A SOLAR eclipse will draw thousands of visitors to Scotland later this week with the UK’s best views of the phenomenon found north of the Border.
It is expected that the eclipse will block out the Sun’s light over Scotland from around 9:30am on Friday and will last for about three minutes.
The next partial solar eclipse is not for another ten years and the next total solar eclipse observable from the UK will occur in 2090.
Met Office forecasters believe Scotland will be largely clear, but Glasgow and parts of north-west Scotland may still be clouded over.
In Edinburgh, stargazers have the chance to see the phenomenon outside the Scottish Parliament where an event is planned in partnership with the Astronomy Society of Edinburgh.
Hundreds of pairs of special eclipse glasses will be distributed to members of the public outside Holyrood to watch the event.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions on the Royal Mile is also offering a vantage point with a special early opening.
The attraction, which usually opens at 10am, will start welcoming visitors from 8:30am.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to observe the eclipse on the Camera Obscura viewing table, which it is believed was invented more than two millennia ago for safely observing solar eclipses.
It is expected that the eclipse will block out 94 per cent of the Sun’s light over Edinburgh.
Further north, Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides are in line for a tourism boost as stargazers flock north.
Astronomers predict that Shetland will see up to 98 per cent of the Sun obscured by the moon, with Skye and Orkney at around 97 per cent.
The Isle of Lewis close to Aird Uig is expected to be the best place in Scotland to view the eclipse while Sumburgh lighthouse, at the southern tip of the Shetlands, will be live-streaming images of the cosmic event. On the mainland Aberdeen is thought to be the best place to watch it – Torry Battery is recommended for its views of the harbour and North Sea.
Further south at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory at Dalmellington in Ayrshire, a special event will be held at 8am, where visitors will be able to view the eclipse through a special solar scope.
Also, Coats Observatory in Paisley will have an eclipse viewing from 8:30am to 11am.
John Brown, astronomer royal for Scotland, is encouraging everyone to get out to witness the event but has warned against viewing it with the naked eye.
He said: “This solar eclipse will be awe inspiring, as the Sun will almost disappear and it will look very dramatic.
“However, people do some very daft things like looking at the sun with their bare eyes, or even worse with a set of binoculars – one easy way to burn your eye out.”
For those unable to get their hands on a pair of special eclipse glasses, Professor Brown suggests projecting the Sun using a pinhole in a piece of card or through a set of binoculars onto a white sheet.
The UK last experienced a total eclipse of the sun in August 1999. In 2000, the journal of the Royal College of Opthalmologists published a study detailing the health effects of the 1999 event.
It found that approximately 70 people reported a loss of vision, with half of that total reporting issues within 48 hours.
Of those more than half used no eye protection and 30 per cent used some kind of filter, such as sunglasses, which did not have the desired protective effect – 40 per cent of those that reported injury had looked at the eclipse for less than a minute.
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