Type:Annular, which means it would have been a total eclipse except either the Moon is slightly too far away or the Sun's slightly too close, which leaves a thin ring of fire visible at the point of maximum eclipse. Why annular? The Moon's just past apogee, which means it's near the most distant point of its orbit, that's 250,000 miles away rather than the average 240,000. Path: From northern Canada across the western edge of Greenland through the Arctic Circle to the Siberian coast, scoring a (rare) direct hit on the North Pole. Maximum: The eclipse peaks off Greenland at 11:43 BST, with 89% of the sun's disc covered. But: You won't be seeing a ring of fire. Europe sees nothing better than a partial eclipse, which by the time you get as far as the UK mainland is down to 38% coverage. The further south and east you go the less of a bite you'll see, so in Manchester it's 25%, London 20% and Paris more like 13%. Useful links:onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight When: Here in London the eclipse starts at 10:08 BST and ends at 12:22 BST, peaking at 11:13 BST. What will you see? Nothing, unless you deliberately look, which you shouldn't do with the naked eye. 20% coverage isn't anywhere near enough to dim natural light noticeably (even at 80% you'd never notice unless you knew it was happening). What will you see? I have eclipse glasses leftover from the 1999 event and they're excellent, so through those I hope to see a sliver of sun missing from the top of the disc. What will you see? In reality it all depends on cloud cover. Typically after several consecutive sunny days Thursday morning is due to be overcast, so our best hope may be occasional glimpses (or we may be much luckier, or we may see absolutely nothing at all). What did I see? A cloudy morning with intermittent gaps proved sufficient to be able to watch the partial eclipse partially. I was fortunate that the longest clear slot fell either side of the maximum. The moon nudged in from the right, inexorably, until the Sun appeared to have two small horns. My eclipse glasses worked perfectly but only while the Sun was bright enough to cast shadows, not during lengthier interface moments. Just occasionally a patch of thickish cloud cover proved sufficient for displaying the Sun's silhouette direct, as captured here on my phone. And very gradually the moon edged away, a tinier bite each time I looked, and then it was gone.
Here in London it's not one of the great solar eclipses. 20% coverage is a bit lowly, although it is better than the next solar eclipse on 25th October 2022 (15%) and a lot better than the last solar eclipse om 21st August 2017 (4%). It'll do, while we wait for a big one.
The next bigger eclipse will be on 29th March 2025 (31%) and the next really big eclipse will be on 12th August 2026. That'll be 91% covered in London, which is the greatest extent since 1999 and won't be exceeded until 2081, so for most Londoners the last significant eclipse of their lifetime. Plymouth'll do even better with 95% and the Scillies 96%, but if you can get to Reykjavik or northern Spain you could see the magic 100%. Don't leave it too late to sort your travel plans.
I've already written a post about how rare total solar eclipses are, and how London is due to see only three over the next millennium. But even bog standard partial eclipses don't crop up terribly often, or for terribly long, so every one is an astronomical opportunity to be seized.
I've checkedback through solar eclipses visible in southeast England and today's is only the 22nd of my lifetime. Worse than that I reckon it's only the 11th I'll actually have seen, given that I was too young for some or unavoidably indoors or clouded out. I saw most of mine between 1984 and 2008, indeed there have only been three since, only one of which I managed to watch. Solar eclipses are nothing if not a highly irregular phenomenon.
Solar eclipses in London, 1900-2099 (coverage over 80% in red)
A single point on the Earth normally sees about forty solar eclipses per century, which averages out to four per decade. But some decades see a lot, for example the 1920s when London saw seven, and some see very few, for example the 2040s when there'll only be one. Alas the last four decades have all been average or below, which is one reason I haven't seen a lot of solar eclipses during my lifetime. And brilliantly the next two decades are making up for lost time.
• Thu 10 June 2021 (11:13 BST) 20%
• Tue 25 October 2022 (10:59 BST) 15%
• Sat 29 March 2025 (11:03 GMT) 31%
• Wed 12 August 2026 (19:13 BST) 91%
• Mon 2 August 2027 (10:00 BST) 42%
• Wed 26 January 2028 (16:34 GMT) 51%
• Sat 1 June 2030 (06:21 BST) 48%
• Thu 21 Aug 2036 (19:07 BST) 60%
• Fri 16 January 2037 (09:06 GMT) 46%
• Tue 5 January 2038 (14:34 GMT) 5%
• Fri July 2038 (15:03 BST) 8%
• Tue 21 June 2039 (19:35 BST) 63%
London's due twelve solar eclipses during the next eighteen years, which is more than we've had during the last thirty-five. Admittedly some of them are a bit feeble and those in January rarely impress, but that's generally the case anyway. Plenty will be of a good size, especially in the 2030s, plus there's that absolute cracker in 2026. But notice that six year gap between 2030 and 2036, and indeed this bumper sequence is followed by a nine year gap between 2039 and 2048. The table above confirms there was actually a ten year gap between May 1984 and May 1994. Wherever you are in the world there are droughts and gluts.
England's golden era for solar eclipses will be the 2080s and 2090s when not only are there several but three are highly significant. 2081's is total in the Channel Islands, 2090 is total along most of the south coast and 2093 is annular across Glasgow and Newcastle. What a time to be alive... except most of us won't be so we'll have to make do with the eclipses closer at hand. Watch the skies this morning, assuming you can do so safely, and assuming you can.