Moon to take bite out of the sun in partial eclipse

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The sun will appear to be turned into a crescent this morning as a partial solar eclipse affects the British Isles.

There will not be the dramatic darkening that accompanied the last total eclipse in 1999, which was witnessed spectacularly in Cornwall. But the moon will definitely be visible crossing the disc of the sun - as long as you take precautions about looking at it, and do not use the naked eye, or standard optical aids such as binoculars and telescopes.

The eclipse will begin about 8.50am, with the moon approaching the sun from the west, or the right-hand side. By about 10am, the sun will look as if a large bite has been taken out of it, with about 60 per cent of its surface covered by the moon; the maximum coverage will last about four minutes. Then the moon will begin to slip away on the eastern, or left-hand side, and the eclipse will be over by about 11.15.

It will be visible as a partial eclipse across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India, but along a narrow track through Spain, North and East Africa and into the Indian Ocean there will be a so-called anular eclipse, when the whole of the moon's disc is visible against the sun, but it is not quite big enough to blot it out completely, leaving a bright ring around the outside.

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that no one should look directly at the sun, especially with binoculars or telescopes - blindness can result. Nor should people try looking through sunglasses - they are simply not strong enough to give protection. The best way of observing the eclipse is to use binoculars or a small telescope to project the sun's image on to a white card.