20 Mar 2015

Solar eclipse: spectacular views across UK and Europe

The UK and other parts of northern Europe witness the first significant solar eclipse since 1999.

Thousands of people across the UK witnessed the morning’s eclipse, although bad weather left some disappointed.

In all parts of the country, the eclipse reached at least 83 per cent coverage, with the darkness peaking at around 9.35am.

The sky over the Faroe islands darkened dramatically as the moon blocked out the sun in the first solar eclipse in the region for 60 years

About 2,000 people made their way to Svalbard, in the Arctic circle, to witness the event. People cheered and clapped as eclipse unfolded, with the sun obscured for two and a half minutes (see video above).

Read more: the solar eclipse and how you can view it

Eclipse of the heart

Twitter was dominated by the eclipse, with seven of the top 10 trending terms in Germany realted to the sun and moon.

Welsh-born singer bonnie Tyler started trending worldwide with her 1983 ballad, Total Eclipse of the Heart. Many Twitter users also posted with the hashtag #turnaroundbrighteyes, a reference to the song’s lyrics.

Those disappointed by this morning’s weather included the Duke of York, whose official Twitter account posted a picture showing a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses with the message “Not seeing much of the Solar Eclipse from Buckingham Palace!”

Others took to social media, with the hashtag #anticlimax trending in the UK.

Break in the cloud

Ahead of the eclipse, a Met Office spokeswoman said: “Forecasting exactly where cloud will break and re-form is really not scientifically possible.

“But it’s not as thick in the south as further north, so you’re more likely to see breaks in the cloud the further south you are.”

It is not unknown for a fleeting break in cloud to occur during an eclipse as the atmosphere cools.

The event curbed solar power production in Europe, posing a challenge to electricity grids.

Read more: will cloudy skies spoil the solar eclipse?
Eclipse schoolchildren (Reuters)

Schoolchildren in protective glasses outside London’s Greenwich Observatory (Reuters)

Varying times

Around the UK the proportion of the sun covered by the moon increased towards the north, ranging from 84 per cent in London to 89 per cent in Manchester, 93 per cent in Edinburgh, and 97 per cent in Lerwick in the Shetland Isles.

Times varied. In London, where eclipse visibility was disappointing, the event began at 8.24am, reached its maximum extent at 9.31am, and ended at 10.41am. For observers in Edinburgh, the eclipse started at 8.30am and peaked at 9.35 am.

Today’s eclipse produced a 100-mile-wide “totality” shadow path that crosses the North Atlantic and covers only two land masses, the Faroe Islands between Scotland and Iceland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.