Starting from 8.20am this Friday morning, and lasting for up to 90 minutes thereafter, there will be a solar eclipse in which around 93% of the sun will be obscured by the moon’s orbit.
And according to astronomers and weather forecasters Cornwall could be one of the best places anywhere in the UK in which to witness this spectacular event, which hasn’t been seen since 1999.
The Met Office has predicted that the lack of cloud cover expected in Cornwall on Friday is likely to make the county one of the few places in the country that will enable sky watchers to enjoy the rare phenomenon in its entirety.
And although the planetary movements will plunge the UK’s most popular holiday destination into almost complete daytime darkness, it is important that anyone wanting to see the astronomical show takes special care not to look directly at the sun, even while it is covered.
If you can’t find a pair of the special ‘eclipse viewers’ recommended by eye care experts, do not assume that simply wearing sunglasses will be sufficient to prevent damage to your eyes – especially for children – while binoculars and telescopes should not be used under any circumstances!
However, a number of techniques are easily available for projecting the sun’s image during the eclipse, and one of the simplest ways is to use a kitchen colander! Holding the colander in one hand and a piece of plain white paper in the other, stand with your back to the sun and move the colander between the sun and the paper. The holes in the colander will project a perfectly safe and exciting pattern of mini-eclipses directly onto the paper!
Alternatively, a simple pinhole viewer works very well. Use two pieces of cardboard and carefully poke a small hole in the centre of one piece. Again, with your back to the sun, hold both cards up – the one with the hole should be nearer to the sun – and align the ray of sunlight projected through the hole onto the second piece of card, enabling you to safely witness the drama as it unfolds!
Please remember: viewing a solar eclipse is fun and exciting, but it can be potentially hazardous and should only be done with extreme caution. Never, under any circumstances, should you look directly at the sun.
Picture credit Bryce Bradford.