Day will return to night just three hours after sunrise tomorrow as Lancashire is plunged into morning twilight by a solar eclipse.
For several minutes around 9.30am the skies will turn dark, the birds could fall eerily silent and scientists will be all of a lather as Britain witnesses a rare collision of three astronomical events.
The first significant eclipse since 1999 will obscure more than 90 per cent of the sun and coincide with a Supermoon and also the Spring Equinox.
For scientists like Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, head of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, it will be an exciting day, although the Preston weather may well ruin it.
“The forecast hasn’t been good all week,” said Prof Ward-Thomson, head of mathematics, physics and astronomy at the University of Central Lancashire. “If we have thick cloud cover it will be a major disappointment. We are keeping our fingers crossed.”
The eclipse will happen towards the end of the rush hour with many commuters still making their way to work as the gloom descends.
The event is made even more notable by the presence of a Supermoon – when the moon passes closest to the earth and is seen at its largest in the sky – and the equinox, when day and night are of equal length.
Millions across Britain will stop to observe the eclipse, although safety warnings have been issued about the risks of looking directly at the sun.
UCLan staff and students will be outside the university’s Foster Building to observe the event and invite passers-by to view it through special glasses.
“It will be at its best between 8.30 and 9.30,” said Prof Ward-Thompson. “Here in Preston we should get more than 90 per cent coverage.”
13 fascinating facts about the solar eclipse
Most of the sun will be blocked out by a solar eclipse on Friday. Here’s our take on the event.
1. Up to 90 per cent of the sun will be covered in the Lancashire area as the moon passes in front of it on Friday morning.
2. The incredible spectacle begins at around 8.22am, reaches its maximum extent at 9.29am, and ends at 10.39am.
3. In Vietnam, people seeing an eclipse believed that a giant frog was devouring the Sun, while in ancient China a hungry celestial dragon was thought to be responsible.
4. According to ancient Hindu mythology, the demon Rahu is beheaded by the supreme deity Vishnu for drinking the nectar of the gods. His head flies across the sky and swallows the Sun.
5. It was common practice for people to bang pots and pans and make loud noises during a eclipse to scare the demon away.
6. Korean folklore tells of the Sun being stolen by mythical dogs, while in Europe, the Vikings blamed wolves for consuming the Sun.
7. The ancient Greeks believed a solar eclipse was a sign that the gods were angry, and that it heralded disasters and destruction.
8. Among modern superstitions is the belief that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and unborn children. In some cultures, young children and expectant mothers are asked to stay indoors during an eclipse.
9. In parts of India, people still fast during a solar eclipse because of the fear that any food cooked during the event will be poisoned.
10. A few superstitions offer a positive slant on eclipses. In Italy some believe that flowers planted during a solar eclipse will be brighter and more colourful than at any other time.
11. The Batammaliba people from Benin and Togo in West Africa have a legend that during an eclipse the Sun and Moon are fighting. The only way to stop the conflict, they believe, is for people on Earth to settle their differences.
12. The last solar eclipse of such significance occurred on August 11 1999, and was “total” - with 100% of the Sun covered - when seen from Cornwall
13. The next total eclipse is not until September 2090