Total solar eclipse: What can I see in the UK? Timings and locations of what will be visible for Brits

8 April 2024, 11:25

A total solar eclipse in 2017
A total solar eclipse in 2017. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

A total solar eclipse will take place on Monday night - giving millions a chance to see an extraordinary spectacle.

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A total eclipse - the perfect alignment of the sun, the Earth and the moon - will mean people in much of North America will be temporarily plunged into darkness.

People in the UK aren't quite as lucky, although people in parts of the country will be able to observe a partial eclipse.

Here we look at where you can see it - and why a total solar eclipse is so special.

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Total solar eclipse 2017 near John Day Oregon
Total solar eclipse 2017 near John Day Oregon. Picture: Alamy

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is when the moon comes between the sun and the Earth passes. In a total eclipse, the moon casts a shadow on the earth that fully blocks light from the sun. In a partial eclipse, it blocks some of the light.

A total eclipse is quite rare - once every 18 months - because the orbit of the moon is not exactly the same as the sun and the earth.

A partial eclipse usually takes place between two and five times a year.

It's not safe to look at the eclipse without special glasses
It's not safe to look at the eclipse without special glasses. Picture: Alamy

Is this eclipse visible from the UK?

People living in the north and west of the UK may be able to see some of the effects of the eclipse on Monday evening.

Stornoway in northern Scotland will have about 34% the light from the sun obscured by the moon from about 7.53pm-8.23pm.

In Belfast, there should be 28% coverage from about 7.55pm-8.14pm.

In Glasgow, 12% of sunlight should be obscured at about 8pm.

Edinburgh will have obscuration of 6%, while Liverpool will have a maximum of 3% between 7.55pm and 8pm.

Parts of Ireland will have a better chance of seeing the eclipse, with people in Belmullet on the west coast in with a chance of seeing 44% of sunlight obscured.

But cloudy weather could make the eclipse even less visible.

And the eclipse will not be at all visible from London.

Dr Edward Bloomer, senior astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: "I'm afraid the South and the East are out of luck this time around.

"We won't ourselves get to see anything from the observatory, which we're a bit sad about."

Rare eclipse occurs over Australia and Asia

When is the next total solar eclipse that will be visible in the UK?

The next total solar eclipse that Brits can see will be in 2090 in the south-west. In 2081, there will be one visible from the Channel Islands.

A partial eclipse in 2026 will be visible from 90% of the UK.

The most recent total eclipse that was meant to be visible from the UK was in 1999, but it was largely obscured by clouds.

Many people are travelling to see the eclipse
Many people are travelling to see the eclipse. Picture: Getty

Who will get the best view?

People in the US, Mexico and Canada will be treated to the best views of the total solar eclipse.

Around 31 million people are thought to live directly under the 'totality path' of the eclipse, and many more have travelled to catch a glimpse.

People on Mexico's Pacific coast will be the first to see the eclipse, at around 11.07 PDT (20.07 UK time).

It will then pass over into the US in Texas, and travel via Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine on the north-east coast of the US. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also get a good view.

People in Canada will then be under the totality path, in Southern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breto.

The last sighting of the total eclipse will be on the island of Newfoundland.

A woman observes the sun with a telescope ahead of this Monday's eclipse on April 07, 2024 in Mazatlan, Mexico
A woman observes the sun with a telescope ahead of this Monday's eclipse on April 07, 2024 in Mazatlan, Mexico. Picture: Getty

What do you see during a total eclipse?

The sky will go dark, as if it is night or dusk. A halo effect will form around the outside of the moon.

If the weather is good, the sun's outer atmosphere will be visible.

A visitor adds a pin to a map displaying where eclipse seekers are visiting from during the town's celebration of the April 8 solar eclipse on April 07, 2024 in Russellville, Arkansas
A visitor adds a pin to a map displaying where eclipse seekers are visiting from during the town's celebration of the April 8 solar eclipse on April 07, 2024 in Russellville, Arkansas. Picture: Getty

Is it safe to look at the sun during the eclipse?

It's only safe to look at the sun directly during the brief period of total eclipse, as the light is entirely blocked.

If you're planning to look at the sun, you should wear special 'eclipse glasses', which provide significantly more protection than sunglasses.

A girl poses with her glasses to see the eclipse
A girl poses with her glasses to see the eclipse. Picture: Getty

According to the American Astronomical Society, you should check your glasses in the following ways to make sure they're safe:

  • "Put them on indoors and look around. You shouldn't be able to see anything through them, except perhaps very bright lights, which should appear very faint through the glasses. If you can see anything else, such as household furnishings or pictures on the wall, your glasses aren't dark enough for solar viewing."
  • "If your glasses pass the indoor test, take them outside on a sunny day, put them on, and look around again. You still shouldn't see anything through them, except perhaps the Sun's reflection off a shiny surface or a puddle, which again should appear very faint."
  • "If your glasses pass that test too, glance at the Sun through them for less than a second. You should see a sharp-edged, round disk (the Sun's visible "face") that's comfortably bright. Depending on the type of filter in the glasses, the Sun may appear white, bluish-white, yellow, or orange."

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