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19th March 2015 Comments Off on Watching the First Solar Eclipse of the 21st Century Views: 2117 Simple Lighting Blog

Watching the First Solar Eclipse of the 21st Century

On Friday, the first solar eclipse of the 21st Century will hit the UK between 9:20am and 9:40am depending on where you are in the country. When the last solar eclipse hit, back in 1999, the excitement could be felt across the country. Two hundred people paid £1.5k for a seat on one of two Concorde jets that made a supersonic chase of the eclipse above the clouds.

Passengers on the 1999 £1.5k eclipse Concord flight

Passengers on the 1999 £1.5k eclipse Concord flight

Hundreds of people gathered on beaches on beaches in Cornwall to experience the total eclipse which was broadcast live across the UK when it happened. Sir Patrick Moore explained a lot of the facts and said “there is nothing in nature to match the glory of a total eclipse of the Sun.”

People gathering at Lands End, Cornwall in 1999 for the Eclipse.

People gathering at Lands End, Cornwall in 1999 for the Eclipse.

If you’re planning on viewing the eclipse, it’s unlikely to be as dramatic as the total solar eclipse of 1999, however, you should never look directly at the sun as this can permanently damage your sight.

If you want to view the solar eclipse, and provided the sky doesn’t look like this on the day:


There are a few things you can do to ensure you view it safely. The safest, and easiest way would be to manufacture a pinhole camera.

Pinhole Camera

Pinhole Camera

A pinhole camera is a very simple device to make and you only need a few, easily sourced parts.

You’ll need:

  • A long cardboard box. The longer the box, the bigger the image of the sun will be.
  • Scissors
  • Duct Tape
  • Tin Foil
  • A pin
  • A sharp knife
  • A sheet of white paper

Making the Pinhole Camera

  1. Cut a rectangular hole at one end of the cardboard box
  2. Cut an equally sized rectangular piece of tin foil, keep it as un-crinkled as possible.
  3. Tape the foil over the hole you cut out of the box
  4. Use the pin to poke a hole in the centre of the foil
  5. Tape the sheet of white paper at the other end of the cardboard box, this will be the screen the image of the sun will be projected onto.
  6. Do not look directly at the sun, even with sun glasses on. Sunglasses reduce glare but will not stop the sunlight from damaging your eyes if you look directly at it.
  7. Hold the box with the tin foil end facing towards the sun. Once you’ve lined it up correctly (this might take a while to get right) you will see a white dot on the paper screen. This isn’t the sun’s light, this is an image of the sun being projected onto the screen.

A more elaborate pinhole camera (using a mirror) will create an image like this:


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