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The biggest solar eclipse in Britain since 1999 will be even more special than first thought – because the night before there will be a Supermoon. On the morning of March 20th, the moon will cover the sun, blocking out up to 98 percent of its light. But as if this were not impressive enough, the evening before the phenomenon the Earth and Moon will be as close together as they possibly can be, giving rise to a so-called Supermoon. This makes the 2015 Spring Equinox eclipse a supermoon eclipse, which means a supermoon, equinox and eclipse will all fall on the same day. The partial eclipse will be seen across Northern Africa, Europe and Northern Asia. It happens when the moon’s orbit takes it in front of the sun, casting a shadow over the Earth. Between 30 percent and 98 percent of the sun’s light
will be blocked out, depending on location. The further north you move, the greater the percentage of light that will be blocked. England will be treated to a partial eclipse of more than 80 percent of the sun obscured - this rises to more than 90 percent in Scotland. The west coast of the isle of Lewis will see the deepest partial eclipse in the UK, with 98 percent of the sun obscured at around 9:36am. George Ward, the treasurer of Thanet Astronomy Group, told Mirror. Online he was looking forward to the “double event” of the Supermoon and the eclipse. “The Supermoon is well worth looking at,” he said. “It (the Supermoon) is a rarish event and with binoculars you can see impressive details of the moon’s surface that you can’t during a full moon because it’s too bright. “As for solar eclipses they don’t happen that often here - the last one was in 1999.” The 74-year-old, who lives in Margate, added: “The Supermoon and the eclipse together makes it a little bit extra special. “I will be outside with my camera.”
What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse is when the moon covers the sun, blocking its light. It can only happen when the moon moves directly between the sun and Earth and its shadows fall upon Earth’s surface. But this does not necessarily mean that the alignment produces a total solar eclipse – many that happen are only partial and various factors influence its impact.
How often do they happen?
Solar eclipses happen on average 2.4 times a year. Fred Espenak, an American astrophysicist and world-leading scientist on eclipses, explains that the rare phenomenon can be accurately predicted. He said: “Certainly within 100 to 200 years we can predict when an eclipse will occur to within a second, but the pattern of occurrence is a complicated one. “They don’t repeat on a time schedule like the seasons of the year.” If you miss this eclipse you’ll have to wait another 11 years until 12 August 2026. The eclipse in 1999 was the first seen in the UK since 1927.
So what makes this one so special?
In 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011 there were solar eclipses visible from the UK, but they were only partial. This upcoming eclipse is likely to plunge the UK into darkness with Scotland seeing 94 percent of its sun rays being blocked out. It will be the biggest since the last significant eclipse, in 1999. When is it? It will be visible on the morning of March 20th, with the eclipse visible from across Europe for approximately 90 minutes. In London it will begin at 8:45am, hitting its peak at 9:31am.
Where will it take place?
Unlike the 1999 eclipse which was visible along a line including the southern UK, northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg, southern Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary, the March eclipse will appear across far northern regions of Europe and the Artic. The path of total eclipse travels from just below the Greenland peninsula, heading north into the Arctic Circle. The course takes it across the Norwegian island of Svalbard and also the Faero Islands, for a full two minutes and nine seconds of total solar eclipse. These are the only two places which are easy to reach where the full total eclipse can be seen. Although it will be trickier for those on mainland Britain to see the eclipse this doesn’t meant that the sun won’t be partially obscured.