Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Total Solar Eclipse on March 20th

This week sees the first Solar eclipse of 2015, and the only total Solar eclipse this year. The eclipse will be partly visible to observers across Europe, northern Africa, and western Russia. However the only places where the Solar Eclipse will be visible in totality will be the Faroe Islands, large parts of the North Sea, and Norway's Svalbard Islands. There's a map showing where the eclipse will be visible from here.

A photography showing roughly what the Solar Eclipse on Friday will look
like from the UK (Credit: Mr Eclipse)

Observers in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Iceland can expect to see at least 80% of the Sun's disc being occulted, providing the clouds don't get in the way. The eclipse will begin at around 8.30am GMT and will reach maximum occultation, regardless of your location, at about 9.40am GMT, before taking another hour for the Moon to pass away from the Sun.

This is a great opportunity to see a solar eclipse and for those in the UK who missed the 1999 eclipse due to clouds it might be the best opportunity to see an eclipse from home. I would recommend everyone to step outside of your workplace sometime between 9 and 10am (preferably as close to 9.40am as possible), and have a look.

It goes without saying that you should never look directly at the Sun, even during a total eclipse, but there are other easy ways to view a total eclipse in complete safety. One easy method is to acquire a pair of eclipse shades, which are really just extreme sunglasses that dim the light from the Sun and will allow you to see the eclipse (they're even safe to use to look at the Sun during normal daylight hours). These can usually be acquired from museums or observatories, so check your local listings if you want to get a pair.

If you can't find any eclipse shades then another alternative is to make a pinhole camera to view the eclipse. This is actually surprisingly easy and cheap to do! All you need is a large sheet of cardboard into which you cut a small hole, roughly the size of a coin. Then put a piece of thick black tape over that hole so that it covers it entirely. Then use a pin to poke a very small hole in the tape. Then during the eclipse you can hold up the piece of card and let the light from the Sun pass through the pinhole. If you position the card so that the light passing through the pinhole falls onto a flat, light-coloured surface then you'll be able to see an image of the Sun on that surface. This is effectively how the aperture of a camera works. You can even test your pinhole camera in advance to project an image of the un-eclipsed Sun!

I hope you all enjoy the eclipse this Friday, have fun!

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