What to expect from the partial solar eclipse in Irish skies

9 Jun 2021

Annular solar eclipse in Malaysia in 2019. Image: © Harris/Stock.adobe.com

A partial solar eclipse will soon be visible in Irish skies – but what is this event and how can you safely watch it?

Ireland will experience a partial solar eclipse tomorrow (10 June), when the shadow of the moon will cover almost a third of the sun.

The event will begin at around 10am Irish time and will be visible until just after midday as the moon passes in front of the sun.

What is a partial solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse is a relatively rare event that occurs when the moon completely obscures the sun.

Any given point on the Earth is only likely to experience this once every 375 years, on average. For example, the last total eclipse in Ireland occurred in 1724 and the next one is not due until 2090.

While totality is not very common, partial solar eclipses are a more frequent occurrence.

Tomorrow, people across the northern hemisphere will have the chance to experience an annular eclipse or partial eclipse of the sun.

Specific places in Russia, Greenland and Canada will experience the annular eclipse, when the sun and moon are aligned but a bright ‘ring of fire’ is visible around the silhouette of the moon.

However most people, including those of us in Ireland, will experience a partial eclipse, where the moon simply looks like it is taking a bite out of the sun.

The last partial solar eclipse visible from Ireland was in August 2017, but tomorrow’s event will see a greater portion of the sun covered by the moon than four years ago.

How can you safely watch the solar eclipse?

While the exact timing of the partial solar eclipse will depend on your location, it will begin at 10:01am in Dublin and continue until 12:21pm, with the maximum point at 11:08am.

The event will be most pronounced in the north-west of the country – weather permitting.

The most important thing to remember is that you should never look directly at the sun without specialist equipment as it can cause permanent eye damage.

To see the event with your own eyes, you will need specially approved solar eclipse glasses (not just sunglasses) that reduce sunlight to safe levels.

Alternatively, you can make your own pinhole projector or even use a kitchen colander to safely project an image of the sun onto a sheet of paper or the ground.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse from the comfort of your own home, NASA will be livestreaming a view of the event over northern Canada.

You can also join a livestream from I-Lofar and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) to watch from two locations in Ireland.

Researchers will be at Birr Castle Demense in Offaly and the DIAS Dunsink Observatory in Dublin, and there will be solar telescopes with cameras set up at both locations to capture a close-up of the sun.

Solar physics researchers Peter Gallagher and Aoife Maria Ryan will explain to viewers what’s happening and why it’s important.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic