How to see the solar eclipse

On the 20th March 2015 Britain will be plunged into semi-darkness by a near total solar eclipse. Find out when and how to observe this incredible natural phenomenon. 


When to see the eclipse

On Friday morning the earthlings living in the Northern Hemisphere will be treated to a wonderful natural phenomenon – the Moon will pass in front of the Sun and throw a shadow over parts of the Earth. 


The Faroe Islands will experience a total eclipse, whilst the UK will see 80-90 per cent of the Sun’s surface shrouded in darkness. Kicking off from 8.30am in Britain, the Sun will darken over the course of an hour, and then take another hour to return to normal.

Where you live in Britain will affect how much of the sun will be obscured – in parts of Scotland 95% of the Sun’s surface will be dark, with Shetland expected to be one of the darkest places in the country, with an eclipse of 97%. Londoners will see an eclipse of 84%. 

“While this won’t be a total solar eclipse, the morning of the 20th will still be the largest solar eclipse visible from the UK so far this century,” Says BBC Sky at Night Magazine’s editor Chris Bramley.

“You’ll see more of the Sun covered the further north you are. In Edinburgh, 93 per cent of the sun will be covered. From Manchester, coverage will be a little under 89 per cent. And in London, there’ll be an 84 per cent eclipse. Nowhere in the UK will see less than 80 per cent of the sun eclipsed.”

Timings will vary, too – the show starts at 8.24 in London, 8.26am in Manchester and 8.30am in Edinburgh. 


How to view the darkening sun 


A clear horizon is best for an uninteruppted view of the action, but wherever you are, you’ll see the sky darken and feel a drop in temperature. Keen skygazers should never look directly at the sun, or use binoculars – this can cause blindness, even during an eclipse. 

Instead, get hold of some solar specs or follow BBC Sky at Night Magazine’s tip and use a colander: 

“The daylight won’t descend into temporary darkness, but there’s an easy way of seeing the eclipse take place. Just hold a kitchen colander up to the sunlight and you’ll see lots of small crescents in the shadow that it casts on the ground. These are the inverted image of the sun, projected through each of the holes.” says Chris. 


Find out more about our glorious night sky with BBC Sky at Night Magazine