The Solar Eclipse phenomenon offers a powerful and rare reminder of our celestial surroundings. Are you ready to experience it?
Solar Eclipse from 1999. (Image by Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be)
We’ve compiled the best advice around to help you prepare and not miss this astronomical wonder.
What do we mean by solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, blocking temporarily our view of the Sun. This is only made possible during the New Moon phase and as the Moon’s orbit of the Earth is elliptical, it is often too far away from the Earth for its apparent size to block the Sun completely. Between two and five solar eclipses occur every year but will only happen in the same place on Earth every 360 to 410 years. So it’s certainly something to get excited about with the eclipse happening on our doorstep!
When is it happening?
This Friday 20th March 2015 at around 0935 the solar eclipse should be visible throughout the UK. The totality period of an eclipse (when the sun is completely obscured) can never last more than 7 minutes and 32 seconds. This duration varies per eclipse and on Friday the longest duration of totality will be 2 minutes and 47 seconds and this will only be visible off the coast of the Faroe Islands. So you will have to be on the ball to catch it! On June 30th 1973 the totality of the eclipse lasted 7 minutes and 3 seconds but some observers aboard a Concorde plane were able to witness the total eclipse for 74 minutes by flying along the path of the Moon’s shadow! Use this map from NASA to work out exactly when you can see the eclipse.
Where is best to see it?
The percentage of total eclipse varies throughout the UK and the only place with 100% eclipse coverage will be in the far north of Scotland, off the coast of the Faroe Islands. This percentage decreases as you move south through the UK. For example, observers in London will be able to see about 85% coverage of the Sun. However, dont forget about pesky clouds covering the sky and obscuring the view. Check out the latest weather forecasts to see where in the UK the skies will be clear.
What are the risks to my eyes?
Looking at the sun directly, even for a moment, can seriously damage your eyes so make sure you re prepared to witness this eclipse without lasting damage! Using normal sunglasses can be even more dangerous than the bare eye as they may trick your eyes into letting even more light in. You can purchase some special eclipse sunglasses which should only cost a couple of pounds. These snazzy specs will protect your peepers and allow you to see whats happening. For some other ideas to see the solar eclipse including building a pinhole projector and an eclipse projector, check out this guide.
Have you got a plan to see the eclipse?
For more astronomical advice please check out our Aurora Guide to capturing the Northern Lights!