Not quite a total eclipse for Britain

The first total eclipse of the Sun in Northern Europe since August 11 1999 takes place on Friday March 20.

Total eclipses occur when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are lined up, so that the Moon’s shadow reaches the Earth’s surface. However, the main cone of shadow is only just long enough to do this, and totality can be witnessed from only a very restricted area of the Earth`s surface as the Moon’s shadow sweeps along a narrow corridor known as the path of totality.

On March 20, the narrow track of totality passes between Iceland and the Outer Hebrides, so nowhere in the British Isles will have a total eclipse, but a very significant partial eclipse will be seen, ranging from 85% in the south-east of England to over 98% in the Outer Hebrides and the Shetland Islands; with the whole event lasting well over two hours. This will be the largest partial eclipse to be visible from anywhere in the British Isles since August 1999.

There have been some concern over fluctuations that could be caused on the Grid by a drop in solar generation during the eclipse.

But while the amount of electricity generated from solar will fall during eclipse, National Grid is not expecting any major impact.

“This loss of solar is entirely manageable,” said a National Grid spokesperson. “We have a range of tools in place to manage any effects of the eclipse and balance the network.”

You can get an idea of what the eclipse will look like where you live by filling in a place name here.

The British Astronomical Association gives the local partial eclipse in detail for locations within the British Isles:

Max. obsc.   Max eclipse   Begins Ends
Aberdeen 94.0 09:37:53 08:32:54 10:46:06
Aberystwyth 88.8 09:28:37 08:23:37 10:37:41
Belfast 93.1 09:30:38 08:26:17 10:38:48
Birmingham 87.4 09:30:44 08:25:09 10:40:15
Cardiff 86.7 09:27:54 08:22:36 10:37:21
Dublin 91.6 09:28:16 08:23:54 10:36:37
Edinburgh 93.2 09:35:06 08:30:12 10:43:28
Galway 93.2 09:25:55 08:22:19 10:33:36
Glasgow 93.7 09:34:04 08:29:25 10:42:15
Leeds 89.1 09:33:09 08:27:35 10:42:25
Lerwick 96.9 09:43:09 08:38:33 10:50:30
Liverpool 89.5 09:31:14 08:26:00 10:40:18
London 84.5 09:30:52 08:24:46 10:40:56
Newcastle-upon-Tyne 90.8 09:34:58 08:29:33 10:43:55
Norwich 85.2 09:34:03 08:27:41 10:44:07
Plymouth 85.6 09:25:11 08:20:07 10:34:36
Southampton 84.5 09:28:40 08:22:53 10:38:36

But remember, it’s dangerous to look at the Sun at any time. You must always protect your eyes during the eclipse. However, an eclipse can be observed safely by following the Solar Eclipse Safety Code, but supervise children closely at all times.

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