There are few experiences more magical than witnessing a solar eclipse and this Friday, we will have a chance to see the UK and Europe plunged into darkness as the rare alignment takes place.
The last time the UK could witness the full event of the Solar Eclipse was in 1999 and this phenomenon occurs when in a unique alignment, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun to block out the suns’ rays for a spectacular celestial show.
As these events only take place every few years (the next one fully visible to us won’t occur until 2026) we certainly don’t want you to miss out. However, looking at the sun during and eclipse can be extremely dangerous so here are a few ways you can watch the eclipse without causing serious damage to your eyes.
Watching The Eclipse Safely
First of all, you should never look directly at the sun – even whilst wearing sunglasses. Although sunglasses protect eyes from UVA and UVB rays, they are not equipped or designed to be used for looking directly at the sun and to do so could lead to irreparable damage. This is especially risky as looking even for a few seconds can cause serious damage. There are no nerves or pain receptors in the eyes on the corneas or retina (the sensitive part at the back of your eye that reflects light) you are unable to feel the parts of your eye burning so its’ always best to view the eclipse in other ways.
- Try to take photos of the eclipse with a regular camera or your smartphone
- Attempt to view the eclipse through binoculars
- Attempt to watch the eclipse via telescope
- Attempt a ‘selfie’Countless sources are warning that you shouldn’t try to take a picture using your iPhone as this is still not a safe way to view the eclipse and can actually damage your phone’s camera. Likewise, anything that will concentrate the rays like a telescope or binoculars is a huge no-no. Looking through other apparently dense substances is also not the greatest idea as even through a tinted window pane you are at risk of blinding yourself. Whilst typically we think of an eclipse blocking out the sun, the corona (the ring of light escaping from behind the moon) is still unsafe to look at even for the few seconds where the sun is fully covered.
- Make a pinhole camera
- Set up a pinhole projector with a mirror or telescope
- Invest in specially made Eclipse viewing glasses
The pinhole viewer is consistently the most popular way to view an eclipse be-because you don’t have to look at the sun at all. A flat object with a hole or multiple holes in will allow you to project the eclipse on to a plain surface and see the shape of the moon moving towards the sun, eventually consuming it completely and then moving off. These can be easily made using a cereal box so they’re great for kids.
For a pinhole projector you would set up a telescope similarly to get a more concentrated defined image. Find out how to make one here
If crafts aren’t your thing you might want to invest a small amount of cash in a disposable set of specially designed Eclipse glasses. Differing from sunglasses, these shades are created using a filter called Mylar which acts as a solar filter. Before using, always check that these are not damaged in any way and that there are no tears or holes in the lens part. We always recommend buying a new pair instead of old or used and to refrain from use with other optical devices. Find out more how to use eclipse viewing glasses here
The eclipse will take place on Friday 20th March and will be visible from 8.45AM (UK London time) for up to 90 minutes. The maximum eclipse should take place at 09.31AM.
You can also view two other unique celestial goings-on this Friday which of course is incredibly unusual. Later that day the ‘Supermoon’ will be visible and the Spring Equinox will also be taking place.
Star-gazers will be pleased to know that the Supermoon will be visible with the naked eye as its’ the closest the moon will be to the Earth, making it appear incredibly large in the night sky. The Equinox refers to the time of year when the night and day are equal length marking the exact middle point between the longest and shortest days of the year. It’s pretty unique to have all three take place on the same day so make the most of it!