On Friday the 20th of March, a solar eclipse will occur and some will have the chance to experience darkness during the day. What is a solar eclipse? How can you watch a solar eclipse safely? Discover everything you need to know about the strange phenomenon.

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between the sun and the earth and the moon fully, or partially, blocks the sun. Basically, the Sun, the Earth, and the moon have to align. This phenomenon can only happen at the phase of the new moon, when the moon orbits closest to the Sun. These conditions make solar eclipses fairly rare.

There are 3 types of solar eclipses: the total eclipse, the partial and the annular ones. The shadow of the moon has two parts: the umbra, the central shadow, and the penumbra, the outer shadow. When the umbra passes over you, you will experience a total eclipse, as the sun will be completely blocked out. If the penumbra passes over you, only parts of the sun will be blocked out, and you will see a partial eclipse. Therefore, you will not experience the same dark sky you would have with a total eclipse. The annular eclipse happens when the umbra does not reach the Earth, creating a ring-like sliver of light in the sky.

A solar eclipse on the 20th of March

On Friday the 20th of March, All of Europe, the northern swath of the African continent, north-central Asia and the Middle East will have the chance to see a solar eclipse. Why all the fuss around this eclipse in particular? Well, even though solar eclipses happen every year or two somewhere on Earth, they are very rare in Europe. The next total eclipses that will appear near us are programmed in 2081 in central Europe and 2090 in the UK and Scandinavia. Sky watchers have already planned a trip to the Faroe and Svalbard islands as the total eclipse will be seen from there.

The eclipse will occur at 9.45am (UTC/GMT), so fingers crossed the sky will be clear and we will actually be able to see the eclipse!

How to watch a solar eclipse?

Even during a solar eclipse, it is dangerous to look at the sky with your bare eyes. You could damage them. The only way to safely see a total solar eclipse is to wear protective eclipse glasses or to project an image of the eclipsed Sun using a pinhole projector. And remember, even sunglasses will not protect you from the rays of the Sun.