Solar eclipse on March 9: What you need to know and where to view it in Singapore

Members of the media at the press briefing by the Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics about the March 9 total solar eclipse, on Feb 11, 2016.
Members of the media at the press briefing by the Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics about the March 9 total solar eclipse, on Feb 11, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A solar eclipse will take place on Wednesday (March 9), and thousands are expected to gather at various vantage points across the island to view it.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon crosses between the sun and the earth, forming a shadow on the earth's surface.

Here are some things you should know about the eclipse.

When will the eclipse occur?

Wednesday's solar eclipse will happen between approximately 7.20am and 9.30am. The peak of the solar eclipse will be at 8.23am, where a maximum of 87 per cent of the sun is expected to be obscured by the moon when viewed from Singapore.

Sunrise on that day will be at 7.12am.

Where can I view it?

The Astronomical Society of Singapore says one can get an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon from anywhere in Singapore, at a compass heading of 94 degrees in order to view the eclipse.

What are the other types of solar eclipses?

The solar eclipse on Wednesday will be a partial eclipse, which is the most common out of the three types of eclipses.

Total eclipses occur when the sun is completely covered by the moon when viewed from the earth's surface, while partial eclipses occur when a portion of the sun is obscured by the moon.

The last type of solar eclipse, known as the annular eclipse, occurs when the sun and moon are completely in line with each other in relation to the viewer on earth, but the apparent size of the moon is smaller than the sun.

This forms a light around the moon from the viewer's perspective, commonly known as the "ring of fire".

How often do solar eclipses occur?

Solar eclipses occur once every 18 months according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), but they can be viewed only from a specific region on earth due to the small size of the shadow formed by the eclipse.

In Singapore, 146 eclipses have been or will be seen from the year 1700 to 2100. The last eclipse happened in January 2009, while the next solar eclipse, an annular one, will occur on Dec 26, 2019.

How can I view it?

Anyone keen on observing the solar eclipse is advised to do so with extreme caution.

Serious and permanent eye damage may occur as a result of looking at the sun without proper equipment. A pair of solar filters or glasses is needed for safe viewing.

The same rule applies to devices used to take photographs of the solar eclipse, as focused sunlight may potentially heat up and crack the optics of cameras.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of unsafe methods to view the eclipse:

1. Both polarised and non-polarised sunglasses

2. Solar film used in cars and household windows

3. Tinted glass, such as brown and green coloured beer bottles

4. Photographic negatives

5. X-ray film

6. CDs/DVDs

7. Photographic filters

8. Looking at the reflection of the eclipse through a bowl of water or a mirror

9. Welding glasses which do not block out ultraviolet and infared light

Are there events that I can attend to view it?

There are three public events that The Straits Times recommends.

1. The National University of Singapore (NUS) will play host to the Solar Eclipse 2016 @ NUS event, to be held over two days on March 8 and 9.

Members of the public can join in the activities for free, which will kick off with an astrophotography exhibition beginning at 2pm on Tuesday. It will be held at the Faculty of Science in NUS.

Following that, a series of public lectures related to the eclipse will start at 7pm, while an overnight stargazing session will begin concurrently in the lead up to the solar eclipse observation the next morning.

Live streaming of the total eclipse to be recorded by two NUS Physics Department students in Luwuk, Indonesia, will be shown at the event.

2. Over at the Science Centre Singapore, thousands are expected to turn up at an eclipse viewing event beginning at 7.30am on Wednesday.

A live stream of footage from the total eclipse viewed in Micronesia will be screened, courtesy of a team from San Francisco's The Exploratorium that Science Centre Singapore has partnered with.

3. The Astronomical Society of Singapore will be organising a hosting event at Labrador Park, beginning from 7am on Wednesday. This will be held at the Red Beacon area, and members of the public will be able to view the solar eclipse safely through solar-filtered telescopes set up by the society.