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Partial solar eclipse visible in two weeks, if the clouds cooperate

Mark March 20 on your calendar, because a partial solar eclipse will be visible over Finland, the rest of the Nordics and parts of Northern Europe. The eclipse is expected to last up to two hours and be clearly visible, with proper eye protection, if the weather is not overcast.

Tokiossa kuu peitti Auringon lähes kokonaan.
Pictured is an annular solar eclipse in Tokyo, Japan from 2012. An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller. Image: Kimimasa Mayama / EPA

A partial solar eclipse will occur in two weeks on the vernal equinox March 20th. It will be best visible over the Nordics and Northern Europe. Finland’s astronomical association Ursa predicts that the partial eclipse will darken the sun by 94 percent over the far north city of Kilpisjärvi and just 81 percent over southeast Finland.

Even if the skies are clear, the eclipse may not be noticeable; however, as it takes well over 90 percent coverage to notice any darkening, and even at 99 percent, conditions would be no darker than twilight.

The eclipse is expected to take place starting at around 11 am and end after about two hours, sometime after 1 pm.

The event will be classified as a total solar eclipse in parts of Norway and the Faroe Islands. Total solar eclipses are rare events. Although they occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, it is estimated that they recur at any given place only once every 360 to 410 years.

Next total solar eclipse in 2126

The last total solar eclipse in Finland took place in July 1990, with the next not estimated to occur until the year 2126.

Partial eclipses occur more frequently. The last partial eclipse in Finland took place in late May 2012 and the next is expected in 2018.

The Moon’s orbit around Earth is inclined at an angle of just over 5 degrees to the plane of Earth's orbit around the Sun (also known as the ecliptic). Because of this, at the time of a new moon, the Moon will usually pass to the north or south of the Sun. A solar eclipse can occur only when the new Moon occurs close to one of the points where the Moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic.

Remember to use proper eye protection if you want to observe the eclipse. Fashion a pinhole projection or wear special eclipse glasses made of safe solar filter materials for safe viewing.

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