11th August 1999
Alderney experienced a total eclipse of the sun
Alderney was the focus of global astronomical attention on 11 August 1999 when it experienced a total solar eclipse. It was the first total eclipse of the sun visible in any part of the UK since 1927.
Several hundred eclipse watchers had travelled to Alderney specifically for the event, while others watched from cross-Channel ferries, which had dropped anchor off shore for the event.
According to the BBC’s Eclipse 1999 web coverage,
People crammed on the tiny Channel Island of Alderney hoping for a better view. Some 10,000 visitors had filled the island to bursting point. Among them were a group of astronomers who were viewing the eclipse using special telescopes and instruments.
The epicentre of the eclipse, where the moon appears to perfectly cover the disc of the sun, started in Boston in the United States. It travelled at around 2000mph across the globe towards Europe. It crossed Cornwall on its way towards the Channel Islands before proceeding across France and Germany towards Bulgaria, Romania and, eventually, India.
A second eclipse
Alderney fell within the path of a partial solar eclipse almost exactly 18 years later. On 21 August 2017, much of North America was within the path of the total eclipse. On that occasion, Alderney residents were lucky enough to see a small bite taken out of the sun when it reached the Channel Islands.
Guernsey Post issued a series of heat-sensitive stamps to commemorate the 2017 eclipse that depicted the sun’s appearance from six coastal locations. Designed by Guernsey-based agency, The Potting Shed, they used thermodynamic ink that became transparent when exposed to heat – such as when pressed by a finger. When the ink disappeared, it revealed the unobscured sun.
Alderney appeared on the 80p stamp. The other locations depicted were Vancouver (44p), Miami (59p), Bermuda (60p), Dakar (73p) and Andyr, Russia (90p).