Slideshow: Dozens gather at science centre for partial eclipse in Herstmonceux

The skies may have been cloudy – but that did not deter solar eclipse enthusiasts who gathered in their dozens at Herstmonceux Observatory to catch a glimpse of the rare phenomenon.

The observatory opened its doors to the public at 7.30am on Friday (March 20) where people gathered on the lawn infront of the centre’s green domes.

Eclipse at Herstmonceux observatory

Eclipse at Herstmonceux observatory

Some had brought their own telescopes equipped with solar filters.

But as the morning went on the clouds showed no sign of relenting.

Luckily a television screen had been set up in the grounds which was broadcasting BBC programme Stargazing Live and showed the eclipse from elsewhere in the country.

Some huddled together over smart phones to watch broadcasts from around the world.

The peak of the partial eclipse was due to be visible from the South East of England at around 9.30am.

Scientists said around 85 per cent of the sun was eclipsed by the moon in the South East.

The last solar eclipse of such significance occurred on August 11 1999, and was “total” – with 100 per cent of the Sun covered – when seen from Cornwall.

Another partial eclipse visible in the UK will not occur until August 12, 2026, and the next total eclipse not until September 2090.

At the peak of the eclipse in Herstmonceux the skies darkened but unfortunately the clouds did not part to offer a glimpse.

But as our pictures show, beaming crowds enjoyed the experience.

Allan Norbury, 35, from Uckfield, said: “It was great to go along to Herstmonceux Observatory and experience the excitement surrounding the partial eclipse. It is a shame we didn’t get to see much, but just being there with everyone was great. It was so much better than sitting at home in front of the television.

“I was much happier being out and shadowed by the amazing telescopes at the observatory, it was quite a setting to experience it in.

“Some people were showing others how the telescopes they had brought along with them worked, it was fascinating to listen in and there was a great spirit.”

Over in Alfriston, zoo keepers at Drusillas Park said despite the clouds, the animals felt the effects of the partial solar eclipse.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “A layer of thick cloud obscured the full enjoyment of the rare phenomena. Nevertheless, some of the park’s animals did seem to feel the effects of a noticeabledrop in temperature. As the eclipse reached totality, the park’s popular meerkats took shelter under their heat lamp. It was all a bit overwhelming for the youngest member of the lar gibbon family too. At just eight months old, Pudsey has not yet developed his full adult coat and nestled tightly to his mum as the moon drifted by.

“The racoons decided it must be bedtime and returned to their nestbox for another forty winks.”