Solar eclipse 2015: How, when and where in London to watch it - here's everything you need to know

The moon crosses in front of the Sun during an eclipse seen from the Sydney Observatory in 2013 (Source: Getty)

The ancient Greeks believed it was a sign the gods were angry, while the Vikings thought wolves were eating the sun. Either way, on March 20 London will experience its first solar eclipse in 14 years.

It's a natural phenomenon not to be missed - so how, where and when can you see it?

What

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow (the umbra) on Earth. The darkest point of the eclipse is almost as dark as night.


(Source: Nasa)

There are five phases:

  • Partial eclipse begins. otherwise known as first contact: The moon's shadow starts becoming visible over the Sun's disc. The sun looks as if a bite has been taken from it.
  • Full eclipse begins, or second contact: Almost the entire disc of the Sun is covered by the moon, making the Sun look like a diamond ring.
  • Maximum eclipse or totality: The moon completely covers the disc of the Sun. This is the most dramatic stage of a total solar eclipse, and the most eerie. The sky will go dark, temperatures fall and birds and animals often go quiet.
  • Full eclipse ends, or third contact: The moon's shadow starts moving away and the Sun reappears.
  • Partial eclipse ends, or fourth contact: The moon stops overlapping the Sun's disc. This is the end of the eclipse.

Where

Londoners will be treated to a partial solar eclipse, rather than the full thing, but it will still be pretty impressive - and pretty eerie - when the moon covers the vast majority of the sun.

If you're into coordinates, they are given as 119°East-southeast 20.6° for the start of the eclipse; 134°Southeast 28.9° for the peak moment and 154°South-southeast 35.3° for the finale.

If you are a solar eclipse hunter, there are only two places in the world that are easy-to-access locations – Svalbard, an island belonging to Norway and the Faroe Islands. Get packing now.

The shadow of the 1999 solar eclipse
The eclipse in 1999 (Source: Met Office)

When

If you're in London, you'll want to start looking out for it is around 8:25am, which is when the moon will touch the Sun's edge. The maximum eclipse will be at 9:31am, when the moon is closest to the centre of the Sun. The eclipse will end at 10:41am.


(Source: TimeandDate.com)

If you're not based in the capital, this handy map shows the best times to see it in the rest of the country:


(Source: Met Office)

How

It goes without saying that looking at the sun without anything to protect your eyes is a bad idea. Experts have warned against even looking at the eclipse with sunglasses on, and there is a strictly no-photos (or selfies) allowed rule.

The best way to see the eclipse, according to the College of Optometrists, is to use a pin-hole camera. Time to dust off your GCSE science books if you don't remember how that works.

And there's more

According to the Met Office, this evening there will also be a supermoon, which means the Earth and Moon are as close together as they can be.

"This makes this 2015 Spring Equinox eclipse a supermoon eclipse, meaning a supermoon, equinox and eclipse will all fall on the same day," it said.

What if we miss it?

If you're slaving over a hot desk or the killer smog ruins total eclipse day for everyone, don't get too gloomy. There are four eclipses in 2015 (though, to be fair, this is the best and most dramatic).

There will be another partial solar eclipse on September 13, and two lunar eclipses - on April 4 and September 28.

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