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Pete Lawrence has been a presenter on the long running BBC Sky at Night television programme since 2005. He has been an astronomical consultant for the popular BBC Stargazing Live television series since it began, and appeared on the programme in 2014 as an aurora expert. Pete also writes many of the guides used by the BBC to support the programme. He compiles and writes the monthly Star Guide for the Sky at Night Magazine as well as carrying out equipment reviews on their behalf and acting as their resident imaging expert. He has held this position since the magazine started in 2005.

Pete will be part of our 2019 eclipse tours in Chile, so we took the chance to ask him a few questions ahead of the trips.

How many times have you seen a total solar eclipse? I have experienced 6 total eclipses of which one was an annular – Cornwall in 1999 (total eclipse, from a location in cloudy Looe, Cornwall); Madrid in 2005 (annular eclipse covered by the Sky at Night); Turkey in 2006 (total eclipse, working for Omega Holidays and again, covered by Sky at Night); China in 2009 (total eclipse, working for Omega Holidays); Norwegian Sea 2015 onboard MS Boudicca (total eclipse, working for Omega Holidays); and USA 2017 (total eclipse, working for Omega Holidays).

Which of these was your favourite and why? The Norwegian Sea total solar eclipse which took place on 20 March, 2015! The reason why this is my favourite is simply because it was very hard work and the prospects for actually seeing the eclipse were dire. Everything worked because I managed to get an excellent dialogue with the captain of MS Boudicca and was able to suggest last minute positional corrections for the ship on the night before the eclipse. He listened, re-positioned accordingly and we saw the whole of totality.
An eclipse from a location where the weather has a high chance of playing ball is great, but seeing one which requires you to really up your game and work hard to view is quite special – assuming you’re successful of course!

What are you most looking forward to about the eclipse in Chile in 2019? Seeing an eclipse is always something special and each one has its own character. I never try to anticipate what that character will be, rather preferring to just absorb the beauty of the spectacle as it unfolds. However, in my role as adviser to Omega and feeling a certain responsibility (especially heightened after a 100% success rate for past Omega eclipses!), the thing I’m most looking forward to is relaxing after a successful eclipse sighting. Will this happen? Well there are no guarantees but you can be assured that as much effort as possible will be poured into making this happen!