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Viewing a solar eclipse


1 Solar eclipse

audio On December 25th, 2000, many people across North America received a rare Christmas treat when the moon passed in front of the sun resulting in a partial solar eclipse.

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Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and the moon's shadow covers part of the Earth, and a total solar eclipse takes place when the moon's shadow blocks out the sun entirely.

This particular solar eclipse was unique, because it has only ever occurred on December 25th 30 times during the past 5000 years, the last time in 1954.

  1. Was it really unique? Can you add more to that sentence to qualify the word unique?
  2. What word has a similar meaning to 'happened'?
  3. Which syllable is stressed in the word 'entirely' ?
  4. Make a sentence where the words occurred and happened are interchangeable and where these two words have different meanings.

3 - Watch your eyes!!


People must be exceptionally careful when attempting to view a solar eclipse. Without taking precautionary measures, one can permanently damage the retina of the eye; however, there are several safe methods of witnessing this heavenly marvel.

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First, you can view a solar eclipse by using eclipse safety glasses for filtering out the sun's harmful rays. They should be used when any part of the sun is visible.

  1. What is a coffee filter? What does it do? How does it work?
  2. What are the three primary colours of light?
  3. What are the three primary colours for paint and pigments?

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Sunglasses can block out some of the sun's ultraviolet rays, but the results can be very deceptive. The eye's natural reaction to this darkened state when wearing sunglasses is to make the pupil larger, which allows in more light and can intensify the damage to your eye.

6 - Questions

  1. Does this paragraph recommend viewing an eclipse with sunglasses?
  2. Can you replace block out with another verb?
  3. Ultraviolet is one side of the visible spectrum, what is at the other end?
  4. Deceptive is an adjective. What is the verb form of this word? You should never (deceptive)
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    me like that.
  5. Was is a dilated pupil?

7 - Projecting the image


You can watch an eclipse by projecting the sun's image on a piece of paper either by using a telescope, or easier still, by creating a pinhole in a piece of paper and viewing the result on another piece of paper, this is called a pinhole projector.

Telescope pinhole camera
  1. Is the image of the tree:
    1. upside down.
    2. inside out
    3. Back to front.
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Only during a total eclipse when the sun is completely and briefly covered can you watch the eclipse without eye protection. Even then, extreme caution should be taken.

9 - Match the words with phonetic symbols

  1. Only

    You are the one and only

  2. brIEfly

    Let me briefy explain.

  3. covered

    This cake was covered all over with icing

  4. watch

    Please watch your step

  5. caution

    Throw cation to the wind

  6. taken

    Have you taken your tablet

  1. phone
  2. Tree
  3. Train
  4. up
  5. Clock
  6. Horse

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In case you didn't catch this last spectacular eclipse on December 25th, 2000, there's no need to fret. Your descendants can record the next eclipse on Christmas in the year 2307, but only if they're visiting the west coast of Africa for their holidays.

11 Questions

  1. 'fret' as a verb means:
    1. Don't worry.
    2. Don't be afraid
    3. Don't care
  2. 'fret' as a noun:
    1. a part of a tree
    2. a part of a book
    3. a part of a guitar

12 - Partial Eclipse of 2011

People standing across a great swathe of the Earth's surface saw the Moon take a big bite out of the Sun.
For north Africa and much of Europe, the event began at sunrise, whereas in central Russia and north-west China, the spectacle occurred at sunset.
North-east Sweden had the best sight. From 0850 GMT, near the city of Skelleftea, the Moon covered almost 90% of the Sun's diameter.
The BBC's Jonathan Amos: "It's the beauty of seeing these celestial bodies move"
To get that view, however, Swedish skywatchers would have needed a high vantage point, as both celestial bodies were skirting the horizon at that time. As is always the case for solar eclipses, the public was warned to take great care. Viewing the Sun's harsh light should only be done through protective equipment - proper solar glasses and solar telescopes, or through a pinhole projection system.
partial solar eclipses occur when the Sun and Moon do not quite align in the sky as viewed from Earth, and the deep shadow cast by the smaller body passing across the bigger one just misses the planet. Viewing the Sun's harsh light should only be done through protective equipment

Nonetheless, the phenomenon resulted in a dip in light, depending on how big a chunk of the solar disc the Moon was seen to obscure. This effect varied from place to place and in time. Northern Algeria was the first location to experience the eclipse. In European cities like London and Paris, the eclipse was already under way as the Sun rose. The further east the event tracked, the closer it got to local sunset. Central Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and north-west China all observed an eclipsed Sun over the horizon.

Vocabulary - Big or small

Do the adjectives in the box mean a big or small amount or size?
vast imperceptible astronomical enormous minuscule infinitesimal immense immeasurable colossal microscopic minute
Do the adjectives in this box refer to a long or short time?
brief fleeting prolonged sustained transient protracted lengthy momentary enduring lasting instant


brief fleeting prolonged sustained transient protracted lengthy momentary enduring lasting instant


Now choose the correct adjective to complete the sentences.

  1. The shooting star was only visible for a very (transient / brief )
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    period before it disappeared.
  2. Space programmes require ( vast / imperceptible )
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    sums of money.
  3. It is made up of ( microscopic / immense )
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    particles that are invisible to the naked eye.
  4. Space exploration, with its rockets and robots, has an (enduring / protracted )
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    appeal for children.
  5. There was a (lengthy / lasting )
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    investigation into the failure of the launch system.
  6. The surface of the planet is covered in (colossal / astronomical )
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    volcanoes, much larger than any on Earth.
  7. The camera shows the planet's rings in ( fleeting / minute )
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  8. We've had two years of ( sustained / prolonged )
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    growth in science funding.

Choose words

planets impact debris eclipse surface moons spins gravity sustain climatic penetrate rotational satellite
You might witness it once, or if you're particularly lucky or very long-lived, perhaps twice. But a total solar
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is worth the wait. At the height of totality, the fit of the sun and the moon is so perfect that beads of sunlight can only just
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the rugged valleys on the lunar
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, creating the stunning 'diamond ring' effect. It's all thanks to a striking coincidence. The sun is about 400 times as wide as the moon but it is also 400 times further away. The two therefore look the same size in the sky a unique situation among our solar system's eight
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and 188 known
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Earth is also the only known planet to
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life. Our moon is different, but how did it form? Planetary scientists believe that, in the first 100 million years of our solar system, a Mars-sized object smashed into Earth. The
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radically changed our planet, expelling a huge amount of
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that eventually congealed into our oversized moon. Such a big moon is a big boon for life on Earth. As Earth
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on its own axis, it has a natural tendency to wobble, owing to the varying pull from other bodies such as the sun. The unseen hand of the moon's
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gently reduces that wobble, preventing
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instabilities which would otherwise have caused dramatic changes in Earth's
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zones over time. Such instabilities would have made it much trickier for life to get started on our planet.

What do you think?

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