A solar eclipse occurs when a portion of the Earth is engulfed in a shadow cast by the Moon which fully or partially blocks sunlight.
A solar eclipse occurs when a portion of the Earth is engulfed in a shadow cast by the Moon which fully or partially blocks sunlight. This occurs when the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned. Such alignment coincides with a new moon indicating the Moon is closest to the ecliptic plane. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is completely obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses, only part of the Sun is obscured.
Total Solar eclipses are rare because the timing of the new moon within the eclipse season needs to be more exact for an alignment between the observer (on Earth) and the centers of the Sun and Moon. In addition, the elliptical orbit of the Moon often takes it far enough away from Earth that its apparent size is not large enough to block the Sun entirely. Total solar eclipses are rare at any particular location because totality exists only along a narrow path on the Earth’s surface traced by the Moon’s full shadow or umbra.
Since looking directly at the Sun can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness, special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are used when viewing a solar eclipse. It is technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection; however, this is a dangerous practice, as most people are not trained to recognize the phases of an eclipse, which can span over two hours while the total phase can only last a maximum of 7.5 minutes for any one location. People referred to as eclipse chasers or umbraphiles will travel to remote locations to observe or witness predicted central solar eclipses.
Types of Solar eclipse
Astronomers recognize four basic types of solar eclipses:
- Total eclipse: – A total eclipse occurs when the dark silhouette of the Moon completely obscures the intensely bright light of the Sun, allowing the much fainter solar corona to be visible. During any one eclipse, totality occurs at best only in a narrow track on the surface of Earth. This narrow track is called the path of totality.
- Annular eclipse: – An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line with the Earth, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon.
- Hybrid eclipse: – A hybrid eclipse (also called annular/total eclipse) shifts between a total and annular eclipse. At certain points on the surface of Earth, it appears as a total eclipse, whereas at other points it appears as annular. Hybrid eclipses are comparatively rare.
- Partial eclipse: – A partial eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are not exactly in line with the Earth and the Moon only partially obscures the Sun. This phenomenon can usually be seen from a large part of the Earth outside of the track of an annular or total eclipse.
Interesting Facts about Solar eclipse.
- The longest duration for a total solar eclipse is 7.5 minutes.
- A total solar eclipse is not noticeable until the Sun is more than 90 percent covered by the Moon. At 99 percent coverage, daytime lighting resembles local twilight.
- Eclipse shadows travel at 1,100 miles per hour at the equator and up to 5,000 miles per hour near the poles.
- The width of the path of totality is at most 167 miles wide.
- The maximum number of solar eclipses (partial, annular, or total) is 5 per year.
- There are at least 2 solar eclipses per year somewhere on the Earth.
- Only partial solar eclipses can be observed from the North and South Poles.
- Total solar eclipses happen about once every 1.5 years.
- Nearly identical eclipses (total, annual, or partial) occur after 18 years and 11 days, or every 6,585.32 days (Saros Cycle).
- Twelve different Grand Saros eclipse series are now occurring, with the one producing the eclipses of 1937, 1955, 1973, 1991, and 2009 having durations near the 7.5 minute limit.
- Every eclipse begins at sunrise at some point in its track and ends at sunset about halfway around the world from the start point.
- Partial solar eclipses can be seen up to 3,000 miles from the track of totality.
- Annular solar eclipses happen because the Sun is near one of the nodes of the lunar orbit, and the Moon is at apogee at this node at the same time.
- Shadow bands are often seen on the ground as totality approaches.
- Light filtering through leaves on trees casts crescent shadows as totality approaches.
- Local animals and birds often prepare for sleep or behave confusedly during totality.
- Local temperatures often drop 20 degrees or more near totality.
Myths about Solar eclipse.
Native people in Colombia shouted to the heavens, promising to work hard and mend their ways. Some worked their gardens and other projects especially hard during the eclipse to prove it.
In Norse culture, an evil enchanter, Loki, was put into chains by the gods. Loki got revenge by creating wolflike giants, one of which swallowed the Sun—thereby causing an eclipse. (Another of the giant wolves chased the Moon, trying to eat it.)
Fear led Chippewa people to shoot flaming arrows into the sky to try to rekindle the Sun. Tribes in Peru did the same for a different reason; they hoped to scare off a beast that was attacking the Sun.
In Indonesia and Polynesia, Rahu consumes the Sun—but burns his tongue doing so and spits it out!
In Armenia, a dragon swallowed the Sun and Moon.
In Transylvanian folklore, an eclipse stems from the angry Sun turning away and covering herself with darkness, in response to men’s bad behavior.
In India, many believe that when an eclipse occurs a dragon is trying to seize the two orbs. People immerse themselves in rivers up to their neck, imploring the Sun and Moon to defend them against the dragon.
Some Native Americans drew on a similar concept: that a solar eclipse was a visit of companions.
The fog or dew or other precipitation resulting from an eclipse was considered dangerous.
The Japanese thought that poison would drop from the sky and covered their wells.
In Transylvania, they believed that eclipses could cause plague.
As recently as 2010, during the near annular (very large partial eclipse), out of fear, people stayed home. Few were on the streets, restaurants and hotels saw a dip in business (many customers preferred not to eat during the event), and most schools closed when students did not show up.
In Cambodia, in 1995, instead of screaming and banging during a solar eclipse, soldiers shot into the air to scare the mythic dragon from the sky. It was reported that the only scattered casualties were from the bullets.
In Baja, California, in 1991, astronomers were surprised by the weeping and wailing of hotel staff, who were terrified by the onset of darkness.
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