Heavens above, it’s a solar eclipse!

You may have heard that tomorrow (Friday 20th March 2015) there will be a solar eclipse.  Here in mainland UK it will only be partial, but a large percentage of the Sun will be covered by the Moon so it will be worth having a look at.  Mid-eclipse, when the largest part of the Sun will be covered by the Moon, is about 9.30am.  I will be at St John’s Primary School in Macclesfield in the morning where I will be talking to the school assembly about the eclipse, and hopefully showing everyone the view.

There has, sadly, been a lot of mis-information flying around about viewing the eclipse, and some schools have actually banned their pupils from watching it.  There are many perfectly safe ways to view it, so don’t believe the scare-mongering.

But: never look at the Sun through any kind of telescope, or binoculars, or any other kind of glass instrument!  There are some telescopes designed for safe solar viewing but, unless you really know what you are doing, don’t try it.  You WILL damage your eyesight.  For the transit of Venus in 2004, Stuart and I made a video showing what happens to a simulated eyeball.  It’s not pleasant.

So, how can you watch the eclipse safely?  The simplest and cheapest way, and what I will be doing at school tomorrow, is using a pinhole viewer.  You take a piece of card or stiff paper and make some small holes with a pen.  Hold this between the Sun and another sheet of white paper (or a wall) and voila, small images of the Sun!

How to watch the eclipse

Lots of images of the Sun, formed using a pinhole viewer; the safest way to watch a solar eclipse.

If the weather is good where you are, go have a look.  Look up the exact timings for your location, read the answers to some frequently-asked questions about the eclipse, watch Dr Lucie Green explain the eclipse and how to view it, or read a booklet about the eclipse produced by the RAS.  Good luck!

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