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Astronomy’s lords of the ring invade Scotland for eclipse

Stephen Khan, Scotland editor

The giant fiery ring will rise before humbled masses as nature takes its course. A flaming circle of Sun above the sea is due to delight thousands of awe-struck sky-gazers drawn to Scotland’s extremities from across Europe.

This phenomenon of nature is the annular eclipse – the first visible in Britain for more than 80 years. It is a spectacle expected, for sheer drama, to rival the solar eclipse that drew thousands to Cornwall in 1999.

If – and in Scotland it’s a big ‘if’ – the skies are reasonably clear, television crews, astronomers, tourists, druids, sun-worshippers and latter-day pagans gathered at John O’Groats in the early hours of 31 May will be treated to a stunning event. The newly risen Sun will be almost entirely blotted from the sky by the Moon, but unlike the solar eclipse seen in southern England four years ago, this time a narrow circle of sunlight will be visible around the Moon.

Only those who make the long journey to the north coast of Scotland or beyond will be able to catch a glimpse of the first annular eclipse visible in Britain since 1921. The last solar eclipse prior to 1999 was in 1927. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the centre of the Sun but not its edges, so that a ring – or annulus – of light is left around the Moon.

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