A quick guide to viewing the March 9 solar eclipse
Singaporeans will get the chance to lay their eyes on (actually, please don't do it literally) a celestial event when a partial solar eclipse occurs over our skies on Wednesday (March 9) morning.
The rare phenomenon will occur just after sunrise and up to 87 per cent of the sun will be covered by the moon.
If you're keen on getting in on the action, here's a quick and handy little guide to get you ready.
WHEN WILL THE ECLIPSE TAKE PLACE?
The eclipse is expected to take place on Wednesday (March 9) morning at around 7.20am, approximately 10 minutes after the sun rises.
The height of the phenomenon is expected to peak around one hour later at around 8.23am, with the moon blocking out a maximum of 87 per cent of the sun before ending at around 9.33am.
Norway-based website timeanddate.com has come up with a nifty little interactive graphic to demonstrate what will happen.
ER... SORRY, BUT WHAT'S AN ECLIPSE?
Huh? Now then ask this question?
Anyway, for the benefit of those who haven't quite figured it out by now, an eclipse occurs when the light from an illuminating celestial body (ie the sun or moon) is blocked by another body.
An eclipse of the sun, or a solar eclipse like the one happening on Wednesday, happens when the moon comes between the sun and the earth.
In the case of a lunar eclipse, it is our planet that comes between the sun and the moon – which shines by reflecting light from the sun.
WAH, SO EXCITING... CAN I USE MY SUNGLASSES TO LOOK AT THE ECLIPSE THEN?
ST PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
No... just, no.
While it is perfectly fine to stare directly at the moon whether there is an eclipse on or not, it is NOT OKAY to look directly at the sun no matter how much of it is covered.
Although part of the sun will be blocked out by the moon during the eclipse, the ultraviolet and infrared rays that make it through are just as intense and can damage your eyes.
Sunglasses, whether polarised or not, are incapable of protecting your retinas from harmful light.
And since we're on the topic, here are a few more unsafe methods that you SHOULD NOT use to view the eclipse with:
- solar film used in cars and household windows
- tinted glass
- photographic negatives
- X-ray film
- CDs or DVDs
- photographic filters
- via a reflection from a bowl of water or mirror
While your retinas do not have any nerves and won't register any pain, direct exposure to light from the sun will damage them and inflict permanent eye damage.
Similarly, cameras that are not equipped to handle direct sunlight should not be used to photograph or video the eclipse – unless you're looking for an excuse to buy a new camera.
HMM... THEN HOW TO SEE?
One way to directly look at the sun without going blind is to use a solar filter.
However, if you don't have ready access to such materials or devices, you can whip up a simple pinhole camera to cast a small projection of the eclipse using two pieces of card and some everyday household items.
Alternatively, you can head down to the following places tomorrow and join other astronomy enthusiasts in catching the eclipse:
- The Singapore Science Centre will be handing out free solar glasses to visitors (while stocks last) while streaming a live broadcast of the total solar eclipse from Micronesia
- The National University of Singapore
- The Red Beacon area of Labrador Park, where the Astronomical Society of Singapore will be setting solar-filtered telescopes
I DON'T WANT TO WAKE UP SO EARLY LEH... WHEN'S THE NEXT ONE?
You're going to have to wait three years – the next eclipse is predicted to take place on Dec 26, 2019.
According to timeanddate.com, however, it should take place at a more sleep-in-friendly 1.22pm.
Moreover, it will be a fuller, albeit annular, eclipse of the sun.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent size looks smaller than the sun even though the two bodies are completely in line with earth.