How to Watch the Partial Solar Eclipse This Week

As the sun begins to rise on Tuesday, the moon will squeeze into Earth’s orbit to put on a celestial show – part of it, anyway.

A partial eclipse will be visible from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The eclipse will first be visible at 8:58 am local time in Reykjavik, Iceland; where the sun will eventually be about 20 percent covered (sunrise is at 8:30 a.m.). At 11am the moon will block 15 per cent of the sun in London. The shadow will peak around 4:00 p.m. in Chelyabinsk in Russia’s southern Ural region, where 79 percent coverage is expected, before waning in New Delhi at 5:30 p.m. with 44 percent coverage.

Because the moon is smaller than the earth, the moon’s shadow covers only a small portion of the earth’s surface and is only visible from certain regions. (Sorry America, this isn’t for you. But your time is coming.)

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely or partially covers the sun as seen from earth. When the moon makes its orbit around the earth and when the earth orbits the sun, the moon gets stuck in the middle and casts a shadow on the earth. Anyone standing in this shadow can see the eclipse.

Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, said the “wow” factor varies depending on where it’s observed.

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In London, he said, the eclipse will be “a bit wow,” but in Chelyabinsk, where astronomical events are no stranger, the eclipse will produce a “mean wow.” In India, eclipse viewers can see the moon biting off the sun as the sun goes down, “which is a spectacular thing in itself,” said Dr. Massey.

Anyhow, dr. Massey said, “If you’ve never seen one, it’s a great experience.”

Of course, everything depends on the weather forecast. A cloudy day will destroy all hope of a sighting.

The alignment between the moon and the sun is relatively rare. Because the moon’s orbit is slightly tilted, solar eclipses only occur when the moon crosses the plane of Earth’s orbit at new moon. Eclipse windows occur every six months. (The last partial eclipse was in April.)

However, partial solar eclipses occur more frequently than total solar eclipses when the moon completely obscures the sun. But this particular partial solar eclipse will not produce a dramatic event, said Dr. Massey. To many it will appear like a cloud covering the sun.

“It’s basically going to be a bite coming out of a sun,” he said. “It doesn’t get noticeably darker even when you’re on the move. Your eye is so good at adjusting.”

If you plan on observing the eclipse in person, there is one thing to keep in mind: never look directly at the sun. Solar eclipses can be particularly dangerous because the sudden changes in brightness don’t give your eyes a chance to adjust. To safely see the show, you can either buy special glasses with a solar filter or build a pinhole projector. You’re guaranteed to feel like a kid either way, but it’s worth the caution.

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“People need to understand that it’s not safe to look at the sun,” said Dr. Massey. “Even if it’s 20 percent overcast, there’s still a tremendous amount of uncovered sun.”

Eclipse goggles block nearly all sunlight, said Dr. Massey so you can only see the bite of the moon as it gets in front of the sun. Telescopes with special solar filters are also possible.

dr Massey also recommended contacting a local astronomical society that may be planning to host watch parties and can also answer questions. Or you can watch from the comfort of your own home. The Royal Observatory is hosting a clock party on its website. The Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the event from Rome. Everyone, including Americans, is invited.

People in the United States have a chance to see a solar eclipse next month. A total lunar eclipse, when the moon passes Earth’s shadow, will occur November 7-8 and will be visible from North America, South America and East Asia. This will be the last total lunar eclipse in three years.

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