Europe’s biggest solar eclipse since 1999 is on its way next month – and 84 per cent of sunlight could be blocked out over London
A solar eclipse is set to block out nearly 90 percent of sunlight across parts of Europe next month – and it will be the biggest event of its kind in 16 years.
The event is taking place on the morning of 20 March, and a partial eclipse will be visible across Europe, North Africa and Russia for about 90 minutes.
Northern Scandinavia and the Faroe Islands will experience a full eclipse, known as totality.
The eclipse will see up to 84 per cent of the sun covered in London – and around 94 per cent in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
In London, the partial eclipse – when the moon starts touching the sun’s edge – will start at 8.45am GMT. The maximum eclipse will hit at 9.31am and this will be the point when the moon is closest to the centre of the sun.
By 10.41am the moon will leave the sun’s edge and the partial eclipse will end.
Meanwhile, electricity system operators have warned the eclipse poses a serious risk of blackouts all over Europe as the continent increasingly relies on solar power.
The European Network Transmission System Operators for Electricity said: “The risk of incident cannot be completely ruled out. Solar eclipses have happened before but with the increase of installed photovoltaic energy generation, the risk of an incident could be serious without appropriate countermeasures.”
Since 1999, the use of solar power in Europe as a proportion of all renewables has risen from 0.1 percent to 10.5 percent.
Those planning to watch the rare cosmic lightshow should not look directly at the sun with the naked eye, as doing so can seriously damage vision and even cause blindness.
See also: The Most Astounding Fact About Universe
The solar eclipse can be viewed using specifically designed filters, which feature a thin layer of aluminum, chromium or silver on their surfaces.
The next total solar eclipse is expected to occur on August 12, 2026.
WHAT IS A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE?
An eclipse occurs when one heavenly body, such as a moon or planet, moves into the shadow of another. On Earth there are two types – lunar eclipses and solar eclipses.
Lunar eclipse: For a lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the sun and the moon and blocks sunlight normally reflected by the moon.
Instead of light hitting the moon’s surface, Earth’s shadow falls on it and a lunar eclipse can only happen when the moon is full.
Solar eclipse: By comparison, a solar eclipse occurs when the orbit of the moon moves it between the sun and Earth.
When this happens, the moon blocks the light of the sun reaching Earth and the moon casts a shadow on Earth.
Types of shadow: During a solar eclipse, the moon casts two shadows on Earth.
The first shadow is called the umbra, and this gets smaller as it reaches Earth.
The second shadow is known as the penumbra, and this gets larger as it reaches Earth.
There are additionally three types of solar eclipses:
Total: A total solar eclipse is only visible from a certain region on Earth and those who can see it are in the center of the moon’s shadow when it hits Earth.
For a total eclipse to take place, the sun, moon and Earth must be in a direct line.
People standing in the umbra will see a total eclipse and this will occur over the Faroe Islands on 20 March.
Partial solar eclipse: This occurs when the sun, moon and Earth don’t line up exactly.
People standing in the penumbra will see a partial eclipse.
Annular: An annular eclipse happens when the moon is farthest from Earth. Because the moon is further from Earth, it appears smaller.
As a result, it doesn’t block the entire view of the sun. The moon in front of the sun resembles a dark disk on top of a larger sun-colored disk and creates what looks like a ring around the moon.