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(Very) partial eclipse of the Sun - 21st August 2017

WARNING: Never look directly at the Sun! Read our leaflet for guidance on how to view the eclipse safely.



This image shows the partially eclipsed Sun, photographed through a telephoto lens capped with a special-purpose solar filter. The Moon covers 10% of the Sun's diameter and not quite 2% of its area. Dark sunspots speckle the solar disk. Credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel.


There will be a total solar eclipse from the mid-USA on the 21st August 2017, where 14 states will be able to experience the eclipse, lasting for more than 2 minutes. 

If the weather is good, viewers across the UK will be treated to a partial solar eclipse on 21 August 2017, just before sunset. In a partial eclipse, a small bite out of the Sun can be seen at the mid-eclipse point, as it is covered by the Moon. A partial solar eclipse is a fascinating natural phenomenon, but is not of any practical scientific use, unlike a total eclipse which provides a special opportunity for studying the solar corona - the tenuous layers of hot gas around the Sun which are much fainter than the familiar yellow disk.

Actual times will vary slightly across the country but the table below shows times for some cities across the UK.


    Start of eclipse (BST)     Midpoint (BST)     Sunset (BST)  
Cardiff  19.40 20.05  20.22 
London   19.40 20.04  20.10 
Manchester   19.39 20.02  20.23 
Edinburgh   19.38 19.58  20.18 


 Eclipses of the Sun occur when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, so they take place only at New Moon. Because of the way the Moon moves around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun, solar eclipses do not happen every month. There are between two and five every year, but each one is visible only in the limited band across the Earth's surface where the Moon's shadow happens to fall - which is different every time. At any particular place on Earth, solar eclipses are not so frequent.

 graphic showing partial eclipse
A graphic showing what the eclipse might look like from the UK. The midpoint will be at different times depending on where you are. For example, it will occur at 20.04 BST from London.


Extreme care must be taken when observing the eclipse, because of the blinding brilliance of the Sun. Never, ever look directly at the Sun through binoculars or a telescope, for you will risk permanent eye damage. Even staring at the Sun is dangerous, and sunglasses are no protection. Hospitals regularly see patients who have damaged their eyes while watching eclipses. Don't be among them!


For more information about what total and partial eclipses are, and instructions on how to observe an eclipse safely, see our leaflet.

Full details of the time of the eclipse at various locations can be found at the following links:

HM Nautical Almanac office eclipse information

21st August 2017 eclipse as viewed from London