When to watch the rare solar eclipse – and why you should never look directly at the sun

On Thursday morning the UK is due an annual solar eclipse that will see the Moon block out a third of the Sun.

Stargazers can expect to see a ‘ring of fire’ floating in the sky throughout the morning of the 10 June, starting at around 10.08am until roughly 12.22pm.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are directly in line with Earth, causing the Moon to cover the centre of the Sun, leaving the Sun’s blazing outer edges to show around the shadow of the Moon.

This kind of eclipse happens roughly twice a year and should be visible across the northern hemisphere.

Can you look directly at the sun?

The eclipse will only be visible in the UK if the viewer uses certain special techniques.

Obviously it is not wise to look directly at the sun with the naked eye, even if you have sunglasses on.

Skygazers are also discouraged from using binoculars to try and see the astrological phenomenon, as are those planning on using a telephoto lens on an SLR camera as this can cause damage to the eyes.

Looking at the sun during a solar eclipse can cause ‘eclipse blindness’ or retinal burns. This happens when exposure to the bright light causes damage and even destroys the cells on the retina at the back of the eye.

This damage can be permanent or temporary but it often takes a few hours to realise the problem once the eye has been exposed to the light.

Symptoms of damage include:

Loss of central vision (solar retinopathy)
Distorted vision
Altered color vision
It is important to contact an eye specialist should you encounter any of these symptoms after looking at the eclipse.

How to see the eclipse

You can buy eclipse glasses online, however there are some other DIY ways to watch the eclipse.

It is possible to create a homemade projector – or a pinhole projector – with which to watch the eclipse. This is a fun and simple activity that anyone can do, and is a great experiment for children.

You can make a pinhole projector to watch the eclipse by poking a hole in a piece of card.

Once you’ve done this, position the gap in the card over the Sun so that the light shines through the card onto the surface below.

From this point you can watch the shape of the Sun shift and change as the Moon moves across its path.

You can also watch the eclipse through welder’s glass, which can be found in local welding supply stores and works by filtering out harmful rays. Don’t use the glass if it is scratched or damaged in any way.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich will be live-streaming the event on its website and YouTube for those that want a clear and easy sighting of the event.