What to know about Ireland’s near-total eclipse on Friday, 20 March

16 Mar 2015

A partial solar eclipse. Image via T. Ruen

For the first time this millennium, Ireland is to experience a near-total solar eclipse on Friday, 20 March, at 9.28am with a number of events organised across the country to experience the solar event.

As many people may be aware, a solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun’s powerful rays obscuring it for a brief period of time before the moon continues on its orbit of the Earth and returns things to normalcy.

These days, astronomers can predict with pin-point accuracy when a solar eclipse is to occur and in this case, those in Ireland will be able to see for the first time since 1999 a solar eclipse, or at least one that covers approximately 90pc of the sun’s glare.

Once in blue moon

Total eclipses in Ireland are an incredibly rare occurrence with only one occurring in the lifetimes of most people given that the one that occurred in 1999 won’t occur again until at least 2090, and even the next partial solar eclipse won’t be seen in the country until 2026.

However, the rate of obscuration will increase the further north you go in Ireland with the highest percentage likely to be in northwest Donegal at 95.5pc.

For those in the capital, the event kicks off on-the-dot at 8.24am, reaching its peak at 9.28am before petering out at 10.36am.

Meanwhile, at the country’s southern-most point in southwest Kerry, the times will vary slightly with an earlier time of 9.22am for peak solar eclipse.

With Friday’s weather forecast set to be partly cloudy, there’s a good chance that conditions should be fine for those in Ireland to see the partial solar eclipse and in the worse-case scenario, there will be a noticeable darkening of the skies above.

Viewing the solar eclipse

Of course, as should be common sense, you are not advised to look directly at the eclipse with the naked eye, but rather through a specially designed pair of glasses that will be provided at different viewing points around the country organised by different astronomy groups

Alternatively, you can make a pinhole viewer with the help of some cardboard and some sheets of paper, particularly good for keeping the kids entertained with some arts and crafts.

If you’re stuck in the office and not allowed to venture outside, there are even technological solutions with a number of feeds from Dublin, Galway and Armagh expected to go live during the event available from eclipse2015.ie.

List of confirmed viewing locations

Astronomy Ireland’s HQ: Unit H4, Centrepoint, Rosemount Business Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin 11

Republic of Astronomy (Ireland): Papal Cross, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8

Trinity College Dublin (TCD): The college’s front square

Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG, Northern Ireland

Galway Astronomy Club, Toft Park, Salthill, Galway

Midlands Astronomy Club at Athlone Castle, Westmeath

Shannonside Astronomy Club at The Stone Circle Grange, Limerick

DEISE Astronomy Club at Dungarvan Square, Waterford

Irish Astronomical Association at  – Portaballintrae ,Larne, Scrabo Tower and Queens University Belfast.

Cork Astronomy Club at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Castle Road, Blackrock, Cork

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic