How Long Before the Next Solar Eclipse Over Britain?

17th Apr 2024
How Long Before the Next Solar Eclipse Over Britain?

The total solar eclipse on 8 April 2024 has become one of the most talked about astronomical events of the current year. Like many astronomical phenomena, the eclipse was tied to a specific geographic region. This time, the people of the North American continent were the lucky ones: Mexico, the USA, and Canada could take in a total solar eclipse lasting almost four and a half minutes (when the lunar disc completely covered the Sun).

route of the sun - total solar eclipse 2024

In this article, we look at where and when the next moonlight shadow will fall on the British Isles. 

The beauty of proportions: what’s a solar eclipse?

Well, we know that eclipses occur when the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun align on the same line (with the Moon in the middle of this trio). This deposition of the orbits and planes can only be possible at the new Moon phase and strictly when all three celestial bodies are on the ecliptic.

But only for a moment! The event’s rarity is explained by the degree of inclination of the plane (in which the Moon resides during a solar eclipse), which is inclined at only 5° relative to the ecliptic.

Then comes the magic of numbers and distances: the thing is that the Moon is approximately 400 times smaller than the Sun, which is, in apparent terms, 400 times smaller than it really is. In other words, the Moon and Sun appear to be about the same size from Earth. Thus, the lunar disk may completely cover the Sun, resulting in some areas on Earth being lost in total darkness for a while. In fact, he peak of the sun’s darkness is also known as “totality”.

what's total solar eclipsw

Due to the relative sizes for a given eclipse, a full shadow (Umbra) falls only on a limited part of Earth; everywhere else experiences a partial eclipse, or Penumbra. As you might already see in the picture above, partial solar eclipses occur on Earth much more often.

So, when can we expect a solar eclipse over Britain? 

Hopefully, the United Kingdom will be able to see such partial blackouts very soon: on 12th September 2026. On this date, the UK’s region can observe a partial penumbra from a total solar eclipse, which will start above the Arctic, cross Iceland and the Iberian Peninsula, and end its journey over the Mediterranean Sea.

When is the next total solar eclipse? 2026 map

As you may see, the trajectory of the advancing next total solar eclipse will pass very close to the British Isles. However, none of Umbra will touch the UK. The next total solar eclipse over Britain will happen in several generations.

The total solar eclipse over the UK – when?

To our great regret, yes, it’s in several generations. The solar totality will come to the UK on 23rd September 2090. Because these are essentially geometry problems, we already know the exact trajectory of all possible solar eclipses (both partial and total) that will take place in the period of 2081-2090.

all the next solar eclipses - the UK
Credit: EclipseWise

On 3rd September 2081, a total solar eclipse will pass through Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula and end its path at the south from New Zealand. When it comes to the year 2090 — the total eclipse of the Sun will visit relatively limited areas of the UK. The penumbra will fall in southern Ireland and a small group of South-West English counties: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and parts of Dorset.

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