How to view the eclipse

What's the best way to view the 20 March 2015 eclipse at home?

Robert Couse-Baker

On 20 March 2015, a total eclipse will pass over the Faroe Islands.

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In the UK the Moon will appear to cover around 80-90 per cent of the Sun’s surface.

To get ready have a read through our quick guide to various methods of eclipse observing.

Projection through a colander

Simply hold up a kitchen colander during an eclipse and you will see that myriad small crescents – corresponding to the eclipsed phase of the Sun – are cast in the shadow.

Casting the image onto a white piece of card held about 50cm away will increase the contrast.

The only downside is the size of the crescents are quite small, so no details such as sunspots can be seen.

Pros

– Cheap and easy

– Great for large groups of people

Cons

– Views are quite small

– No detail can be seen apart from the crescents

Equipment

– A colander

– A piece of white card

Using solar specs

Simply put on your specs and look up!

The glasses allow you to see the detail of the Sun with your own eyes, but unfortunately don’t allow you to take any photos.

To get your hands on your FREE pair of safety specs make sure that you pick up your copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Be sure to check the lenses for scratches and tears first.

Pros

– Easy

– Can see some of the Sun’s detail

Cons

– Cannot take images

Equipment

– A copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, complete with FREE eclipse glasses

Viewing through a white light filter 

Film-IMG_3081

One of the safest ways to view the eclipse is to fit a white light filter over the front of your telescope.

Filters are relatively simple to make using sheets of solar film cut to size.

Once you’ve made your filter, you must check it for pinprick holes and tears each time you’re about to fit it.

If you find any, discard the filter and make a new one.

Make sure that the mask fits over the entire aperture and that no light can leak around its edges

When you use the filter, it’s important to also remove or cap your telescope’s finder.

Always make sure the telescope is pointing away from the Sun before fitting the filter.

When you’re done observing, do the same – aim the telescope away from the Sun before removing it.

Pros

– Can be adapted to fit any telescope

– Quick and portable option

Cons

– Requires construction

­– Materials used are perishable

Equipment

– Solar safety film

– Card

– Sticky tape

– A telescope

Viewing in Hydrogen Alpha

FL3_Main2

A variety of manufacturers offering dedicated hydrogen-alpha telescopes or filter sets that fit onto regular telescopes.

A dedicated hydrogen-alpha refractor offers the easiest and most affordable way to see our star in this way.

All you need is a suitable mount and eyepiece to get observing.

If you already own a good refractor or Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, it is possible to buy an etalon filter system to go on the objective lens, and used with a blocking filter on the rear of the scope it offers excellent views.

Whichever method you choose hydrogen-alpha views are simply stunning, with a wealth of features on show.

Pros

– Great levels of detail

– Options available for using regular scopes

Cons

– More expensive than other methods

Equipment

– A hydrogen alpha refractor

– Or an etalon filter system


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For a more detailed guide to observing the eclipse, as well as a pair of free eclipse glasses, be sure to pick up a copy of March 2015’s issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.