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How to see this weekend's partial solar eclipse

The penguins are in luck, as are some skywatchers in the Southern Hemisphere: A solar eclipse will be visible from Antarctica, southern Africa and the Indian Ocean on Sunday.

The best view of this partial solar eclipse -- the third of four solar or lunar eclipses this year -- from an urban area will be from Cape Town, South Africa, where the moon will cover a maximum of 30 percent of the sun. The eclipse will begin in Cape Town just as the sun and moon are rising at 6:49 a.m. local time. Early risers will see a tiny bite out of the sun. At 7:43 a.m., the eclipse will reach its maximum, and by 8:50 a.m., it will be over.

This eclipse will be visible throughout South Africa, and also in southern parts of Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It will also be visible over a wide area of the Indian Ocean and Antarctica. [Solar Eclipses: An Observer's Guide (Infographic)]

The best way to observe a partial solar eclipse is with a filter specifically designed for viewing the sun. Stores specializing in telescopes sell these filters. Safe "eclipse shades" are often widely available prior to an eclipse. A No. 14 welder's glass also works well, and is available from specialized welding shops. The ordinary, No. 12 welder's glass sold in hardware stores to protect welders' eyes from extremely bright light does not provide adequate protection from the sun.

If you don't have a proper solar filter, you can view the partially eclipsed sun with a pinhole camera by punching a hole about a millimeter in diameter in a piece of cardboard. Natural "pinholes" created by leaves on trees or reflections from a building's windows will also work.

Under no circumstances look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses, as you can quickly cause permanent damage to your eyes. If a small magnifying glass can light a fire in seconds, think what will happen to the retina of your eye by staring at the sun.

You can watch a live stream of the eclipse online, provided by slooh.com, beginning at 12:30 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday (9:30 p.m. Pacific time Saturday night).


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