An annular solar eclipse partially visible in France

INFOGRAPHICS – Only parts of Canada, Greenland and Russia will enjoy the show in its entirety this Thursday.

A solar eclipse will occur this Thursday in some parts of the world. As the Moon is currently very far from the Earth, it will not succeed in completely masking the Sun, allowing a “circle of fire” to emerge: we speak of an annular eclipse. The phenomenon will run from 11:49 a.m. to 1:33 p.m. as the projected shadow of the Moon on Earth moves from northeastern Canada to Russia via Greenland. (see map).

If this particular configuration is not so rare (it will be the 16e annular eclipse since the beginning of the XXIe century), it is less frequent that we can partially observe the phenomenon from France. We have to go back to March 2015 to find the trace of a partial eclipse in France. In Paris, the Moon had covered three quarters of the Sun which had caused a notable drop in luminosity and temperature, despite the thick cloud cover!

As much to say it from the start: the spectacle will not be so spectacular this time in metropolitan France. The eclipse will be only very partial there, with a maximum percentage of occultation of 18% in Finistère, at noon sharp. The lunar disk will flirt with the solar corona in Corsica, but it will barely cover it (less than 0.2% around 12:12 – the accuracy of the astronomical calculations is devilish!). It is hardly in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (south of Newfoundland) that the phenomenon will be impressive since two-thirds of the sun will be covered by the moon (at 7:34 a.m. local time).

“Diabolical precision”

For the rest of France, “It will be almost a confidential eclipse”, recognizes Florent Deleflie, deputy director of the Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Computation (IMCCE) of the Paris Observatory. “If it hadn’t been predicted by celestial mechanics with devilish precision, it probably would have gone unnoticed!” These are too low percentages of occultation to perceive the decrease in luminosity with the naked eye. Even photovoltaic panels will not see the difference… ” Without comparison with the previous partial eclipse visible in March 2015.

It will not be the eclipse of the century, but that does not mean that we will not be able to take advantage of it. Be careful, however! Above all, you should not look directly at the Sun, even for a second with sunglasses, otherwise you risk irreversible damage to the retina. Remember that there are only two types of really effective filters: special eclipse glasses and welding masks. As a reminder, these are filters so intense that nothing can be seen through them, except the sun or the welding arc. If you have old eclipse glasses, you must first make sure that they are not damaged, the slightest crack or snag making them inoperative, and therefore dangerous.

If you can’t find this type of material, there is a makeshift indirect method of seeing the phenomenon: screen projection. Just take a skimmer or a colander (or a sheet with small holes in it) and watch the shadow cast on the ground or on a screen (especially not looking at the Sun through!). You will then see as many small eclipses appear as there are holes in your “instrument”.

Another solution: enjoy the show… on the internet! The Paris Observatory (in French) or TimeAndDate (in English) YouTube channels will broadcast the event. Also visit the website to take advantage of the observations of instruments placed in the most favorable observation areas.

And if you miss this opportunity, rest assured, more are to come. The next partial eclipse visible in France is scheduled for October 22, 2022. As for the next total eclipse, it is the Australians who will have the honors on December 4, 2021. On the other hand, we will have to wait until 2081 for us to have the same luck on French territory. “Total eclipses are not that rare, but they sweep less than 2% of the earth’s surface each time”, reminds Florent Deleflie


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