Watch the way you watch a solar eclipse

 An image of a solar eclipse.
An image of a solar eclipse. PHOTO: TASOS

People in ancient China thought a dragon was eating up the sun, while birds have been seen going back to bed when it happens.

It may no longer be a portent of the end of the world, but when the little moon snuffs out the mighty sun in a solar eclipse, it remains to this day a cause for wonder. Now, Singaporeans can see for themselves. On Wednesday, the eclipse will begin at about 7.20am and end at 9.30am, with the moon reaching its maximal 87 per cent coverage of the sun at 8.23am.

But this event must be viewed with care.

It cannot be safely seen with the naked eye, and most dark materials, other than specially-made solar filters, offer no protection.

Just because the sun looks dark through a material does not mean it blocks the infrared and ultraviolet radiation that can damage the eyes permanently, said Associate Professor Phil Chan of the National University of Singapore's (NUS') physics department.

The safest way to view an eclipse is to project an image of it on a surface, such as in a pinhole camera.

Weather permitting, the public can view the eclipse at the Singapore Science Centre and the football field on NUS' Kent Ridge campus, where special equipment and guidance will be provided.

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Watch the way you watch a solar eclipse'. Print Edition | Subscribe