Solar eclipse 2021: When is the spectacle and how can I see it?

The partial solar eclipse as seen over Liverpool Credit: PA

People in central and south-east England and eastern Scotland will have clear spells to witness a solar eclipse, forecasters have said.On Thursday, skygazers in the UK will be able to see nearly a third of the Sun being blocked out by the Moon in what is known as an annular eclipse.

When is the solar eclipse?

The phenomenon will occur on Thursday morning. Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the spectacle will begin at 10.08am in the UK.

The maximum eclipse will occur at 11.13am, when the Moon will cover close to one-third of the Sun. The partial eclipse will end at 12.22pm.

How can I see it?

Weather permitting, observers in the UK and Ireland will see a crescent Sun instead of a ring, as this will be a partial eclipse.

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon said: “Thursday morning will see more cloud than recent days over east, south-east and much of southern England though some good breaks are likely with sunny spells.

“Similar conditions are likely over east and north-east Scotland with all these areas having the best visibility of the solar eclipse.

The partial solar eclipse rises behind clouds in Baltimore, US. Credit: AP

“There will be clear spells over much of central and south-east England. “Much of the far south-west of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, western and central Scotland will have more in the way of cloud cover, and whilst this may thin by day, the likelihood is that visibility of the eclipse will be somewhat fleeting.The Royal Observatory Greenwich is live-streaming the eclipse on its website and YouTube channel.

What causes an eclipse?

An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line with the Earth, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun.

The Sun will appear as a very bright ring, or annulus, in a phenomenon dubbed as the “ring of fire”.

How can I stay safe while viewing the eclipse?

Even though a large part of the solar disc will be covered, looking at the partially eclipsed Sun without appropriate protection can cause serious and permanent damage to the eyes.

Dr Drabek-Maunder said: “The eclipse from the UK will only be visible with certain techniques and optical aids.

“Never look at the Sun directly or use standard sunglasses – it can cause serious harm to your eyes.”

It is also not wise not to look at the Sun through binoculars, telescopes or a telephoto lens on an SLR camera.

Skygazers don protective viewing glasses to watch the eclipse. Credit: AP

Dr Drabek-Maunder suggests using a simple pinhole projector, solar eclipse viewing glasses – which can be purchased online – or special solar filters which can fit on telescopes, in order to observe the eclipse.

She said: “You can make a projector by poking a small hole into a piece of card.

“Hold the card up to the Sun so that light shines through the hole and on to a piece of paper behind the card.

“You will be able to see the shape of the sun projected on to the piece of paper and watch its shape change as the Moon passes in front of the sun.”