THE final solar eclipse of 2019 will create a stunning "Ring of Fire" in the sky this week.
Stargazers will be able to spot the incredible annular solar eclipse on December 26 – a Boxing Day treat!
Solar eclipse – what is it?
On Boxing Day, we're expecting to see an annular solar eclipse.
This is when the Moon moves in front of the Sun, but doesn't totally block it.
It means the centre is blocked out, but the edges are still visible – creating a "Ring of Fire" in the sky.
How long will the solar eclipse last?
You'll be able to see the beginnings and aftermath of the eclipse for about six hours.
But the actual "Ring of Fire" will only be visible very briefly.
This occurs when the eclipse is at its most perfect positioning, and will last for just three minutes and 40 seconds.
Where can you see the solar eclipse?
The bad news is that you won't be able to see the eclipse from the UK.
That's because the eclipse will take place in the middle of the night for Britain and much of western Europe.
Stargazers have the best opportunity to see the eclipse in eastern Europe, Asia, northwest Australia, eastern Africa and the Pacific and Indian oceans.
What is a solar eclipse?
Here's what you need to know ...
- A solar eclipse is a rare natural phenomenon that darkens the sky
- It happens when you're in the shadow cast by the Moon, which is fully blocking the Sun
- This only happens when the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned on a straight line
- A total eclipse is when the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon
- Total solar eclipses will occur somewhere on Earth approximately every 18 months
- Eclipses were considered ominous by ancient cultures, because the Sun disappears during the day in minutes
- However, solar eclipses are now a very popular spectacle that can attract tourists
- It's important to not look directly at the Sun during a solar eclipse, as it can lead to permanent eye damage, and even blindness
- It's recommended that people use special eye protection, or watch the event on screens instead
Can you watch the solar eclipse online?
Yes! Anyone with a decent internet connection can watch the entire eclipse online.
Both Timeanddate.com and space agency Nasa will be streaming the event on their respective YouTube channels.
"At the peak of this eclipse, the middle of the Sun will appear to be missing and the dark Moon will appear to be surrounded by the bright Sun," Nasa explained.
"Remember to never look directly at the Sun even during an eclipse.
"An annular eclipse occurs instead of a total eclipse when the Moon is on the far part of its elliptical orbit around the Earth."
When is the next solar eclipse?
Solar eclipses are fairly common, with between two and five happening every year. A total eclipse happens around once every 18 months.
The next solar eclipse is annular "Ring of Fire" eclipse, which takes place on June 21, 2020.
This will be followed by a total solar eclipse on December 14, 2020.
How to watch a solar eclipse safely
Here's the official advice from the American Astronomical Society ...
Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse ("totality"), when the Moon entirely blocks the Sun's bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.
Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight.
Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched, punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
Always supervise children using solar filters.
If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright Sun. After looking at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun.
Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
Similarly, do not look at the Sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eye (s), causing serious injury .
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In other news, a solar eclipse plunged South America into darkness earlier this year.
Stargazers will also want to check out our guide for when to spot every lunar eclipse until 2030 .
And read about the space mysteries Nasa still can't explain .
Will you be checking out the solar eclipse today? Let us know in the comments!
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