Solar eclipse: At-a-glance guide to all you need to know

So, the solar eclipse is coming, but what’s it all about? Here’s the must-have information you need to know when things start getting a little gloomy on the morning of Friday, March 20.

Solar eclipse at-a-glance…

The eclipse is heading to the heavens near you

The eclipse is heading to the heavens near you: image credit

Here’s our quick guide to the eclipse bits you need to know.


How can I view the eclipse safely:

How can I view the eclipse safely: Let Dr Lucie Green from Society for Popular Astronomy explain how to watch the eclipse safely, wherever you are.


What is a solar eclipse:

What is a solar eclipse: Put simply, it’s when the moon moves between the sun and the earth. It’s a natural event and not the sign that we’ve being invaded by alien nations who want to suck knowledge from our brains.


So will it go totally dark on March 20:

So will it go totally dark on March 20: Yes… providing you’re currently enjoying a fun-filled break in the Faroe Islands. Brits will get a ‘deep partial eclipse’ ranging from dark to just gloomy. It’s the largest solar eclipse visible in the UK since August 11, 1999 – so don’t miss out because it’ll be 11 years before another comes along.


Use it or lose it:

Use it or lose it: Eventually, you will lose the chance to see a full solar eclipse. In around 600 million years, it’s predicted that the moon will have drifted too far from the earth to cover the sun.


Where will the best UK solar eclipse experience be seen from:

Where will the best UK solar eclipse experience be: North West Scotland is the place to be for eclipse fans. Have a look at our infographic and you’ll see that Inverness can expect up to 95% coverage, while the southern-most areas will experience around 85% maximum contact.

Head north: Fancy a little eclipse spotting in Scotland? Get some of the best UK views by grabbing a flight to Inverness from around £125.00 return (flying from Gatwick on Thursday 19th and returning Saturday 21st).


When and where:

When and where: The eclipse will take place on the morning of March 20 for all of us, but the exact time will differ. Use our infographic, below, to find out the moment of maximum contact in your area.


Remember to press save:

Remember to press save: Make sure you save work on your computer before the eclipse starts – some people believe power levels will be hit across Europe as the solar power sources go offline. It’s claimed by some energy experts that the lost power will be the equivalent of pulling the plug on 80 power stations.

What happens during the eclipse:

What happens during the eclipse: During totality (or as close to it as we’ll get) you can expect birds to stop singing and temperatures to rapidly drop by a couple of degrees. Other than that, it should be business as usual.


Where, when and how much… UK eclipse info

Find out the optimum time for eclipse watching in the UK where you live here. Just find the closest location to you.

Where and when will the eclipse strike near you...

Where and when will the eclipse strike near you…

Latest weather forecast

Find out what the Met Office is predicting for Friday’s partial solar eclipse. We’ll update thrhoughout the week, so remember to check back for the latest forecast in your area.

Watch it live here

If it’s rainy, cloudy or just very cold outside (there is a chance), just stay warm and watch it here.

If you miss this one…

Don't worry - there'll be another in 11 years

Don’t worry – there’ll be another in 11 years

Here’s a list of upcoming eclipse dates and locations around the world. Here’s where stargazers should be heading on their hols.

Date and time of max eclipseCoverage of eclipse  in central UKWhere to see more
20 March 2015 09:3188%Total from N. Atlantic
21 August 2017 19:034%Total from USA
10 June 2021 10:1223%Annular* from Siberia and Canada
25 October 2022 09:5716%Partial only
29 March 2025 11:03 33%Partial only
12 August 2026 18:1191%Total from N. Atlantic and Spain
2 August 2027 08:59 38% Total from N. Africa
26 January 2028 16:47 46%Annular from S. America and Spain
1 June 2030 05:2345%annular from Mediterranean

*An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon.

Where in the world

If APH is looking after your car on Friday, here are some international locations you’ll be able to enjoy the eclipse from….

Reykjavik, Iceland
Solar eclipse begins: 8:38 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Peak of eclipse: 9:37 a.m. GMT
Solar eclipse ends: 10:39 a.m. GMT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 98%

Algiers, Algeria
Solar eclipse begins: 9:06 a.m. Central European Time (CET)
Peak of eclipse: 10:11 a.m. CET
Solar eclipse ends: 11:20 a.m. CET
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 53%

Istanbul, Turkey
Solar eclipse begins: 10:53 p.m. Eastern European Time (EET)
Peak of eclipse: 11:57 a.m. EET
Solar eclipse ends: 1:02 p.m. EET
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 32%

Moscow, Russia
Solar eclipse begins: 12:13 p.m. Moscow Standard Time (MST)
Peak of eclipse: 1:20 p.m. MST
Solar eclipse ends: 2:27 p.m. MST
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 58%

Paris, France
Solar eclipse begins: 8.22m. Universal Time (UT)
Peak of eclipse: 9.29am. UT
Solar eclipse ends: 10.40am. UT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 77.9%

Find a full list of destinations and times here.

Become a solar eclipse boffin

Impress your friends by using elcipse buzzwords

Impress your friends by using elcipse buzzwords

Impress pals with your scientific knowledge of sun-blocking goings on by checking out our bluffer’s guide to the solar eclipse…


First contact:
Don’t say: Look the eclipse has started
Do say: Here it comes chums, first contact has occurred.
What it means: The moment when the moon first starts to block the sun.


Second contact:
Don’t say: Wow isn’t it dark.
Do say: Ah, the lack of light would suggest to those in the know, such as I, that second contact has occurred.
What it means: This is when the sun is completely obscured by the moon.


Totality:
Don’t say: Enjoy the dark while it lasts, the moon will move in a few seconds.
Do say: Enjoy the coming minutes of totality, this won’t happen again for another 11 years.
What it means: The period in a total eclipse when the sun is fully blocked by the moon.


Partial phase:
Don’t say: It’s a pity that the UK will not get to see a full eclipse
Do say: Here in the UK, we will only experience a partial phase.
What it means: The period when just a section of the sun is obscured.


Third contact:
Don’t say: Pity we won’t get to see that bit when the sun pokes out from behind the moon.
Do say: Sadly, due to the fact we’ll only experience a partial phase, we’ll be robbed of experiencing the moment of third contact.
What it means: The moment in a total eclipse when the sun reappears from behind the moon.


Fourth contact:
Don’t say: That’s it, all over – get back to work!
Do say: Right, that’s fourth contact – get back to work!
What it means: The moment when the sun is completely uncovered again and you no longer have a valid reason to be standing around and dodging work.


Photosphere:
Don’t say: Hey kids, the surface of the sun is not visible during a total eclipse…
Do say: Hey kids, the photosphere is not visible during a total eclipse.
What it means: The Photosphere is the surface of the sun; a 500km thick gaseous layer.


Chromosphere:
Don’t say:
Using special eye protectors, you can see a big pink-red ring around the moon during a total eclipse.
Do say: Using special eye protectors, that pink-red ring you see around the moon’s silhouette during a total eclipse is actually the sun’s Chromosphere.
What it means: The chromosphere is a pink-red layer of gas, about 2500km thick, known as the chromosphere. During ‘totality’ it’s possible to see the Chromosphere as a ring around the darkness of the moon’s silhouette.


Baily’s Beads:
Don’t say: The moon looks a bit rough around the images at the start and end of an eclipse.
Do say: The jagged edges of the moon during the start and end of an eclipse are caused by Baily’s Beads.
What it means: The edges of the moon are not perfectly smooth and as an eclipse starts and ends, because light from the sun shines through its valleys between mountains. Seen for about 10-15 seconds before and after totality, these are called Baily’s Beads after scientist Francis Baily.


Diamond Ring
Don’t say: Behold, the eclipse looks like a diamond ring.
Do say: Behold, Baily’s Beads make the eclipse look like a diamond ring.
What it means: If just one of Baily’s Beads are showing, it can make a diamond ring effect around the lunar silhouette.


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2 comments for “Solar eclipse: At-a-glance guide to all you need to know

  1. Kat, Burnley
    March 17, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for a very informative and interesting page – I can now sound like a solar eclipse boffin!!
    Fingers x’d for clear skies across the UK on Friday a.m.

    • Pete Barden
      March 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks – and I hope first contact comes at a time of clear skies and that we can all enjoy the partial phase to its full potential…

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