Solar eclipse ‘a must’ – if there’s a break in the clouds

The last solar eclipse in 1999 (chronologically top left to bottom right), as seen from London
The last solar eclipse in 1999 (chronologically top left to bottom right), as seen from London

Stargazers have been warned they may not get a good view of Friday’s solar eclipse with weather forecasters warning of cloudy conditions throughout the Province.

Martina Redpath from Armagh Planetarium said Ulster folk could be able to see first contact when the moon touches the edge of the sun at 8.25am.

“We will see that if it is not cloudy – but it may be,” added the senior education support officer. “At 9.40am the moon will be totally in front of the sun. We are not experiencing totality as they are in the Faroe Islands, where it will go dark for them.

“We are experiencing the eclipse at 93 per cent which is very good. Then at 10.40am it will be all over again.”

But according to Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxie, at the time the partial eclipse should be visible the Province “the general picture is cloudy”.

“That is not to say there will not be a break in the cloud so it is difficult to forecast exactly where and when those breaks might happen,” she added.

“At the moment the cloud cover for Northern Ireland is looking fairly consistent throughout the early part of the morning so you are fairly reliant on getting a break in the cloud at the right time.

“You could possibly be able to tell a slight difference even if it is cloudy because it will get darker.”

The last total eclipse took place in 1999. And if you miss tomorrow’s partial eclipse, it will be 2026 before you can catch the next partial eclipse.

Meanwhile, it will be 2090 before the next total solar eclipse is seen in the UK.

Martina Redpath, senior education support officer at Armagh Planetarium, tries out an easy way to view the solar eclipse which is due to happen this Friday

Martina Redpath, senior education support officer at Armagh Planetarium, tries out an easy way to view the solar eclipse which is due to happen this Friday

Ms Redpath advised “anyone who has the opportunity to see the partial eclipse to take the opportunity”.

How to watch the eclipse safely

Stargazers are advised not to look directly at the sun on Friday.

The public is also advised not to even look directly at the sun through sunglasses or dark material, such as a bin liner or photographic negative, as makeshift filters may not screen out the harmful infrared radiation that can burn the retina of the eye.

Martina Redpath from the Armagh Planetarium advised people to make themselves “a pin-hole viewer” which is made by using two paper plates”.

“One piece will have a pinhole-size hole and the other sheet used as a screen,” she said. “Then you need to stand with your back to the sun where the sun will be projected through the pin-hole and onto the second paper plate. This is one of the simplest and safest ways.”

Also read about Solar eclipse myths and superstitions