ISLAMABAD/RAWAL­PINDI: An annular solar eclipse, popularly known as the ‘Ring of Fire’, will be visible across the country on Sunday (tomorrow).

According to the Met dep­a­rtment, the solar eclipse will be visible in the country for two to three hours. “An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s centre, leaving the Sun’s outer edges to form a ‘ring of fire’, or annulus, aro­u­nd the Moon,” Nadeem Faisal, who heads the Met dep­artment’s climate data processing centre, told Dawn.

He said the eclipse would be visible in Pakistan and parts of Africa, northern India and China. “The partial eclipse will begin at 8.46am and end at 2.34pm (PST). It will be at its peak at 11.40am,” he said.

In Sukkur, the sun will be hidden the most — 98.78 per cent — by 11.07am. It will be followed by Gwadar, where the moon will cover the sun 97.8pc by 10.48am.

The eclipse will be visible in Islamabad from 9.50am to 1.36pm (peak at 11.25am), in Karachi from 9.26am to 12.46pm (peak at 10.59am), in Lahore from 9.48am to 1.10pm (peak at 11.26am), in Peshawar from 9.48am to 1.02pm (11.21am), Quetta from 9.35am to 12.49pm (11.06am), Gilgit from 9.56am to 1.08pm (11.30am) and in Muzaffarabad from 9.52am to 1.07pm (11.26am).

Fawad Chaudhry, the federal Minister for Science and Technology, cautioned the public against looking directly at the eclipse as it can damage the eyes.

“You can seriously hurt your eyes and even go blind. While watching a partial eclipse proper eye protection, like eclipse glasses or a sun filter, is the only safe option. Sunglasses do not work,” the Ministry of Science and Technology said in an advisory on Friday.

The ministry said that according to the National Aeronautics and Space Adm­i­nistration (Nasa), materials like sunglasses of any kind, colour film, medical X-ray film, smoked glass and floppy disks must never be used to watch a solar eclipse.

“The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation can burn the eyes, leading to permanent damage or even blindness. This can occur even if your eyes are exposed to direct sunlight for just a few seconds,” the ministry warned the public.

There will be four lunar and two solar eclipses during this year. The second solar eclipse will occur on Dec 14, but it will not be visible in Pakistan.

Two lunar eclipses have already occurred this year — on Jan 10 and June 5-6. Both were seen in Pakistan.

Mr Faisal advised eclipse watchers to only use sun filter/eclipse glasses for protection.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2020