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Partial solar eclipse on 20 March 2015. ESA minisatellites keep an eye on the phenomenon

on 18 March 2015

Update 20 March 2015: The Probe-2 minisatellite caught today the total solar eclipse. Details here.

On 20 March 2015 a total solar eclipse will occur, event which will be visible from Romania only as a partial eclipse, due to the fact that the Sun will be covered at a rate of only 43%. According to the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, the phenomenon will start at 10:45 Romania time, will peak at around 11:55 and will end at around 1:05 p.m., with an average duration in our country of two hours and 20 minutes.

At the same time, the Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is up in its 820 km-altitude orbit, will see two periods of near-total eclipse for a few dozen seconds. Other members of ESA’s Proba minisatellite family – each smaller than a cubic metre – will be looking downwards, attempting to capture views of the Moon’s shadow as it crosses Earth.

If weather conditions are favorable, the eclipse will be broadcast live on the internet from the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy.

During a solar eclipse, the Moon moves in front of the Sun as seen from Earth and as their apparent size is similar, the Moon temporarily blocks a significant part of the Sun’s light.

On 20 March, the whole of Europe will experience a partial solar eclipse: 100% of the Sun’s disc will be obscured over Norway’s Svalbard islands, 97% from the north of Scotland, 84% over London, 81% over The Hague, 75% over Paris, 65% over Madrid and 56% over Rome.

The "totality" - areas where the sunlight will be completely blocked - will be reached over the North Atlantic, including Faroe Islands and Svalbard,, the latter home to an ESA ground station from where eclipse images will be broadcast.

During totality the Sun appears to have a wispy white halo, offering ground observers a rare direct view of its atmosphere or ‘corona’, normally kept out of sight by the intense brightness of the solar disc.

Image credit: ESA