Astronomers across Sussex are gearing up for tomorrow’s solar eclipse, which will be the biggest visible from the UK for 15 years.

Astronomical societies will be holding vigils and people will be heading to their back gardens to look skyward.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, hiding the sun from view and blocking out the sunlight that usually reaches us.

The moon will begin to pass across the sun at about 8.25am and the maximum eclipse will be visible at around 9.31am.

During the eclipse, the moon will cover between 80% and 85% of the sun at its peak and last for two hours and 40 minutes.

Darren Baskill, astrophysicist at the University of Sussex, said: “We will notice it getting darker and, if it’s clear, we will be able to get good views of the moon covering the sun.”

Supermoon Tonight the Earth and Moon will be as close together as they possibly can be, giving rise to a so-called Supermoon.

Janet Halls, treasurer of Worthing Astronomers, said: “It is larger than the average partial and it is the biggest solar eclipse visible from England since the one in 1999.

“We will be observing it from our back garden and some of our guys are going down to the seafront – hopefully we have a clear day.”

Robin Durant, honorary chairman of the Adur Astronomical Society, said he was “quite excited” about the event.

The East Sussex Astronomy Society (ESAS) will gather at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, with 150 astronomy enthusiasts using pinhole cameras and high-tech telescopes.

Andy Lawes, who founded ESAS in 2001 with Sir Patrick Moore, himself a former Sussex resident, said: “It’s an indescribable experience seeing an eclipse.

“You have to actually witness it for yourself to actually feel the emotion going through you.”

Mr Lawes, 58, who is ESAS chairman, said: “I went to Paris in 1999 to see the full solar eclipse.

“It was a beautiful day until five minutes before, then it clouded over. Then, five minutes after the eclipse the clouds dispersed.

“If the weather is brilliant this time, it’ll be wonderful.”

Jane Lang, a consultant member of the British Astrological society, said the eclipse was quite a “spiritual event” and would herald “a lot of opportunities for us” but it would be up to people to harness those opportunities.

The Argus:

Stay safe while you view the phenomenon

Astronomers have issued a number of safety tips.

Looking directly at the sun even during the eclipse can damage your eyes as the UV radiation can burn the retinas leading to permanent damage or even blindness.

Robert Purbrick, consultant ophthalmologist at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “You should never look at the sun without proper eye protection.

“Sunglasses do not give you that protection.

“You need special filters made for solar viewing and you should make sure they are not scratched in any way.

“The sun is very powerful even when eclipsed. Your eyes are precious – look after them.”

The Royal Astronomical Society has issued a five-step guide to viewing the eclipse safely:  

  • Eclipse Glasses – made of card with special material inlaid. The special dark material in them cuts down the Sun’s light by 100,000 times.
  • Colander – use a household colander and stand with your back to the sun while holding it in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. Hold the colander between the sun and paper and observe the eclipse on the paper.
  •  Pinhole Viewers – Poke a small hole in one piece of card using a compass or similar tool. Stand with your back to the Sun. Hold both cards up, with the one with the pinhole closer to the Sun. The light through the pinhole can be projected on to the other piece of card.
  • Mirrors – Cover the mirror with paper in which you have made a hole no more than 5mm across. Stand with your back to the eclipse. Use the mirror to reflect an image of the sun on to a light-coloured wall, being careful not to reflect the sunlight into anyone’s eyes.
  • Binocular/Telescope Projection – A pair of binoculars can stand in for a pinhole. Cover one eyepiece with the lens cap then, when the binoculars are pointed at the sun, you should see its image projected on to the plain card.

For more information, go to

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Where astronomers will watch

Some of Sussex’s astronomical societies are holding special meetings where they will view the eclipse.

Foredown Tower Astronomers will host an event in the grounds of Emmaus Brighton in Drove Road, Portslade.

There will be specially designed equipment to protect your eyes and images streamed live on to a big screen.

Members of Worthing Astronomers will take to the promenade between Grand Avenue and Heene Road.

Eastbourne Astronomical Society will observe the eclipse from the Western Lawns in the town and there will be three specially adapted telescopes available.

The East Sussex Astronomy Society will gather at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill with 150 astronomy enthusiasts using pinhole cameras and hi-tech telescopes.


Cloudy weather is forecast for the morning of eclipse which could obscure a direct view of the phenomenon.

Tomorrow morning is predicted by the Met Office to be “rather cloudy” with the skies not appearing until approximately midday.

The cloud cover could mean the county will be in darkness but miss the sight of the moon phasing in front of the sun.

People heading down to beaches or other viewing points may also be in for a chilly morning as temperatures are predicted to be only 6C.