Solar eclipse set to plunge UK and Europe into darkness

LODNDON, March 20: Millions of people could witness the best solar eclipse in years seen from the UK and northern Europe later.

A path across the Earth’s surface will be plunged into darkness as the Moon covers up the Sun.

The event’s geometry means that in the UK the Sun will be between 83% and 98% covered, from about 09:23 GMT onwards. The weather will determine visibility.

Experts are warning people not to look directly at the Sun because it could cause serious harm.

The deep shadow forms first in the North Atlantic, before sweeping up into the Arctic Circle and ending at the North Pole.

The UK will not see a solar eclipse on this scale again until 2026, but the British forecast is not particularly encouraging.

Nonetheless, all parts of the UK are in line to see at least 83% of the Sun’s disc obscured by the Moon.

The eclipse is a morning show.

The exact moment of greatest darkness for UK skywatchers will be dependent on the location.

Penzance, in Cornwall, for example, has this moment at 09:23 GMT, whereas for Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, it happens at 09:43 GMT.

For the Shetlands, the eclipse is very nearly total at 97%.

To experience totality requires going further north, still.

Ocean darkness

However, few land areas fall directly in the path of the Moon’s deepest shadow – its so-called umbra, and seabirds will probably get the best eclipse experience.

The longest period of darkness – nearly three minutes – will occur over a spot in the Arctic Ocean at 09:46 GMT.

Many professional and amateur astronomers have positioned themselves in the Faroe Islands, where the capital city of Torshavn gets totality for a full two minutes, beginning just before 09:41 GMT.

And those who could not book a flight or a hotel for the Faroes have gone to Svalbard, where the capital city of Longyearbyen witnesses two-and-a-half minutes of totality, starting shortly after 10:10 GMT.