Activity | How to watch the solar eclipse
Friday is the first eclipse of the year! We’ve got two quick, cheap and easy activities to try for safely watching this partial solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon lines up between the sun and the earth and blocks out the sun’s light. It’s a rare event and only possible when the moon is at exactly the right distance from the earth. As this will be a partial solar eclipse, the sky will darken but the sun will still peek out from behind the moon.
The eclipse will begin at 8.45am. The moon will be nearest the middle of the sun at 9.31am. It will end at 10.41am.
The UK hasn't seen a full solar eclipse since 1999, and won't get another one until 2090!
Before you start, take a look at the following safety advice from the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society for Popular Astronomy.
1. Never look directly at the sun.
2. Also, don’t look directly at the sun through sunglasses or any dark material, such as dark paper, a bin liner or photographic negative.
3. Don’t try making your own ‘glasses’ for viewing the eclipse. Makeshift filters may not screen out the harmful infrared radiation that can burn the retina of the eye.
4. Don’t take an eclipse selfie. Looking at the sun through on a camera screen is just as dangerous as looking at it directly.
If you're confused by the instructions below, this image should help explain the set up.
Activity 1 | Make a pinhole viewer
Pinholes allow light through them and create images in a similar way to lenses. This method carries zero risk, because it does not require you to look at the sun at all.
What you’ll need:
- 2 sheets of white card
- compass or other sharp-pointed tool
What to do:
1. Make a small hole in one of the pieces of card using the compass.
2. Stand with your back to the sun. Position the second piece of white card behind the one with the pinhole so that the sun shines through the hole and projects an image onto it.
Or if you fancy something a little more involved, try this method!
Activity 2 | Use a mirror
This simple method is good if you’re in a group as it allows a number of people to watch the eclipse at the same time. Do not look at the sun’s reflection in the mirror!
What you’ll need:
- a small flat mirror
- scissors or other tool to create a hole in the paper
What to do:
1. Cut a small hole (no more than 5 mm wide) in the paper. It doesn’t have to be circular. The larger the hole the more fuzzy the projected image will be, although it will be brighter.
2. Cover the mirror with the paper.
3. Prop up the mirror so that it reflects the sunlight onto a pale screen or wall, ideally through a window. A projection distance of 5 m will produce an image of the sun just over 5 cm across.
4. The eclipse can be seen in the projection on the wall as the moon starts to take a ‘bite’ out of the Sun. It will appear upside down compared with its position in the sky.
5. If clouds move across the face of the sun, you’ll see these as well.
6. The smaller the mirror and further away the wall, the sharper the image will be. Experiment with the distances and size of the mirror.
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