How to be safe during the solar eclipse
On the 20th March there’ll be a solar eclipse visible from large parts of Europe. A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking out light.
Looking at the sun is extremely dangerous, so we’ve put together some advice to help you see the eclipse safely.
Where to see the eclipse
It’ll be a partial eclipse for most of us, as the sun is unlikely to be completely covered by the moon. For the best views in the UK? You’ll need to be in the Outer Hebrides or on the Isle of Skye, but wherever you are in the UK you’ll see some part of it. The British Astronomical Association has a great chart showing what time the eclipse will start, be at maximum coverage, and end, depending on where you are.
Viewing the eclipse directly
As well as visible light, the sun sends out huge amounts of invisible infrared and ultraviolet rays, which can harm your sight.
If you want to view the eclipse directly you can use a solar telescope, or solar glasses (NOT sunglasses). Solar glasses are made of very strong filters that block out almost all of the Sun’s light and only let through a tiny, safe amount. They should have the CE mark and a statement that it conforms to European Community Directive 89/686/EEC.
Check them carefully before you use them – put them on and look at something. You shouldn’t be able to see anything through them (nothing on earth is as bright as the sun). If you can see something, even if it’s just a tiny scratch that’s letting in some light, they’re not safe to use.
Never, ever, under any circumstances, look directly at the sun without proper equipment as this can seriously damage your eyes. Using binoculars or a telescope to look at the Sun can cause instant permanent damage, even using sunglasses can cause serious harm as they don’t filter out enough light.
Viewing the eclipse indirectly
There are several ways to view the eclipse indirectly – you can build a reflected pinhole viewer, use a telescope to project the image onto a surface, or make a simple pinhole viewer. The simple pinhole viewer is the quickest – just get two pieces of card, make a tiny hole in one, and hold it between the sun and your other piece of card. A small image of the sun will be projected through the hole.
Keeping children and pets safe during the eclipse
Keep a very close eye on children during the eclipse – especially around binoculars and telescopes. They might be tempted to look, and could easily do permanent damage to their eyes. Some pets may become unsettled during the eclipse, although some (like chickens) will probably think it’s just been a very short day and may go back to bed.
And finally, a word of advice if you’re likely to be on the road during the eclipse. Remember to turn your headlights on – it will be almost as dark as sunset…