How to see the solar eclipse in June 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

There’s a solar eclipse coming on 10 June when the Moon passes directly between Earth and the Sun. It will be a so-called annular eclipse because the Moon will be near the most distant part of its orbit (apogee), and so not big enough to cover the Sun’s disk completely.

Three phases of a previous annular eclipse, photographed by the writer from Spain in 2005. Image credit: Paul Sutherland/Skymania

From a track covering parts of Canada, Greenland, the Arctic and Russia, the Sun will become a “ring of fire” for a short time at mid-eclipse. Interestingly, this eclipse track crosses the North Pole, which means that for around two and a half minutes, the annular eclipse will happen on every line of longitude and major time zone in the world!

Clearly the annular eclipse will have a limited audience due to the regions it crosses being sparsely inhabited. However, a partial eclipse will be much more widely seen, across north-eastern North America, most of Europe and northern Asia.

The times when you may see the eclipse, and the amount of Sun that will be covered, depend on just where you are located in the world. You can use the Heavens Above website to enter your location and get local timings for the eclipse.

From much of the north-eastern coast of North America, the partial eclipse will be in progress as the Sun rises. This will make a great photo opportunity, especially if you have a flat horizon, such as the sea!

A map showing the track of the annular eclipse, and the regions seeing different percentages of the Sun partially eclipsed. The Moon’s shadow moves from left to right along the track. Image credit: Robin Scagell/The Society for Popular Astronomy

At this point it is important to warn that special precautions must always be taken to observe an eclipse of the Sun. The Sun is bright and can cause serious and permanent eye damage.

Only the moment of totality in a total eclipse may be viewed directly without eye protection – and this is NOT a total eclipse!

In this eclipse, there will never be a time when you can view the phenomenon directly without special eclipse glasses or welder’s goggles. Do not attempt to look without proper protection. Normal sunglasses, sweet wrappers or CDs/DVDs will NOT offer this protection!

If you have a telescope, then it must be fitted with a suitable solar filter over the front of the instrument, where the light enters. Don’t use a filter at the eyepiece end as the heat can crack them, allowing dangerous radiation through that can blind you. Thankfully, such eyepiece filters seem no longer to be supplied.

Animation of an annular eclipse

It used to be advised that you could observe a solar eclipse by pointing your unfiltered telescope, or mounted binoculars, at the Sun and projecting its image onto a piece of card. The problem nowadays is that many cheaper telescopes have plastic eyepieces and interior baffles, and the Sun’s heat can melt the plastic!

Another way to view this eclipse in complete safety is to search online for a stream of the event that can be watched on your computer. This is a method that, of course, will allow anyone, anywhere in the connected world, to watch the annular solar eclipse of 2021.

The UK’s Society for Popular Astronomy has produced a special video advising on how to observe the partial eclipse on 10 June, presented by solar scientist Professor Lucie Green. It is well worth watching, and includes another suggestion for observing the eclipse, using a small pocket mirror to reflect an image onto a wall or card!

The SPA’s excellent video guide to observing the partial eclipse. Credit: The Society for Popular Astronomy

Related: What is an eclipse of the Sun?

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