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The Sun
Partial solar eclipse

It’s a solar eclipse!

19 March 2015
Get ready for a very rare and exciting event this Friday — a solar eclipse!

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon moves between Earth and the Sun. When this happens, the Moon gradually blocks out the light from the Sun. If the Sun and Moon line up perfectly in the sky, we call it a total solar eclipse. The daytime sky becomes darker, until it feels just like night — you can even see the stars!

Seeing a total solar eclipse is very rare. Most people see just one in their lifetime. And really, we’re very lucky to see them at all.

A solar eclipse is only possible because of a very lucky coincidence. Although the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, it’s also 400 times closer to Earth. This means the Moon and the Sun appear exactly the same size in our sky!

So, when the Moon lines up perfectly in front of the Sun it blocks out all the Sun’s light. Looking towards the Sun we see a black circle, often described as a ‘hole in the sky’, surrounded by a ring of white light. (The white light is the Sun’s atmosphere, called the Corona.)

Imagine using your hand to block the sunlight from your eyes. The Sun is much bigger than your hand, but your hand is much closer to you so you can block all the light easily!

However, your hand won’t block the Sun’s light from your neighbour’s eyes. This is why a solar eclipse cannot be seen from all over the world at the same time. To find out if you can see the eclipse on Friday from your home, visit: tinyurl.com/eclipse-March.

If you are lucky enough to see the solar eclipse on Friday, remember that you should never look directly at the Sun - even with sunglasses, as it will damage your eyes.

But don’t worry, there are still ways you can watch the eclipse. Ask your parents to help you build a pinhole viewer, try to find some special eclipse glasses or you can even make an eclipse viewer from a colander. Find out how at tinyurl.com/eclipse-safety.

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