How to watch the solar eclipse safely

During Friday's partial solar eclipse the moon will cover a large portion of the sun but how can you and your children see it safely?

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On Friday morning from around 8.25am the moon will pass between the earth and the sun and will make the world a little bit darker than usual. 

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Why it’s so important not to look directly at the sun

The sun is a big ball of burning fire and looking at it directly can be very harmful, especially for young children because it can burn the retina – the light-sensitive layer of tissue inside your eyes.

Sunglasses will not protect you, so if you want to watch the eclipse you must do it safely – by not looking at it directly. 

Your child’s eyes are especially at risk. “Children’s eyes are clearer and more likely to let more light in and usually the pupil size is larger as well, so more light’s getting focused through a child’s eye and potentially they’re not likely to be so aware of the risks,” warns Malcolm McPherson of the College of Optometrists.

How to see the eclipse

Eclipse sunglasses

Eclipse sunglasses allow you to look at the sun and look like a 1980s superhero at the same time. But they are expensive and hard to get hold of, expect to pay around £16 for a pair. And remember that any eclipse glasses you buy must be CE approved. Don’t buy cheap versions – they won’t protect your eyes.

Mirror

Make a small hole (5mm max) in a piece of paper or card and use it to cover a mirror. Angle the mirror so that it catches the sunlight and reflects onto a wall – you should be able to capture a sharp image of the eclipse to project. if you’re walking to school or nursery this morning, this is something you can make and have in your pocket. 

Bucket of water

This is the most simple way to see the eclipse and the way that school science departments use because it is totally safe. Just fill a bucket with water and look at the reflection!

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Ways to watch the solar eclipse

Watching an eclipse is an exciting and magical event for children, especially as you’re likely to be walking to school when it starts. If you’re out with your baby or pre-schooler or walking to school with your children you must stress that they must not look at the sun. 

The eclipse will last for over two hours, so it’s likely that they’ll be able to view it safely when they get to school. Many schools will make sure they don’t let children go out while the eclipse is happening.

Don’t take an eclipse selfie!

Even trying to take a photo of the eclipsed sun with your phone could put you at risk of blindness. This is because you might look directly at the sun as you try to position yourself.

Even a brief glimpse of the sun could burn the back of your eye. 

What will it look like?

In some places in northern Europe, like Norway, the sun will be totally hidden by the sun making it almost like night.

In the UK we’ll only experience a partial eclipse – in Scotland around 95% of the sun will be hidden, in Leeds around 90% and in London the moon will hide 85%;

it will look like the moon has taken a big bite out of that burning ball of fire in the sky. Not long after 10.30am things will return to normal (phew) and the world will be bright and cheery again. (Well, as long as the sun is out and not hidden behind a wall of grey cloud!)

Let’s hope it’s a clear morning. It will be 11 years before there’s another solar eclipse in the UK.  

Things to do this weekend…

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