keisuke Tabata (Kobe Shinwa Women’s University) and I have had a paper published in “Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Media in Education 2016” about our ongoing collaboration the students in Mahajanga.


Our project began back in January with a “Global Communication and Science” workshop in Kobe; this was to help the Kobe Shinwa students prepare for a partial eclipse in Japan on March 9th. As we wrote in our paper:

The aim of the workshop, which was conducted in English, was to give students a better understanding and appreciation of the science behind solar eclipses. Practical exercises included constructing a scale model of the earth-moon-sun system, and demonstrating Einstein’s general theory of relativity using a tablecloth and some heavy objects. (Note: in 1919, the astronomer Arthur Eddington travelled to the equatorial island of Príncipe and used a total solar eclipse to prove Einstein’s prediction that starlight would be bent by the mass of the sun. This was an important event both in terms of science, and in terms of global collaboration: it was an English astronomer proving the theory of a German physicist, just a few months after the end of the First World War.)


There is just one uncertainty when it comes to eclipses: the weather. Unfortunately, there was thick cloud across the whole of Japan on March 9th…

Looking ahead to September 1st, the weather forecast for Mahajanga is looking good. So, fingers crossed!

Related link

Ring of fire: Africa awaits September 1st annular eclipse


“From the coral reefs of the Red Sea to the flooded plains of the Okavango Delta, Africa is home to some of the greatest natural wonders on earth. But for two-and-a-half hours on September 1st, the continent will play host to a natural wonder of the astronomical kind: an annular eclipse of the sun…”

A piece I wrote for the Mail & Guardian Africa about next month’s solar eclipse.

Got it.


How do you know if you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie? And what is our whack-bat challenge?

We’ve just had an end-of-semester* “Fantastic Mr. Fox” movie night at the University of Shiga Prefecture, which included a brief introduction to the world of Wes Anderson movies: perfectly centred shots, overhead shots, use of colour, Bill Murray, etc.

Also: fast, complicated monologues – which is the basis of our whack-bat challenge… With the (optional) help of a glass of beer (or two), students (and teachers) read Coach Skip’s high-speed explanation of the rules of whack-bat on page 28 of the script.


As always, we’re hugely and enormously grateful to Wes Anderson for giving us the script of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to use as part of our SkypeRead project.

* Actually, it wasn’t really an end-of-semester movie night – it was more of a ‘welcome back’ to Martin Stack, our former colleague (and my SkypeRead collaborator) who’s now based in the US, but is currently back in Japan for a few weeks :-)