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Tags:   Science

By The Swag Team   -  March 20, 2015

   Science malta,  All you need to know about Friday's Solar eclipse malta,  malta, Swag Mens Online Magazine Malta

Photo credit:  www.nasa.gov

The Sun will be partly eclipsed by the moon on Friday morning so SWAG asked Astronomy Society president Alexei Pace for details on what will happen and how to go about experiencing this rare phenomenon. It's best to make the best of today's phenomenon - the next one won't be seen from Malta for over 10 years - although one might also want to put the year 2088 in their diary...


As Alexei explains, today, the thin strip of dark shadow which the Moon casts onto the Earth, which is called the path of totality, will cross the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, ending at the North Pole. Therefore we will only see a partial eclipse here. The total eclipse will have a maximum duration of nearly three minutes.  Along this route the Sun will appear black as the Moon will cover it completely. The partial eclipse will be visible throughout a much larger area covering most of Europe as well as parts of North Africa, the Middle East and Russia.

Please tell is more about how much of Friday's solar eclipse will be seen from Malta...


As seen from Malta the silhouetted outline of the Moon will cover a maximum of 49% (i.e. around half) of the Sun’s diameter.  Following what we call ‘first contact’ i.e. when the eclipse starts, the Moon will appear to advance across the surface of the Sun over the course of the following 2 ¼ hours.  This is just a coincidence however, as of course the Moon and the Sun are 150 million kilometres away from each other.  We only happen to see solar eclipses since at that distance the Sun appears more or less the same size as the Moon.


What time will it happen?


The Moon will first touch the edge of the Sun (what is known as “first contact”) at 9:21am with the maximum coverage at 10:25am. The eclipse, as seen from Malta, will end on last contact at 11:33am.



How should one look at the eclipse? What's the safest way?


The importance of safe viewing is worth emphasising. My favourite method, which everyone can do, is to use a pasta colander!  Take an ordinary kitchen colander and stand WITH YOUR BACK TO THE SUN, holding it in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. The holes in the colander can be used to project multiple small eclipse images onto the paper. Do this at different times between 9.30am and 11.30am and you will see the images take a different shape as the Moon moves across the Sun’s surface.


Another safe way to view this eclipse is to watch the Sun’s image projected onto a piece of paper. Poke a small hole in a card with a pencil point and hold a second card a metre or so behind it. The hole will project an inverted image of the Sun’s disk onto the lower card. The image will be seen to undergo all the phases of the eclipse just like the Sun in the sky. A large hole makes the image bright but fuzzy; a smaller hole makes the image dim but sharp.


A telescope or binoculars can project a much larger, brighter, and sharper image of the Sun onto paper, but make sure not to look at the Sun through the instrument. Intense radiation from the Sun gets focused onto the retina in our eyes and can cause permanent eye damage, including loss of sight. As there are no pain receptors in the retina one feels no pain whilst the Sun is burning its way through.


What type of equipment can be used to be able to look at the eclipse directly?


There are various brands of ‘eclipse glasses’ which make use of safe solar filter material. These are fine to use briefly during an eclipse. One should make sure that such products are CE marked.


Where are the best places to watch the eclipse from?


The advantage of a partial solar eclipse, such as this one, is that is can be seen from a very large area – whole countries. So there is no ‘best’ place from where to watch the eclipse – just choose a sunny area!


What's the weather forecast like? Are you expecting a great morning of solar observation?


The weather forecast looks like we will manage to see the eclipse although the skies will be partly cloudy at times – so we hope for the best. There is not much one can do about the weather!


When will the next one be?


Solar eclipses from any one particular location do not occur frequently as the path of totality is so narrow. This is the thin strip of shadow which the Moon casts onto the Earth. There will be other solar eclipses visible from Malta but the most spectacular ones will happen in 2027 and 2030. Sadly for a total solar eclipse we shall have to wait until April 2088! During that eclipse, Malta will be the best place in the world from where to view the eclipse in its full glory.


Tell us a bit about the society, its activities and how people can join.



The Astronomical Society of Malta was formed in 1984 and its main aim is to promote and propagate education and interest in the science of astronomy. We organize regular talks on all aspects of astronomy, but especially on the observational aspect, that is how one may use just his eyes, binoculars or a telescope to observe the sky at night. Anyone with an interest in the night sky is invited to become a member, full details are available on our website www.maltastro.org. We also have a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/maltastro/?fref=nf






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