Spectacular ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Asia and Africa this weekend as the Moon blocks out over 99 per cent of the Sun’s light
- Spectacle – dubbed annular eclipse – happens when Moon partially blocks Sun
- It is expected to first appear at 4.45am BST in the skies above central Africa
- Britons will be unable to see the flypast but can watch livestreams of the event
A ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse will sail across the sky this weekend as the moon blocks out more than 99 per cent of the Sun’s light.
The spectacle – dubbed an annular eclipse – will be visible from parts of Asia, Africa and south-east Europe between 4.45am and 10.34am BST on Sunday 21 June, reaching its maximum at 7.40am BST.
Although Britons will be unable to witness the display from their gardens, keen astronomers can tune into the Virtual Telescope Project’s livestream to view the celestial spectacle from observatories across the world.
The eclipse will begin across central Africa on Sunday 21 June and move across the Earth, before exiting over China and the Pacific Ocean. It will also be visible in Australasia
The last annular solar eclipse took place in December last year, shown above. The stunning display has not been visible in the UK since 2003
Annular eclipses happen when the Sun, Moon and Earth align while the Moon is at the furthest point from Earth in its orbit – around 252,088 miles away, or 32 Earths, according to NASA.
The increased distance means the Moon is unable to block the entire view of the Sun, causing a Tolkein-esque burning ring to appear in the sky.
This differs from a total eclipse, when the close proximity of the Moon to the Earth blocks the view of the Sun entirely.
The Moon orbits our planet at an average distance of 238,855 miles, or 30 Earths. At its closest point, the Moon is 225,623 miles away, less than 29 Earths.
Annular eclipses happen every five to six months, with the last happening in December last year. It was visible in parts of Africa, Asia and Australasia.
The eclipse happens when the Sun, Earth and Moon align when the Moon is at its furthest point from Earth in its orbit – around 252,088 miles away or 32 Earths
Astronomers have warned viewers not to look at the eclipse directly unless they have something to protect their eyes. Pictured are students watching an eclipse in Kerala, India
Geophysicist Alexander Alin, who observed the eclipse in 2019, told Science Alert: ‘It’s only two minutes, but it’s so intense that you talk about it with your friends and family for the next month.’
The last time this spectacle was visible in the UK was May 2003, when it appeared over the coast of north-west Scotland.
Britons are expected to be able to see another annular eclipse on 10 June 2021, when the spectacle will be visible across the country, but clearest in Scotland.
What is an annular eclipse and how does the stunning display happen?
Diagram of an annular eclipse
The spectacular eclipse is when a ‘burning ring’ appears in the Earth’s sky.
It happens when the Earth, Sun and Moon align as the Moon is at the furthest point away from Earth in its orbit.
This means it is unable to fully obscure the Sun, causing a ‘burning ring’ to appear in the sky.
This is shown in part B of the diagram on the left.
The fascinating light display happens every six months or so, but has not been visible from the UK since 2003.
The next time Britons will be able to see it will be on 10 June 2021, when it will be visible across the whole country.
Images from the annular eclipse in November 2013 were chosen as NASA’s astronomy picture of the day on Monday, ahead of this week’s event.
The spectacle was visible from parts of North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
Scientists have warned people not to look directly at solar eclipses, as the Sun’s rays could damage your eyes.
When will the annular solar eclipse be visible?
The spectacular eclipse will begin in central Africa before travelling across the bottom of Arabia, top of India and through southern China.
The display will be visible in each location at different times, before it disappears.
Time of first appearance: Expected over Africa at 4.45am WAT (4.45am BST)
Time for full eclipse to begin: Expected over Africa and south-east Europe around 5.47am WAT (5.47am BST).
Maximum eclipse: The eclipse will reach its maximum at 7.40am BST.
Last location to see full eclipse: Expected over southern China at 4.32pm CST (9.32 BST)
Last location to see partial eclipse: Also over southern China, at around 5.34pm CST (10.34am BST)