Home » Here’s how and when to watch today’s total solar eclipse

Here’s how and when to watch today’s total solar eclipse

A total eclipse is one of nature’s biggest spectacles (Picture: Getty)

Last year was one to remember for skygazers, with comets, meteor showers, over-excited Northern Lights and an annular eclipse.

This year is going one better with a full, total eclipse – the best kind.

Unfortunately for Brits, it won’t cross UK shores this evening, although a few areas will catch a glimpse of the partial eclipse.

Depending on the weather, this will include Glasgow, Manchester and Ireland.

The shadow of the total eclipse will trace a path from west to east, starting in northern Mexico, travelling diagonally across the US and ending at the eastern tip of Canada.

The best cities to spot it include Indianapolis in Indiana, Cleveland in Ohio and Niagara Falls in New York – quite the combination of nature’s spectacles.

Where the April eclipse will be visible (Picture: Created with Datawrapper)

What causes a solar eclipse?

Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out our star and throwing a sliver of the planet into darkness.

Believe it or not, there are between two and five solar eclipses every year, but they don’t always happen over land for people to see – and total solar eclipses only happen around every 18 months.

What are the different types of solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse over the US in 2017 (Picture: Getty)

Total solar eclipse This happens when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and the Earth, completely blocking the face of our star. The Sun’s corona becomes visible around the Moon’s shadow, and the sky will darken similar to dawn or dusk.

An annular eclipse over Tokyo (Picture: Getty)

Annular solar eclipse The Moon again passes directly between the Sun and the Earth, but at or close to its further point from Earth, meaning it does not entirely block out the Sun. This creates a circle of light around the Moon, often referred to as the ‘ring of fire’.

A partial eclipse is still dazzling (Picture: Getty)

Partial solar eclipse This happens when the Moon is not in perfect alignment with the Sun, only blocking part of it and creating a crescent shape. People living on either side of the path of a total or annular solar eclipse will be able to see a partial eclipse.

How can you watch a solar eclipse?

The most important rule of watching a solar eclipse is never look directly at the Sun. 

While waiting for the total eclipse viewers can use special glasses that are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses. 

But buy carefully – the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is warning people of counterfeit glasses on the market.

They say the best way to test yours is wear them inside. You shouldn’t be able to see anything except very bright lights, which should appear faint. If you can make out objects, they’re not strong enough.

You need special (but not expensive) equipment to watch an eclipse (Picture: Getty)

You can also buy binoculars specially designed for observing the Sun all year around that will allow you to watch as the Moon wanders into view.

Alternatively, you can cheaply and easily make a pinhole projector – simply put a hole in a piece of card, hold it up to the Sun and shine the light from the hole onto a second piece of card in front of it. This projects the entire version of the event in miniature.

The entire sequence of the 2019 annular solar eclipse from start to finish (Picture: Getty)

How can I watch the solar eclipse in the UK?

If, like most of us, you’re not lucky enough to be in the path of the solar eclipse, you can watch it online thanks to Nasa’s YouTube livestream.

Coverage will start at 6pm BST and continue until 9pm, with commentary from experts and live telescope views of the eclipse as it happens across the continent.

There will be a partial eclipse in some parts of the UK, however. When you can see it depends on where in the UK you are – and how annoyingly cloudy it will be.

The eclipse will start at 7.52pm in Scotland, 7.54pm in Northern Ireland and England and 7.55pm in Wales. 

Sadly, this partial cosmic ballet won’t last too long. Ending at 8.04pm in Wales, 8.06pm in England, 8.21pm in Northern Ireland and 8.51pm in Scotland.

When is the next solar eclipse in the UK?

Total solar eclipses only return to the same spot once every 400 years. Luckily Brits won’t have to wait quite that long for the next one, but unfortunately, many of us still won’t be around to see it – it’s happening in 2090.

However, next year a partial eclipse will cross the country, on March 29, 2025.

Another will follow on August 12, 2026.

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