(ORDO NEWS) — A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun, and the Moon casts a shadow on the Earth.
A solar eclipse can only occur during the new moon phase, when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and the Earth and its shadows fall on the Earth’s surface. But whether this alignment results in a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse, or an annular solar eclipse depends on several factors, which are explained below.
Did you miss the solar eclipse?
The fact that an eclipse can occur at all is an accident of celestial mechanics and time. Since the Moon formed about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been gradually moving away from the Earth (about 1.6 inches or 4 centimeters per year).
Right now, the moon is at the perfect distance to appear in our sky and be exactly the same size as the sun, and therefore block it out. But it is not always the case.
When will the next solar eclipse be?
The next solar eclipse will be on April 30, 2022. This is the first of two partial solar eclipses in 2022, with the second occurring on October 25. We won’t see another total solar eclipse until 2023.
The eclipse on April 30 will only be visible from parts of Antarctica and the southern margin of South America, as well as parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Types of solar eclipses
There are four types of solar eclipses: total, annular, partial, and hybrid. Here is what each type calls:
Total solar eclipses
Total solar eclipses are a happy accident of nature. The Sun is 864,000 miles in diameter, 400 times larger than our tiny Moon, which is only about 2,160 miles long.
But the Moon also happens to be about 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun (the ratio varies because both orbits are elliptical), and as a result, when the planes of the orbits intersect and the distances align favorably, the new Moon appears to completely cover the sun’s disk.
On average, a total eclipse occurs somewhere on Earth about every 18 months.
There are actually two types of shadows: umber is the part of the shadow that blocks out all the sunlight. Umbra takes the form of a dark thin cone. It is surrounded by penumbra – a lighter funnel-shaped shadow, from which sunlight is partially hidden.
During a total solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow on the Earth’s surface – it can cover a third of the way around the planet in just a few hours. Those lucky enough to be in the shadow’s direct path will see the sun’s disk turn into a crescent as the moon’s dark shadow hurtles across the landscape towards them.
During the short period of totality, when the sun is completely covered, a beautiful corona is revealed to the eye – the rarefied outer atmosphere of the sun. A total eclipse can last up to 7 minutes 31 seconds, although most total eclipses are usually much shorter.
Partial solar eclipses
A partial solar eclipse occurs when only penumbra (partial shadow) passes over you. In these cases, part of the sun always remains in view during the eclipse. How much of the sun remains in view depends on the specific circumstances.
Usually penumbra gives only a gliding blow to our planet over the polar regions – in such cases, in places far from the poles, but still within the penumbra zone, no more than a small scallop of the sun, hidden by the moon, is visible. Otherwise, those who are within a couple of thousand miles of the total eclipse’s path will see a partial eclipse.
The closer you are to the path of totality, the greater the obscuration of the Sun for you. If, for example, you are outside the path of a total eclipse, you will see the Sun shrink into a narrow crescent and then thicken again as the shadow passes by.
Annular solar eclipses
An annular eclipse, while rare and amazing, is very different from a total one. The sky will darken… quite a bit – there will be some kind of strange “fake twilight” in it, as the sun is still shining. An annular eclipse is a subset of a partial eclipse, not a total eclipse. The maximum duration of an annular eclipse is 12 minutes 30 seconds.
However, an annular solar eclipse is similar to a total eclipse in that the Moon appears to be passing through the center of the Sun. The difference is that the Moon is too small to completely cover the disk of the Sun.
Since the Moon revolves around the Earth in an elliptical orbit, its distance from the Earth can vary from 221,457 to 252,712 miles. But the dark shadow cone of the Moon’s shadow can extend no more than 235,700 miles, less than the Moon’s average distance from Earth.
So if the Moon is any slightly further away, the tip of its shadow won’t reach the Earth. During such an eclipse, the antumbra (the theoretical extension of the shadow) reaches the earth, and anyone within it can look up on either side of the shadow and see a “ring of fire” around the moon.
A good analogy is to put 50 kopecks on top of a five-ruble coin, where the kopecks are the moon and the nickel is the sun.
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