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Solar Eclipse: Safety Warning Issued by Experts as the UK Gets Set for Darkness

17th March 2015

It will be the most spectacular celestial show of its kind for 16 years and won’t happen again for a decade. Due to take place this Friday, March 20tha near-total solar eclipse will occur in the skies above Britain, prompting warnings about the dangers of watching the spectacle without taking precautions.

The eclipse is expected to begin around 8.30am on Friday and last for two hours as the moon moves in front of the Sun. The proportion of the Sun covered by the moon will increase the further north you happen to be. So for instance if you are in London, you can expect to see 84% of the sun covered, while in Edinburgh the figure is 93%.

Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists’ clinical specialist said: "We just want to make sure people experience the eclipse safely, without putting their sight, many people’s most precious sense, at risk.” She went on to advise: "You should never look directly at the sun and that applies when there’s a total or partial eclipse as well. This is because the radiation emitted by the sun is so powerful it may cause a solar burn of the retina.”

Further Tips include:

Don’t -

• look directly at the sun. Even sunglasses won’t help – they don’t offer enough protection

• watch it directly through any of the following: telescope, binoculars, camera or camera-phone. You are still at risk of eye damage.

Do -

• use a pinhole projection method. This involves putting a hole in a piece of cardboard, and holding the cardboard up – with your back to the sun – so that an image of the sun is projected onto another piece of paper or card. This works well using a cardboard box, and will allow you to see the progress of the eclipse without damaging your eyes

• use glasses made with a specially designed solar filter (bearing the legal CE mark) if you view the eclipse directly.

The last solar eclipse of such significance took place in August 1999, when a total eclipse occurred.

As this eclipse is expected during one of the busiest periods of the day, drivers are also urged to be more cautious than usual. A Highways Agency spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority. As always, we advise road users to drive carefully, adjusting their driving according to weather and road conditions and during the eclipse we’d ask them to do the same.”