What Are Solar Eclipses?
Next Total Solar Eclipse: Mon, Aug 21, 2017 … See animation
Next Eclipse: Partial Lunar Eclipse – Mon, Aug 7, 2017 … See animation
Solar eclipses are a spectacular sight and a rare astronomical event. Each one is only visible from a limited area.
The Moon Eclipses the Sun
The Moon's shadow is not big enough to engulf the entire planet, so the shadow is always limited to a certain area (see map illustrations below). This area changes during the course eclipse because the Moon and Earth are in constant motion: Earth continuously rotates around its axis while it orbits the Sun, and the Moon orbits Earth. This is why solar eclipses seem to travel from one place to another
Upcoming 5 Solar Eclipses
|Dates||Path of the Eclipse|
|Aug 21, 2017|
|Feb 15, 2018|
|Jul 13, 2018|
|Aug 11, 2018|
|Jan 5 / Jan 6, 2019|
Types of Solar Eclipses
- Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely covers the Sun, and it can only take place when the Moon is near perigee, the point of the Moon's orbit closest to Earth. You can only see a total solar eclipse if you're in the path where the Moon's casts its darkest shadow, the umbra.
- Partial solar eclipses occur when the Moon only partly eclipses the Sun's disk and casts only its penumbra on Earth.
- Annular solar eclipses take place when the Moon's disk only covers the center of the Sun's disk, leaving the Sun's outer edges visible to form a ring of fire in the sky. An annular eclipse of the Sun takes place when the Moon is near apogee, and the Moon's antumbra falls on Earth.
- Hybrid solar eclipses happen when the same eclipse has an annular maximum point in some locations and a total maximum point in other locations. These are very rare.
Solar Eclipses Mainly Look Partial
Solar eclipses are only visible from within the area on Earth where the Moon's shadow falls, and the closer you are to the center of the shadow's path, the bigger the eclipse looks. The maximum point is only visible at the very center of the shadow, and only here will you see the darkest stage of solar eclipses.
Solar eclipses are usually named for their darkest, or maximum, point, even if it sometimes lasts less than a second. The exception is the very rare hybrid solar eclipse when an annular eclipse turns into a total solar eclipse along the eclipse's path.
The maximum point of solar eclipses is only visible from a small area. In most places and for most of the duration, total, annular, and hybrid eclipses look like a partial solar eclipse.
Only around New Moon
For a solar eclipse to take place, the Sun, the Moon, and Earth must be aligned in a perfect or near perfect straight line–an alignment astronomers call syzygy. This happens around New Moon every lunar month.
There are 2 reasons:
- The New Moon has to be near a lunar node. These nodes are 2 points where the plane of the Moon's orbital path around Earth meets Earth's orbital plane around the Sun–the ecliptic. The paths meet because the plane of the Moon's path around Earth is inclined at an angle of approximately 5° to the ecliptic.
- The Sun must also be close to a lunar node so it can form a perfect or near-perfect line with the Moon and Earth. This alignment occurs a little less than 6 months apart, and it lasts, on average, around 34.5 days. It is only during this time–the eclipse season–that eclipses can take place.
Protect Your Eyes!
Never look directly at the Sun, eclipsed or otherwise, without any protective eyewear. The Sun’s UV radiation can burn the retinas in your eyes leading to permanent damage or even blindness.
The best way to safely watch a total solar eclipse is to wear protective eclipse glasses or to project an image of the eclipsed Sun using a pinhole projector.
Next Total Solar Eclipse
Aug 21, 2017 at 15:46 UTC … See more
- Different Types of Eclipses
- What are Solar Eclipses?
- Total Solar Eclipses
- Partial Solar Eclipses
- Annular Solar Eclipses
- Solar Eclipses in History
- Solar Eclipse Myths and Superstitions
- Magnitude of Eclipses
Protect Your Eyes
- Never Look Directly at the Sun
- Simple Pinhole Projector
- Eclipse Projector in a Box
- Binoculars / Telescope Projector