How to safely view Friday's partial solar eclipse

NEVER look at an eclipse directly without using the proper equipment - NOT just sunglasses! Credit: PA

During rush-hour on Friday 20th March 2015, the Sun will move into eclipse.

A total solar eclipse will occur across the Arctic and in the far Northern regions of Europe - the Faroe Islands and Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole, are expected to experience a total eclipse.

This is the last total solar eclipse in Europe for over a decade, with the next one not visible in Europe until 2026.

Weather permitting, residents of Europe will be able to see a pretty good partial solar eclipse.

Around 9.34am is the best time to view the partial eclipse in Manchester. It will be daylight, and you probably will not notice any difference in the lighting conditions.

There is increasing interest in the partial solar eclipse, and whether or not the weather forecast for the north west will allow us to actually be able to see it - typically, Friday looks like the most uncertain day of the forecast outlook! Patchy rain will be pushing southwards during the morning, but the system weakens as it comes up against the dominating area of high pressure, so although there is likely to be quite a bit of cloud around, there may also be some brighter spells - timing will be crucial.

However, there's another rub... when we say '9.34am is the best time to view the partial eclipse' the experts are NOT advocating looking at it directly.

Remember... NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT DEDICATED SOLAR VIEWING EQUIPMENT. It is very dangerous to look directly at the Sun with your eyes or through a telescope or binoculars – to do so would risk permanent blindness.

Do NOT attempt to look at the eclipse through squinted eyes or through thin clouds – you will do your eyes harm.

Do NOT use sunglasses, or welder’s goggles. Although these may seem to block some of the Sun’s light, they will let through the harmful ultraviolet light, which is more than enough to seriously damage your eyes.

So, what are ways to safely observe the eclipse in progress?

A reasonably safe way to view the eclipse is to use solar eclipse glasses.

These are fairly straightforward to acquire and can be ordered off the internet. These glasses that use a special film called Mylar that acts as a solar filter, blocking out the harmful light of the Sun and letting through just enough light for you to see the eclipse in safety. However, be careful that there are no scratches or holes in the glasses – even a tiny pinhole can let through enough sunlight to permanently damage your eyes.

You can make a pinhole camera to view the eclipse, which means that you don't need to look at the Sun at all.

If you are a space enthusiast and you own a telescope, you can project the image of the eclipse through your telescope eyepiece, onto a piece of card - this is one of the safer ways to view the eclipse and is called telescopic projection.

You can purchase dedicated solar telescopes which observe the Sun at a single wavelength of light, thereby blocking out all the harmful light. The solar filter is built into the telescope, so there is no risk of it becoming damaged unless you tamper with the telescope.

And finally, solar filters are available to purchase which cover the aperture of your telescope and allow you to view the Sun safely. These filters come in the form of specially built caps that you can attach to your telescope, or sheets of Mylar film from which you can build your own solar filter.But, as with the glasses, you must take caution and ensure that there are no scratches or holes in the filter. Any small imperfection could allow dangerous amounts of sunlight to pass through and damage your eyes.

Enjoy the show...don't forget the experts' warnings... and safe viewing!