A (near) total eclipse of the sun: Everything you need to know about tomorrow's eclipse
Tomorrow Ireland will enjoy our most significant solar eclipse in more than 15 years. Almost 95pc of the sun's light will be blocked - and we won't have another until 2026. Get the lowdown on what you need to know with Darragh McManus
TYPE OF ECLIPSE
Near-total, with approximately 90pc of the sun's glare blocked out by the passing moon. It will last for a little over two hours and 10 minutes.
OUR LAST TOTAL ECLIPSE
1999 - Ireland's next full one won't be until 2090, so no need to make a date in your diaries just yet. The next partial eclipse won't happen for another 11 years.
WHY SO RARE?
The plane of the moon's orbit is tilted, relative to our planet's, and so the moon usually appears above or below the sun.
EARLIEST IN IRELAND
Cork, where the eclipse begins at 8.20am, reaches its maximum point at 9.24 and ends at 10.32.
Letterkenny in Donegal: beginning at 8.26am, peaking at 9.30 and finishing at 10.38.
Tomorrow is set to be partly cloudy but fine, so conditions should be good. Met Eireann reckons the south of the country could be the best region for viewing. In a theoretically perfect, cloudless sky, Mayo and Donegal will get the best view of the eclipse: the latter will reach 95.5pc in the northwest of the county.
Do not look directly at the sun - even through binoculars, a telescope or sunglasses - because this can cause retinal burn and lead to blindness. The safest way to view the eclipse is with a pinhole projector.
MAKING A PINHOLE PROJECTOR
Make a small hole in a piece of cardboard. Stand with your back to the sun and place a white card behind the first so the sun projects an image onto it.
Reflect the eclipse off a mirror onto the wall; project the image through a colander onto a large sheet of paper; buy some eclipse viewing glasses, which are inlaid with a special material that reduces the sun's light by a factor of several thousand; or use the specially adapted telescopes at the staged events listed below.
Astronomy Ireland's HQ in Blanchardstown, Dublin; the Papal Cross at the Phoenix Park; Trinity College front square; Armagh Observatory; Galway Astronomy Club in Salthill; Midlands Astronomy Club at Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath; Shannonside Astronomy Club in Limerick; DEISE Astronomy Club in Waterford; Cork Astronomy Club in Blackrock; Irish Astronomical Society at Dunsink Observatory, Co Dublin; St Cronan's National School in Bray, Co Wicklow.
The study of eclipses has lead to many important scientific breakthroughs, including Einstein's ground-breaking theory of general relativity. Astrophysicists from Trinity will journey out into the Atlantic, with an Air Corps maritime aircraft, to study and record the total eclipse, particularly the corona - which can damage power grids and telecommunications when it's very active.
SPEAKING OF WHICH
A loss of solar energy - equivalent to 8-10 very large coal-fired power plants - during the eclipse will be "an unprecedented test for the European grid", experts say. But don't worry: they don't expect it to affect the average user's supply. And technicians from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity have been working for over a year on offsetting the loss of a potential 35,000 megawatts of juice.
Records show that the Babylonians and Chinese could predict solar eclipses as far back as 2500 BC. In ancient China, solar eclipses were associated with the health and success of the Emperor. Two astrologers were said to be executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse in 2134 BC - the oldest on record.
The sun is the God of War in many cultures, but according to Herodotus, a solar eclipse in 585 BC stopped a conflict between Lydians and Medes, who interpreted dark skies as some kind of celestial warning to make up.