I am presently in Athens for a few days, to give a seminar and meet the local group of CMS physicists. So I took the chance to visit yesterday evening the Astrophysics department of the University of Athens, where at the top floor is housed a nice 40cm Cassegrain telescope (see picture below). There I joined a small crowd which professor Kosmas Gazeas entertained with views of Jupiter, the Moon, Venus, and a few other celestial targets. I need to thank my friend Nadia, a fellow physicist and amateur astronomer, for inviting us to the event.

I cannot hide my envy of astronomers, who can at the same time be professionals and amateurs on the science of their interest. Professor Gazeas does important research on double star systems and other connected topics, but after hours he doubles up as an avid astro-photographer. As a particle physicist I cannot do anything similar: there is no way to set up your own table-top particle physics experiment in your garage. I guess this is partly the reason why I ended up blogging about particle physics here: at least I have an outlet of my enthusiasm for the matter, disconnected from my work.

After the show I stopped to meet Kosmas, and our discussion quickly moved to his recent visit to Svalbard, where he could observe the total eclipse of March 20th. There he produced some pretty amazing pictures, like the one published in the Earth science picture of the day site. I asked him if he would share some other pictures with me and you, and he kindly agreed - so below you can find a selection. All images are copyright K. Gazeas, reproduced with permission from the author.

Below is Kosmas with his equipment at the observation site.

Below is a broader view of the site aimed at the low-lying sun.

And below you can see a quite amazing picture, a composite of several shots taken around the few minutes of totality. This allows you to see the evolution of the two almost symmetric "diamond rings" that the eclipse displayed, along with several Baily beads. I found this picture really remarkable (please click here for a full-resolution version).

Below is a wonderful shot of the totality, which shows a large amount of detail in the corona (please click here for a full-resolution version).

And below is an aerial view of the island - a quite remarkable landscape of the deserted area.

 Finally, a classic collage of seven shots to show the evolution of the eclipse: