A rare ‘Ring of Fire’ summer solstice solar eclipse passes over the UK this weekend - here’s how to see it

Friday, 19th June 2020, 2:49 pm
Updated Friday, 19th June 2020, 2:59 pm

An annular solar eclipse is set to dazzle stargazers across the Eastern Hemisphere this Sunday, June 21, following the summer solstice.

This type of eclipse will offer spectators a stunning display dubbed the "ring of fire".

The eclipse gained its name from the fact that it is not a total eclipse, but rather, a partial one, where the edges of the Sun appear from behind the Moon.

When and where can I see the Ring of Fire?

In the UK, the spectacle will begin at 5.47am on Sunday, June 21.

The eclipse will peak at 7.40am and end at around 9.32am on Sunday morning.

Where else in the world will the eclipse be visible?

The start of the eclipse will be first seen in Africa at sunrise, before gliding over to China, and ending over the Pacific Ocean at sunset.

The eclipse will only be visible to stargazers in the Eastern Hemisphere meaning everyone in central Africa, the southern Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, Northern India and South Central China have the chance to spot the rare event.

Meanwhile a partial eclipse may be seen over most of South and East Europe, Asia, Africa, northern Australia and parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

How long will the event last?

For spectators, the eclipse will last around a minute and a half as it passes over individual locations.

However, the combined total length of the eclipse’s visibility on Earth will be approximately 3.75 hours. Its peak will only be visible for just over 30 seconds.

At its peak, the Moon will cover roughly 99.4 per cent of the Sun, however this will only occur for a fraction of a second.

Of course, the chances of spotting the eclipse will completely depend on whether the skies will be cloudy or not.

How can I safely watch the eclipse?

To watch the eclipse, you will need to do so using safety measures, as any direct glimpse of the sun is highly dangerous.

So, it is advised that you use eclipse glasses, which can be bought online, in order to protect your eyes.

However, you must ensure your eclipse glasses meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard and conventional sunglasses won’t be able to protect your eyes.

If you can't buy these glasses in time, the American Astronomical Society has revealed how to protect your eyes in another way, known as a ‘pinhole projection’:

“Just cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. Then, with your back to the sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground,”

“The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground. During the partial phases of the solar eclipse, these images will reveal the Sun's crescent shape.”

Another option is to make a pinhole projector following these instructions:

  • Make a tiny hole in the middle of a sheet of paper, using a pin, and ensuring the hole is round and smooth.
  • Turn your back towards the Sun, and hold this paper up slightly above your head, to let the Sun shine onto the paper.
  • Now, with an outstretched arm, hold a brand new, plain white piece of paper in front of you, and in front of the punctured paper. On the second sheet of paper you will see an inverted image of the Sun being projected through the pinhole of the first sheet.
  • If you need to make the image of the Sun bigger, try holding the second sheet of paper further away from the paper with the pinhole.

Dr Alex Young, associate director for science in the heliophysics science division at NASA, said:

"Because the Sun is so incredibly bright, it is still too bright to look at with unprotected eyes.

"You need safe solar viewing glasses or special filters for use with telescopes or binoculars."

Even the smallest amount of direct exposure to the Sun’s brightness can cause irreparable damage to the retina and cause blurry vision or temporary blindness.

How often does a solar eclipse happen?

Dr Young said that Ring of Fire eclipses are very similar to total eclipses, in that the moon moves directly in front of the Sun, as viewed from Earth.

However he further explained the main difference, stating that in a Ring of Fire eclipse the Moon does not completely block out the visible disk of the Sun, because the Moon is farther away and so its apparent size in the sky is smaller than the Sun.”

"This means that a tiny ring of annulus of the solar disk is visible around the Moon."