The world is going to see the deepest solar eclipse since 1999 in March, and won't see another for years. People across the UK are expected to head out to see it, so here's everything you need to know if you're joining them.
When is it?
March 20. In the UK, it will begin at 8.45am. It will peak at 9.31am before finishing at 10.41am.
Where will be best to see it?
The eclipse will be total – covering the sun entirely – in the Faroe Islands and Norwegian island Svalbard. Those will be the only populated places on Earth where it can be seen in its full darkness. But certain parts of Scotland will be almost fully blacked out. The Isle of Lewis, close to Aird Uig, will see the deepest eclipse, and the rest of north-western Scotland will see over 95 per cent coverage.
The eclipse will get less intense in places further south – though even London will be see about 84 per cent coverage.
What’s special about this one?
While eclipses aren’t that rare, it’s not often that they’re total. That’s when the moon lines up right in front of the sun, obscuring it completely.
How often do eclipses happen?
This is the biggest since 1999, but there’ve been a number in the meantime. Partial eclipses happened in 2006, 2008 and 2011.
After the one in March, the next eclipse will be in 2018, but it’ll be very small.
The next big eclipse will be in 2026, which is expected to cover about the same amount of Britain in darkness.
There won’t be another total eclipse until 2090. That one is expected to be similar to the one in 1999, though it’ll be slightly further north and will happen as the sun sets.
How do I watch it?
You might remember the warnings from 1999: never look straight into the sun. If you do, you can permanently damage the back of your eye – where there are no pain sensors, so you won’t even know that anything’s gone wrong.
The key thing is to get some kind of dimming lens to watch the eclipse through. These will probably be readily available ahead of the event.
Can I photograph it?
The same warnings apply: the lens in your camera, just like your eye, can amplify the brightness of the sun and damage it. So it’s important to get a solar filter to keep it safe.
You can use almost any camera, with a long zoom working best. It’s a good idea to take a number of pictures, because the light can change quickly as the eclipse is happening – the most important thing is to try out different settings and get as many photos as you can.
Is it going to cause any problems?
Energy groups have voiced concerns about the power supply, given so much of it is now made up of solar energy. They have worked to head it off – but concerns remain that systems could see problems as people head into work and the power providers deal with the eclipse.