On 20 March 2015 the sky will grow a little darker. I’m not talking the darkness of the Toon Flood of 2012, but think back, if you can remember that far, to the solar eclipse of 1999. The moon passed between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow path of totality some 100 miles wide.
The sun’s diameter is 400 times that of the moon, but it is also 400 times further away. So viewed from Earth, the moon covers the full face of the sun. These beautiful events happen somewhere on the Earth once every 18 months on average, but you have to be in the tiny point of shadow to see the full effect.
In 1999 the path of the full shadow, the ‘umbra’, was across the very south of the UK. Next week, it will be further north, crossing the Faroe islands. We won’t see totality in Newcastle, as we’ll be in the ‘penumbra’ (the path of partial shadow), but with over 90% coverage of the sun’s disc, it’ll still be an impressive sight.
The moon will start to nudge its way between the sun and us by 08:30am, so you might start to see it on the way to school or work. The moon will pass further in front of the sun until 09:35am when it reaches the maximum, before starting to retreat again. It will all be over by 10:45am.
The British Astronomical Association’s Solar Eclipse Safety Code covers several different ways to safely view the eclipse – give it a read!
The most important thing to remember is to never look directly at the sun, especially through binoculars or a telescope as this can cause permanent damage to your eyesight in a fraction of a second.
We’ll be watching the solar eclipse from Times Square outside Life. We’ll have some filters and projections for anyone who happens to be strolling past to safely view the eclipse and find out more. Just cross your fingers for a cloudless morning on Friday 20 March 2015!