from BBC sky at night
Next Thursday on 10 June 2021 an annular solar eclipse will be visible in the far northern hemisphere, sweeping from northern Canada across Greenland and the North Pole (the only eclipse of the century to do so) before ending over Siberia.
From these areas eclipse-chasers will get to appreciate the annular eclipse or so-called ‘ring of fire’ in full, but from the UK, north America, northern Europe and other parts of the world, viewers will be treated instead to a partial solar eclipse.
Here we’ll go through how to see the 10 June eclipse, what you can expect to see if you’re along the path of annularity and how to view the partial solar eclipse from the UK.
If you’d like to capture an image of the event, read our guide on how to photograph an eclipse.
Want to know more about upcoming eclipses? Find out when and where the next eclipse is taking place or read our guide to the 4 December total solar eclipse.
The path of the 10 June 2021 annular solar eclipse, with the path of annularity represented in pink. Credit: Paul Wotton
What is an annular eclipse?
During the 10 June eclipse, nowhere will the Sun be totally covered like in a total solar eclipse. This is an ‘annular’ eclipse, where the Moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach Earth’s surface and falls a little short, creating a beautiful bright ring instead.
Annular eclipses come about because the Moon’s orbit isn’t entirely circular but elliptical, and on 8 June 2021 the Moon reaches the furthest point from Earth on its orbit – apogee – when it will appear smaller in the sky than normal.
It’ll still be smaller on 10 June, the day of the eclipse, and it just so happens that the solar disc will appear slightly smaller then too. In June 2021, Earth is close to apogee in its elliptical orbit of the Sun, but even so, the Moon’s small disc will still not cover it totally.
An annular solar eclipse as seen on 21 June 2020 over Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. Photo by Huang Shan/VCG via Getty Images.
These orbital effects give rise to a ring or annulus of light, where the outer edge of the Sun is visible even at maximum eclipse.
You don’t get to experience the full effects of totality, but it is still an awe-inspiring spectacle to witness, often referred to as a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse.
See the 10 June eclipse from the UK
On 10 June 2021, those viewing from the UK will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. This is because viewers will be thousands of miles south of the path of annularity enjoyed by eclipse-watchers further north.
From the UK, the eclipse occurs late morning and favours those living in the northwest of the country.
The timing and relative positions of the key stages of the 10 June 2021 partial solar eclipse, as seen from central UK. First and last contact overlaps are exaggerated for clarity. Credit: Pete Lawrence / BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Partial eclipses are defined by one of two values: eclipse magnitude and obscuration.
Eclipse magnitude defines how much of the Sun’s diameter is covered by the disc of the Moon, while obscuration indicates how much of the Sun’s disc area is covered as a percentage.
If the Moon’s disc encroaches so that its limb reaches the centre of the Sun’s disc, this would be described as a magnitude 50% eclipse.
Half way across the Sun, the Moon would hide 39.1% of the Sun’s area, this being the eclipse’s obscuration value.
A partial solar eclipse seen by Konstantinos Tranganidas on 20 March 2015 from Kinnoull Hill, Perth.
From Birmingham, first contact occurs at 10:06 BST (09:06 UT), with the point of greatest eclipse at 11:13 BST (10:13 UT), when the eclipse magnitude reaches 35.2%.
Last contact occurs at 12:24 BST (11:24 UT), bringing the event to a close. Birmingham’s maximum obscuration is 23.6%.
Northwest Scotland under clear skies will give the best views. From Lochinver, last contact starts at 10:08 BST (09:08 UT) with a maximum magnitude of 48.8% reached at 11:19 BST (11:35 UT).
Last contact from Lochinver is at 12:35 BST (11:35 UT), marking the eclipse’s end. Lochinver’s maximum obscuration is 36.8%.
The amount of solar disc covered by the Moon depends on how far north and northwest you are in the UK, as can be seen in our map below.
A map of the UK and northern Europe shows the percentage of the Sun covered during the partial solar eclipse on 10 June 2021. Credit: Paul Wootton.
How much of the 10 June eclipse will you see from the UK?
Penzance, Cornwall sees just under 22% obscuration at maximum
London sees 20%
Newcastle sees 28%
Belfast sees 30%
Edinburgh sees 31%
Inverness sees 35%
Shetland Islands sees the most at 39%
How to view the eclipse safely
Viewing a partial eclipse means observing the Sun and requires special care, as viewing sunlight directly with the naked eye can seriously damage your eyesight. Here are some safe methods you can use to observe the partial eclipse safely.
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For the next week or so, NEOWISE will be strictly a predawn target. To see it, head outside at least 45 minutes before sunrise and look just above the north eastern horizon. The bright star Capella can serve as a marker, as the comet lies just below it, while the brilliant planet Venus is visible to the east.In about a week’s time, the comet will move to the evening sky, this will make it easier to spot in the north western sky after sunset, beneath the stars of the Big Dipper.