A shadow of darkness will fall over the islands tomorrow (Friday) as a rare total solar eclipse will almost completely block out the sun.
As the UK’s prime location for viewing the rare solar event, visitors have been flocking to Lewis and hoping for a clear day to view the eclipse.
Stornoway Astronomical Society are hosting a special observing session at the Callanish Stones on Friday morning and will have over 100 pairs of special eclipse viewing glasses available for use by the public.
A team from BBC Breakfast will be broadcasting live from Callanish all morning and experts will be interviewed at the site including President of the Stornoway Astronomical Society, Donny Mackay.
Mr Mackay said the local Society had been inundated with enquiries about the eclipse and were expecting a large number of visitors to arrive for the event.
He said: “We expect the moon to make first contact with the Sun around 8:20am and gradually cover the Sun’s disk over the course of the following hour with the maximum coverage occurring shortly after 9:30am.
“The Isle of Lewis is the best location in the UK for viewing the eclipse with a total coverage of approximately 98 per cent, which is marginally better than in Shetland and the Orkney Isles.”
He said the only place where there would be 100 per cent cover was in the Faroes and with no accommodation left in those areas, Lewis was now regarded as the prime location.
Several members of the local Society will be involved in setting up telescopes fitted with special solar filters and distributing 100 pairs of special eclipse viewing glasses which the Society have obtained specially for visitors on the day.
Donny added: “The weather on the island during the month of March is always very unpredictable, but we are hoping that the conditions will be in our favour on the day.”
Stornoway Gazette weather correspondent Dr Eddie Graham is very much looking forward to the rare event and said conditions could be reasonable for viewing.
He explained: “A solar eclipse is when the moon moves in front of the Sun, blocking sunlight from reaching parts of the Earth’s surface. However due to variations in their orbits and because the moon is much smaller in size then the Sun, total solar eclipses are much rarer than total lunar eclipses. They are also much less common over high latitudes, hence the very unique occasion of the forthcoming eclipse.”
He added: “During the duration of the eclipse, it is expected to be quite dark and eerie, with sharper shadows and diffuse light patterns. Birds and animals may react strangely to the event.”
He said the chance of a clear view of the sun in late-March based on statistics from Stornoway Airport was about 30 per cent but because the Sun’s heat will be blocked for two hours that morning, the clouds may dissipate somewhat, increasing the likelihood of seeing the sun for at least part of the duration of the eclipse.
He added: “Remember do not look directly at the Sun for any length of time, as it could blind you - use a pinhole viewer or eclipse glasses instead.
“Have happy and safe viewing!”