Solar eclipse to sweep across Americas, Europe, Africa
BY MARK ARMSTRONG
Posted: 1 November 2013
You can experience a rare partial solar eclipse in the eastern United States and southern Europe this Sunday, and the eclipse is spectacularly total in Africa.
The whole of Africa is favoured too, excepting the far southern reaches of South Africa (including Cape Town), along with northern South America. This eclipse will also be total along a narrow track across Africa, two hours after the partial event in America as the Moon's shadow sweeps east.
Partial eclipse in America
For observers in the eastern United States, the circumstances are not ideal but at least something of the eclipse can be seen given clear skies, and it will be well worth rising early to view it. Your observing site looking at the east-northeast horizon will need to be completely free of natural or man-made obstructions, including even distant buildings, hills or mountains.
When viewing any solar eclipse, safety is of paramount importance whether you are viewing with or without optical aid. Never look directly at the Sun at anytime with the naked-eye, and any binoculars, telescopes and cameras must be fitted with reputable and appropriate filters placed in front of the main optics. Sunglasses are totally unsuitable!
If the unfiltered Sun enters your field of view by mistake, then the magnified heat and light could do irreparable damage to your eyes. By far the safest method to view any eclipse is by projection; any telescope or pair of binoculars can be used, with the solar disk being projected onto a piece of white card or paper. Even simpler is to use a pinhole; make a 3mm or so hole into a sheet of card or paper and use this to project the solar image onto another similar piece, which then can be viewed directly and safely.
Viewing from Europe
In Europe, the Sun is well up by the time the partial eclipse starts, but the eclipse magnitude is less than in America. The whole of Spain can see the eclipse with a bigger bite being taken out of the Sun the further south you are. From Malaga, the eclipse starts at 12.47pm Central European Time (CET) with the Sun over 35 degrees up, with maximum eclipse occurring at 1.36pm when 14 percent of the Sun is obscured. The eclipse ends at 2.24pm CET.
Partial and total eclipse in Africa
Almost the whole of Africa will see a partial solar eclipse and there is a total eclipse to enjoy, too. This is a very rare hybrid or annular/total solar eclipse, the only one of the decade. The very beginning of the total eclipse see the Moon's shadow touch down in the North Atlantic 1000km from Jacksonville, Florida. At the central line, there is a four-second annular eclipse visible; it's not total at this point due to the curvature of Earth's surface not bringing the Moon's umbral into contact with the Earth, rather the antumbral shadow.
Within 15 seconds of the shadow touching down the eclipse becomes total for the rest of the central track, with the Moon's umbral shadow in contact with the Earth's surface all the way. Greatest eclipse is in the Atlantic 330 kilometres southwest of Liberia, Africa at 12.47 UT, with one minute and 39 seconds of totality. The shadow's track reaches landfall in Gabon, central Africa at 13.51 UT (2.51pm local time), where totality lasts about a minute. Totality decreases as the shadow sweeps eastwards through Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (35 seconds to 18 seconds), Uganda and Kenya, southern Ethiopia and finally Somalia.
See a marvellous interactive map of the extent and circumstances of the eclipse around the world.
Go to NASA's eclipse website for all you need to know on eclipses.
The Universe under one roof. European AstroFest returns to London on February 7 & 8, 2014. The UK's favourite astronomy conference and exhibition. Visit the official website site for more details.
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