Where and when to see the solar eclipse in the UK

The great North American total eclipse 2017, This is the moment when totality comes to an end and the famous diamond ring is visible, the sun's corona is also still visible with the star Regulus, this is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo and one of the brightest stars in the night sky, lying approximately 79 light years from the Sun (just to the left of the eclipse).
A total solar eclipse will see much of North America plunged into darkness on Monday. (Getty)

Parts of the Earth will be plunged into darkness on Monday thanks to a rare solar eclipse.

Much of North America will see day turn to night thanks to the eclipse, which will also mean flares of the sun’s corona can be seen, resembling a diamond ring in the sky. It may also be possible to see planets and comets with the naked eye, and the eclipse could disrupt communications back on Earth.

It may be possible to see a partial eclipse from the UK, but only from certain areas and in clear conditions.

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon completely covers the sun, and observers are within the darkest part of the moon’s shadow.

Monday's eclipse is the biggest since 2017, and an estimated 31.6 million people across North America will be in its path. As excitement build, various conspiracy theories have circulated, while experts have also reminded people what they should and shouldn't do in the event of a solar eclipse.

Here is everything you need to know about Monday's eclipse:

Who will be able to see a total solar eclipse this week?

The eclipse will start North America shortly after 2pm EDT (7pm BST) on Monday (8 April), lasting two hours.

The path of totality – which means where the total solar eclipse will be fully visible – will start shortly after 11am local time in Mazatlan, Mexico.

From Mexico the total eclipse will last 4.5 minutes, and while this does not seem long, the maximum eclipse length possible is about 7-8 minutes.

Can I see the solar eclipse from the UK?

While North America will experience a total solar eclipse, the UK will only get a partial eclipse as the path of the total eclipse will end west of Ireland.

But after sunset around 20% to 30% of the sun will be obscured by the moon — hence a partial eclipse.

Professor Don Pollacco, from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, said that from Glasgow about 12% of the sun will be obscured at around 8pm (BST). Under clear conditions, people in Edinburgh might see a 6% obscuration.

Dr Edward Bloomer, senior astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the UK is only going to get “a small grazing” of the eclipse in the west and north of the country.

The proportion of the Sun that will be covered during the eclipse on Monday. (PA)
The proportion of the Sun that will be covered during the eclipse on Monday. (PA)

Liverpool will only see a maximum of 3.1% coverage at 7.57pm when the sun is basically right on the horizon -– the window is very small as the start and end times are 7.55pm and 8pm.

Belfast will be treated to more of an eclipse with a maximum of 28.1% coverage at 8.10pm. However, the sun will be very low on the horizon, and the window is 7.55pm until 8.14pm.

Stornoway in Scotland will see 33.7% maximum coverage at 8.13pm. The eclipse will start at 7.53pm and end at 8.23pm.

Dr Bloomer said: “I’m afraid the south and the east are out of luck this time around. We won’t ourselves get to see anything from the observatory, which we’re a bit sad about.”

Prof Pollacco said: “The totality track ends in the Atlantic hundreds of miles west of Ireland at sunset. Going west the obscuration is greater, east less."

How rare are total solar eclipses?

Total solar eclipses occur every 18 months but the visibility path of seeing the full total eclipse is only around 80 miles, so if you are not located within that track it will not be visible.

Prof Pollacco, who is travelling to the US to view the total solar eclipse, said: “Total eclipses of the sun are amazing and feel quite magical.

“From the right vantage point, you can see the moon shadow rushing towards you at 1,000 miles an hour as totality approaches.

“When almost obscured as the sun’s light shines through valleys on the moon’s limb, you see the famous Baily’s Beads (beads of sunlight emerging from the eclipse shadow) and, when the final valley is lit up, the Diamond Ring (which appears as a faint corona around the sun, as a glittering ring).

“At this time, turning off the sunlight has effects high up in the earth’s atmosphere, which may impact communications, and produce the strange shadow bands on the ground – making the ground swirl around as you look at it.”

There is another in 2026 that is visible in northern Spain, tracking up to Iceland. But the next total eclipse of the sun visible from the UK is in 2090.

EDIRNE, TURKIYE - OCTOBER 25: College students observe the solar eclipse with the
Eclipses can be viewed using a "pinhole projector", or specialist glasses. (Getty)

How should you view a solar eclipse?

You should always use eye protection and follow normal advice not to look directly at the sun.

Experts say the eclipse can be viewed safely through real solar eclipse glasses – not 3D glasses or anything similar.

But the safest, cheapest and arguably the most convenient way to view the event is by pinhole projection – make a hole in a piece of card, hold it under the sun, and hold a piece of paper behind the card. Using this method, people should be able to see the shape of the sun projected on to the paper, taking away the need to look directly at the Sun.

Prof Pollacco warned: “With no protection you will at best damage your eyes, or you could blind yourself.”

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