Solar and lunar eclipses 2021: when and where to see them

From a ‘ring of fire’ and the UK’s biggest solar eclipse for years to a polar solar eclipse, 2021 is set to be a great year for eclipses of the Sun and Moon.

An annular solar eclipse captured from Lubbock, Texas in 2012. Credit: Willoughby Owen / Getty Images

Are you ready for Britain’s biggest solar eclipse since 2015? It’s time to dust off those solar eclipse safety glasses because, on 10 June, 2021, observers in the UK will see as much as 32% of the Sun covered by the Moon.

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Sure, it won’t be a total solar eclipse – when the Moon moves precisely between the Sun and the Earth – but since there’s not one of those in the UK until 2090, June’s eclipse is sure to be a big event for amateurs.

The solar corona visible during the total solar eclipse on 2 July, 2019, captured from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Totality will strike again in 2020. Credit: P. Horálek/ESO
The solar corona visible during a total solar eclipse on 2 July, 2019, captured from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Credit: P. Horálek/ESO

It is, however, part of a much bigger annular solar eclipse – commonly referred to as a ‘ring of fire’ – that will be visible from Canada, Greenland and Russia.

It will be preceded by a total lunar eclipse, just as a rare total solar eclipse in Antarctica towards the end of the year will be preceded by a partial lunar eclipse.

Eclipse glasses at the ready! Eclipse chasers observe the total tolar eclipse in Bella Vista, San Juan, Argentina, 3 July 2019. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Eclipse glasses at the ready! Eclipse chasers observe the total tolar eclipse in Bella Vista, San Juan, Argentina, 3 July 2019. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

So with an annular solar eclipse close to the North Pole and a total solar eclipse close to the South Pole, 2021 will contain a potpourri of eclipses.

Here’s everything you need to know about when, where and for how long 2021’s solar and lunar eclipses will occur in 2021.

2021’s solar and lunar eclipses

26 May 2021: Total lunar eclipse

Total lunar eclipse, 28 September 2015, by William Doyen, Brittany, France.
Total lunar eclipse, 28 September 2015, by William Doyen, Brittany, France.

The UK hasn’t experienced a total lunar eclipse since 21 January 2019, and in 2021 it misses out. As seen from the night-side of Earth – which on 26 May 2021 includes Australia, parts of the western US, western South America and Southeast Asia – a full ‘Flower Moon’ will drift into Earth’s dark central umbral shadow. However, this is a super-short event, with totality lasting only 15 minutes.

The event typically sees the lunar surface turn an orangey or reddish-copper colour (hence the colloquial name ‘Blood Moon’), but since the Moon will only be in Earth’s shadow for a short time the effect may be only slight.

However, moongazers in the UK won’t have to wait too long because the next total lunar eclipse visible from the UK will be an entire lunar year (354 days) later on 16 May, 2022, when totality will last for 41 minutes during moonset.

More info about the 26 May 2021 total lunar eclipse

10 June 2021: Annular solar eclipse

An annular solar eclipse, 15 January 2010 in Qingdao, Shandong Province of China. Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images.
An annular solar eclipse, 15 January 2010, Qingdao, Shandong Province of China. Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images.

Get out your solar eclipse safety glasses! Here comes a ‘ring of fire’, though not for the UK.

Technically what happens on 10 June 2021 will be a partial annular solar eclipse. Partial because not all the Sun will be covered, and annular because a perfect ring will be left around the Moon during the maximum annularity.

This will happen because the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned while the Moon is close to its apogee – the furthest it gets from Earth in its elliptical monthly orbit.

It will be slightly too small in the sky to completely cover the Sun, and in any case that effect will only be visible from a narrow path from far north Ontario, Canada to northeast Russia, via Greenland.

An annular solar eclipse, Vigo, Spain, 3 October 2005. Credit: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images)
An annular solar eclipse, Vigo, Spain, 3 October 2005. Credit: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images)

COVID-19 travel restrictions allowing, Qaanaaq in northwestern Greenland – predicted to have the best chance of clear skies – will be visited by tour groups from AstroTrails and Betchart Expeditions, which will also send a tour group to Baffin Island in Canada.

During the event a ‘ring of fire’ will be visible for a maximum of 3 minutes 51 seconds, though about 10-20 seconds less in Qaanaaq and Baffin Island.

For British observers, the event will solely be a partial solar eclipse. The Moon will first appear to take a bite out of the Sun at around 10:10, reach maximum eclipse and then move off the Sun by 13:21 on 10 June, 2021.

From Scotland a 32% eclipsed Sun will be possible, while for west Wales it’s 25% and in London 20%.

Partial solar eclipse in Iran Omid Qadrdan/Ahmad Riahi Dehkordi, Hengam Island, Iran, 26 December 2019 Equipment: Canon 6D Mark I DSLR
Partial solar eclipse by Omid Qadrdan /Ahmad Riahi Dehkordi, Hengam Island, Iran, 26 December 2019

For UK observers the event will be a taste of what’s to come in the mid-2020s. A partial solar eclipse on 29 March, 2025 will bring a 60% eclipse while on 12 August 2026 a total solar eclipse for Iceland and Spain will see 90% of the Sun covered from the UK.

The next annular solar eclipse to occur in the UK will be on 23 July 2093 when northern England and southern Scotland will see a ‘ring of fire’ for 5 minutes and 11 seconds.

More info about the 10 June 2021 annular solar eclipse

19 November 2021: Partial lunar eclipse

Partial lunar eclipse, Zaprudnya, Russia, 7 August 2017. Captured by Dmitry Ardashev.
Partial lunar eclipse, Zaprudnya, Russia, 7 August 2017. Captured by Dmitry Ardashev.

A ‘Half-Blood’ Moon, anyone? Although it might sound like an interesting sight, to appear reddish during a lunar eclipse the Moon has to enter Earth’s umbra – its central shadow in space.

Sadly during this event only a few per cent of the Moon’s surface will have entered the umbra before moonset in the UK on 19 November, 2021. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see.

From the UK a penumbral lunar eclipse (when the Moon enters Earth’s outer shadow in space) will begin just over an hour before moonset while our satellite hangs about 10° above the northwestern horizon.

A penumbral lunar eclipse, like this one from 2017, is much dimmer than a regular full moon. © Jamie Carter
November 2021 observers in the UK will see a penumbral lunar eclipse, like this one from 2017. © Jamie Carter.

That’s a shame because from other parts of the world – notably North and South America, Australia and Asia – 97% of the Moon will enter Earth’s umbra and turn reddish.

Although totality will never be reached, that partial eclipse phase will last for 3 hours and 29 minutes.

More info about the 19 November 2021 partial lunar eclipse

4 December 2021: Total solar eclipse

There’s a chance to see a total solar eclipse on 4 December from Antarctica. Credit: Pete Lawrence
There’s a chance to see a total solar eclipse on 4 December from Antarctica. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Here comes the eclipse everyone wants to see – totality low in the sky above floating icebergs – but few likely will. A total solar eclipse on White Continent is a pretty rare event, occurring just over every 18 years, though in the time since the last one tourism has rapidly developed in Antarctica.

COVID-19 travel restrictions allowing, dozens of expeditionary cruise ships are planning to ply the Wedell Sea close to the South Orkney islands at 60° South searching for clear skies early on 4 December, 2021 for about 1 minute 40 seconds of totality.

The likes of Astro Trails, Aurora Expeditions, Albatros Expeditions, Naturetrek and Sur Cross are all running week-long (or longer) cruises that also include the highlights of Antarctica.

Eclipse-chasers on cruise ships will be hoping for clear skies and a still ocean during the eclipse © Albatross Expeditions
Eclipse-chasers on cruise ships will be hoping for clear skies and a still ocean during the eclipse © Albatross Expeditions

Since the event occurs just after sunrise (during a time of year in Antarctica when the Sun only sets for a couple of hours) and the area usually has cloudy skies, there are some plans for special EFLIGHT 2021-SUNRISE flights to take-off from Chile and Argentina to view totality at the point of sunrise while flying above the ice.

Meanwhile, TravelQuest will fly 60+ people to Union Glacier from Punta Arenas for around £32,000 per person.

The next total solar eclipse to occur in the UK will be on 23 September 2090 when Cornwall and much of the south coast of England will experience totality for 3 minutes and 36 seconds just minutes before sunset.

More info about the 4 December 2021 total solar eclipse

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Jamie Carter is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and tweets at @TheNextEclipse and @jamieacarter