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On the morning of Friday, March 20th, Europe will be plunged into almost darkness during the most complete solar eclipse in ten years, when the moon passes in front of the sun. France last witnessed a solar eclipse in 2005. In 1999 Europe witnessed the last total eclipse of the previous millennium.
When is it happening?
The eclipse can be seen in Paris between 9.23am and 11.41am on Friday March 20th. The sun will be the most covered at 10.30am, as seen in the graph below.
(Graphics from Timeanddate.com)
Elsewhere, the timing will vary ever-so slightly, as shown in the graph below. (Maximum is the time when the eclipse is at its fullest, obs shows the percentage of the sun that will be covered, h is the height of the sun, and début and fin are the start and end times.)
Will it even be that impressive?
It is not a total eclipse, so the effect will be much more gradual than an end-of-the-world plunge into darkness. But still, those in northern France will be able to enjoy an eclipse of over 80 percent, meaning less than a fifth of the sun will be visible.
If the weather is good, the city of Brest on the north-west coast has been tipped as a prime contender for best spot to see the spectacle unfold. Anywhere along the north coast has also been suggested as good back up options.
Here is how much of the sun will be covered as viewed from some of the biggest cities around France.
- Paris: 77.8 percent
- Marseille: 64.3 percent
- Bordeaux: 72.9 percent
- Lille: 83.4 percent
- Lyon: 69.8 percent
How should I watch it?
You should watch the eclipse through special eclipse glasses, never look directly into the sun. Alternatively, click here for a handy guide on how to make a pinhole viewer, another way to safely watch the eclipse.
Is it too late to buy some in France?
You better get shopping now, they're selling out. In the Astroshop store, a staff member told the 20 Minutes newspaper that no one had anticipated such a demand for the glasses.
"We could never have expected such a hype, especially considering it's just a partial eclipse," he said, noting that the next total eclipse won't be until 2081.
Is there any danger of losing electricity?
The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity has noted that there is a "risk" of an incident considering that there is 100 times more power coming from solar powers today than during the last eclipse in 1999.
If the morning of March 20th turns out to be very sunny -- before the eclipse hides the sun -- the sudden drop-off in production could reach 34,000 Megawatts, the equivalent of 80 medium-sized conventional power plants, noted the AFP news agency.
(Photo: Jalal Hameed Bhatti/Flickr)
If there is a problem, however, it will most likely be in Germany where there is a solar power capacity of 40,000 MW and where 18 percent of electricity consumption last year came from solar power.
France with its 5,700 MW also has a significant solar power industry, but operators are already bolstering their teams in the anticipation of any problems. They will boost reserves from the usual 1,000 MW to 1,700 MW to keep on the safe side.
For those of you who want a more graphic example of Friday's eclipse, look no further...