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Eclipse99 Competition


The 1999 Eclipse Newspaper competition for schools winner was:

Kate Stark (Age 13) of Withington Girl's School Fallowfield, Manchester You can see Kate's entry and other results here.

The Original Competition:
On the morning of the 11th August 1999 there will be an eclipse of the Sun. In the south west of England and Alderney it will be a total eclipse and in all other parts of the UK it will be a major partial eclipse.

We invite groups of pupils to produce a newspaper as if written on that momentous day. Open to groups of pupils in age ranges 7-11, 11-14, 14-16 and 16-19 years.

Timetable for the Competition:

Summer Term 1999

  • Learn how to project an image of the Sun as a safe and effective way to photograph the partial stages of the eclipse.
  • Plan what other photographs to take.
  • Plan any experiments you want to perform - optional.
  • Plan what details to write down. (e.g. Changes in light and temperature, people's reactions and the reactions of animals and birds.)
  • Collect material about previous eclipses and the science of eclipses.
Eclipse Day - 11th August 1999
  • Take photographs, perform experiments and make notes as planned.
  • Beware! Observing the Sun is dangerous. See the Safety statement below.
Autumn Term 1999
  • Select material and write up the newspaper.
  • Closing date Friday 12th November 1999.
A winning entry is likely to contain:
  • A good, relevant, witty headline and lead story.
  • A review of previous eclipses and how people reacted to them.
  • Photographs of the progress of the eclipse and of people watching it.
  • Reports on - the day seen as a community event. - the reactions of the watchers. - how and why an eclipse happens. - any experiments that you did on the day. - what astronomers can learn from an eclipse. - one or two other events that occurred on the day.
  • A cartoon about the eclipse.
  • An original poem about the eclipse.
  • One or two advertisements related to the eclipse (e.g. holidays, safety matters).
For teachers, this project follows on from our successful Sputnik competition and is an excellent opportunity to forge cross-curricular links and a real reason to use the Internet to search for material. An effective Internet search phrase is 'Solar Eclipse'. In addition, the Astronomy Now magazine is running a feature every month in the run-up to August 1999.

We suggest that the work is done by groups of pupils rather than by individuals. We cannot accept more than two entries per class.

Key points to remember:

  • Lay out your material in the style of a modern newspaper.
  • Each article must have the name of the contributor(s).
  • Cover four sides of A4 if desktop published or four sides of A3 if largely hand-written.
  • Enclose a large stamped addressed envelope for the return of your work.
On the front page of your newspaper you must include:
  • Name, Address, Postcode and Telephone Number of your School.
  • Name of your class or group and the Age Range (7-11, 11-14 or 14-16 and 16-19 years).
  • Full name of your teacher.
  • A signed declaration by your teacher that - the selection of existing material was done by the group and - all original material, design and layout was the work of the group.


There will be a range of superb prizes for the winners of each age group. There is no entry form. The decision of the judges is final. The competition is organised by the Education Committee of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Send your entry to arrive by Friday 12th November 1999 to:

Eclipse Competition, Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1V 0NL.


Looking at the sun at any time is potentially dangerous and can result in serious eye damage or blindness. A solar eclipse can be observed safely by following the DOs and DON'Ts.

The safest way to view the sun is indirectly by projecting an image of the sun.

You may view the sun directly only through special filters made for safe solar viewing. If you are not certain it is approved and safe or you have any doubts - DON'T USE IT.

Before using a solar filter:

1. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
2. Make sure filters carry the "CE" mark approved for direct solar viewing (be alert for forgeries).
3. Check filters carefully for any damage.
4. DO NOT use filters if they are scuffed, scratched or have holes in them.
5. DO hold the special filter firmly over both eyes BEFORE looking up at the sun, and do not remove it until AFTER looking away from the sun.The sun should appear quite dim and the sky be completely black - if this is not the case then DO NOT USE THE FILTER.

DO NOT look at the sun through any optical instrument, e.g. telescope, binoculars or camera (even if you are wearing special filters).

="DO NOT view the sun through sunglasses, or filters made of photographic film, photographic filters, crossed polarisers, gelatin filters, compact disks, or smoked glass.

DO make sure that children are supervised at all times.


If you are within the zone of totality on 11 August 1999 - the Isles of Scilly, most of Cornwall, southern Devon and Alderney - the moon will completely cover the sun's brilliant disc for up to two minutes. ONLY THEN is it SAFE to view the totally eclipsed sun WITHOUT any filter and admire the faint and beautiful corona: the sun's pearly-white outer atmosphere.


DO be alert to the reappearance of the sun's brilliant disc at the end of the total phase. As soon as the first light of the sun has reappeared, producing a spectacular 'diamond ring,' you MUST look away immediately and use the special filters once more.


Further information on all aspects of the solar eclipse are available by telephoning the National Eclipse Line on 0345 600 444.

Safety filters are available from the Eclipse99 Ltd website and also from Eclipse Merchandising.

This information is provided in good faith as a public service by scientists at the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the CLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the UK Eclipse Co-ordinating Group. It is based on information provided by the International Astronomical Union. The authors deny any responsibility for injuries resulting from a failure to follow this solar eclipse safety code.

Viewing the sun is dangerous. Those doing so do it at their own risk. The authors of this code and their employers do not accept any liability for any injury which may arise (except for any death or personal injury resulting from their negligence).