As everyone knows on Friday 20 March 2015, a total solar eclipse will occur across the far northern regions of Europe and the Arctic. A partial solar eclipse will be seen over a much wider area of Earth including northern Africa, Europe and northern Asia. Across the island of Ireland we will see the Sun wane to a narrow crescent, then thicken up again as the Moon’s shadow passes by.

The extent of the solar eclipse on November 3, 2013 at 13:22 UTC as seen from Accra, Ghana (Image credit: Kwabena under Creative Commons Licence)

The extent of the solar eclipse of 3 November  2013 at 13:22 UTC as seen from Accra, Ghana. We will see a similar sight.  (Image credit: Kwabena under Creative Commons Licence)

 

In Northern Ireland  more than 90% of the Sun’s disc will be obscured. Your viewing location is not important as long as it offers an unobstructed view of the south eastern sky.. The further north you are will mean that slightly more of the Sun is covered but this will probably not be noticeable (from the north coast 94.4% of the Sun will be eclipsed, from Belfast the figure will be 93%).

Unless you look at the Sun itself (see below) there will be little to see. It will not suddenly get darker even though more than 90% of the Sun’s light will have gone- the eye adjusts to lower light very well. It will feel colder though.

I am sure you will want to see this spectacle with your own eyes but I am sure that you are aware that it is extremely dangerous to look at the Sun through a telescope or binoculars.  Watch our video:

You can use “eclipse glasses” to view the Sun, these are made from aluminized Mylar filter material. These must be sourced from a specialist astronomical equipment dealer. Sunglasses cannot be used to view the eclipse.If you cannot obtain eclipse glasses, here are some other suggestions for safe viewing techniques.

  • A viewer can made out of a cardboard box, see for example http://www.scholastic.com/browse/subarticle.jsp?id=2265 for directions.
  • If time and resources are limited, a simpler way uses only two pieces of card–one piece coloured white to use as a screen, and the other with a pinhole (a pair of paper plates works well). Hold up the pinhole as far from the screen as you can. Remember, the farther you are from the screen, the bigger your image.
  • You can even use your own hands. Just hold up both hands with your fingers overlapping at right angles in front of a screen. The holes between your fingers make pinholes,
  • Also try looking at the shadows of leafy trees and bushes. You will images of the Sun coming through the holes formed by the leaves (see image at http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/nave-html/y84/img84/dogwimg.jpg )
  • Binoculars or a telescope can also be used to project a magnified image of the Sun onto a white screen. This method of solar viewing is safe so long as you do not look through the binoculars or telescope when they are pointed toward the Sun.

Please note that you are responsible for your own safety, if you are unsure of what you are doing do not risk your eyesight.  If you are observing the eclipse and feel any discomfort to your eyes stop immediately and seek medical attention.

However you view the eclipse, enjoy it and let us know what you saw!

(Article by Colin Johnston, Science Education Director)

 


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