WATCH: How to watch the solar eclipse safely in Hartlepool

SKY gazers are being warned to protect their eyes during tomorrow’s solar eclipse.

The phenomenon, which occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth is expected to begin just after 8.30am, peaking at about 9.40am and finishing at approximately 10.45am.

Special glasses for watching the solar eclipse are particularly useful for schoolchildren.

Special glasses for watching the solar eclipse are particularly useful for schoolchildren.

Almost 94 per cent of the sun’s light is expected to be blocked out – the first time this has happened since 1999.

However, eye experts at Specsavers in Hartlepool are urging people to take care and not to look directly at the sun, as its rays can damage the eye, causing solar retinopathy.

Store manager Ian Walker said: “A solar eclipse of this scale and coverage is something not to be missed but the public should be aware of the risks of looking directly as the sun and how to make sure they are not left with any long-lasting damage.

“It is vital that you protect your eyes as the sun’s UV radiation can burn the retinas, leading to permanent damage or even blindness. This can occur even if your eyes are exposed to direct sunlight for just a few seconds.

SOLAR SPECTACLE: The last solar eclipse in August 1999

SOLAR SPECTACLE: The last solar eclipse in August 1999

“You should never, under any circumstances, look directly at the sun without the appropriate protective eyewear.

“Observations from the last solar eclipse in 1999, highlighted a surge in patients with possible solar retinopathy after viewing the eclipse, so without dramatising the dangers, we are asking the people to be aware and stay safe.”

Solar retinopathy is damage to the eye’s retina, particularly the macula, from prolonged exposure to solar radiation or other bright light. It usually occurs due to staring at the sun, watching a solar eclipse or viewing an ultraviolet or other bright light.

This damage is often painless, so people don’t realise what they’re doing to their vision.

Safety tips:

1. Make a pinhole viewer,

Make a small hole in a piece of card using a compass or other sharp-pointed implement. Standing with your back to the Sun, position another white card behind the one with the pinhole so that the Sun projects an image through the hole in the first card onto it.

2. Use a mirror.

Cover a small flat mirror with paper that has a small hole cut in it – no wider than 5mm. Prop up or clamp the mirror so that it reflects the sunlight on to a pale screen or wall.

The eclipse can be seen in the image as the Moon starts to take a “bite” out of the Sun, appearing upside down compared with its position in the sky.

3. Get a bucket.

Perhaps the most low-tech way of witnessing the eclipse is to fill a bucket with water and look at the reflection.