Solar eclipse during Cape Town rush hour

At an early hour on Friday November 25, 2011 there was a solar eclipse only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. If you had been at the South Pole, you would have seen about 80% of the Sun was covered by the Moon. From Cape Town, South Africa, the event lasted only for about an hour and the maximum coverage was only 10% of the Sun's diameter. Despite the small size, duration and the early hours of the eclipse, it was used as an important occasion to create awareness among the general population in Cape Town.

The newest member of the LCOGT education team, Abiy Tekola, took to the streets of Cape Town together with the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) education team. They managed to draw lots of public attention to the event by being at the busiest location of the city where they encountered people of diverse ages and walks of life, running to catch taxis and trains to start their day.

During this one hour event, between 250-300 people got the chance to look at the partial eclipse with the eclipse glasses provided to them (remember never look at the Sun with the naked eye, even during an eclipse). Even if most people are running to start their day, they were willing to stand for a moment to watch the event. They were taken by surprise to witness this interesting natural phenomenon and the level of excitement was indeed beyond expected. Most people got the chance to see an eclipse for the first time and asked interesting questions, ranging what is happening during an eclipse to when the next one is going to happen. The education team at the location did an excellent job both in facilitating the viewing and engaging the public in science. There was also media presence at the event and programes about the event were aired on the national TV and local radio programs.

It was found that taking the event to the public instead of bringing the public to the event was an efficient way of reaching out to people who would not normally interrupt their busy daily life routines for science.

Overall the event was indeed highly successful both in teaching and exciting the public.