A solar eclipse is when a line forms between the Sun, the moon and the Earth. The moon blocks a portion of the Sun’s light and creates a large shadow on the Earth. If you are on the right part of the Earth you will be able to see the eclipse.
- The shadow created on the Earth by the moon during a solar eclipse is broken down into three parts. These are the umbra, penumbra and antumbra. The Umbra is the darkest part of the shadow, where the moon is completely covering the sun. The antumbra is the area surrounding this, where the moon is in front of the Sun but isn’t covering it in its entirety so the shadow is not as dark. The penumbra is the outer area of the shadow where the moon is only covering a part of the Sun.
- There are three different types of solar eclipse. These are called a total eclipse, partial eclipse and an annular eclipse.
- A total eclipse is where the moon completely blocks out the sun. To observe this you will need to be located in the middle of the shadow cast by the moon (the umbra). The total eclipse makes the sky very dark as though it is night time. This is the only type of eclipse that is safe to look at with the naked eye. All other types require sunglasses with a solar filter to prevent damage to the eye from the Sun’s rays.
- An annular eclipse is when the moon is in front of the Sun but is not blocking it out entirely, so a ring of light appears around its edges. This is usually because the moon is further away from the Earth in its orbit making the moon seem smaller.
- A partial eclipse is when the moon is not blocking out all of the Sun. This is because they are not quite lined up properly. When this is the case you may see anything from a sliver of a shadow on the Sun to almost a total eclipse. It mostly depends on your location on Earth and which part of the shadow cast by the moon you are in.
- There are usually between 2 and 5 eclipses in any given year.
- Total solar eclipses happen on average one and a half years.
- The longest total solar eclipse lasts around seven and a half minutes.
- Total solar eclipses cannot be seen from the North and South Poles.
- Almost identical solar eclipses happen every 18 years and 11 months.
- The word eclipse was used to describe this event as it is the Greek word meaning abandonment or downfall.
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