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Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


The Power And Beauty Of The Solar Eclipse


In the unyielding modern world there can sometimes be no respite from the relentless pace of change and continual improvement. The rapid rate of technological and sociological acceleration means that everyday we are bombarded by such large quantities of stimuli that we barely pause to recognise the wonders that are before our eyes.

There is one phenomena that continually arrests our behaviour, stopping us dead in our tracks. Irrespective of race, creed or status, the stunning nature of solar eclipses leaves a lasting impression upon us all.

Total Eclipse Of The Sun Photo By Luc Viatour

What’s An Eclipse?

Eclipses are simply the Moon getting in the way of the Sun, temporarily blocking its view as the satellite continues along its orbit around the Earth.

Solar Eclipses only occur when the Moon is in the New Moon phase of its cycle. Every year there are between two and five Solar Eclipses as the Moon’s transit, either partially or totally, blocks the Sun.

The Luck Of The Draw

The reason why we get total eclipses is purely down to chance and the period of time that we now occupy. In the future total eclipses of the Sun will be a thing of the past on Earth as the Moon moves farther and farther away from us.

The Sun is roughly 400 times the diameter of the Moon. Coincidentally, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is roughly 400 times greater than the distance between the Moon and the Earth.

This quirk means that both the Sun and the Moon appear to be equal in size from the vantage point of the Earth, allowing the Moon to completely block out the Sun as it passes over it.

Annual Solar Eclipse Photo By Sancho Panza

Types Of Eclipses

There are four types of Solar Eclipses that are dependant upon the trajectory of the Moon’s orbit around and the distance the Moon is from Earth.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse occurs when the Moon only blocks a portion of the Sun. These are the most common type and can be viewed by large amounts of people as the eclipse often covers a large part of the Earth.

Total Eclipse

A total eclipse occurs when the Moon completely blocks out the Sun. Only a small portion of the population can view a total eclipse, as just a small fraction of the Earth’s surface is covered.

Partial Solar Eclipse

Annual Eclipse

Annual eclipses are almost total eclipses, however, a small ring of the Sun remains visible. These occur when the Moon is closer to its apogee cycle (when it is farthest from the Earth) and thus the Moon appears slightly smaller than the Sun from Earth.

Hybrid Eclipse

The rarest of all eclipses is the hybrid. These happen when there is a transition either from a total eclipse to an annual eclipse or vice versa. Depending upon their location, some people will see a total eclipse while others will see an annual eclipse.

Eclipses From 2000 to 2020 Courtesy Of NASA And Fred Espenak

Down through the ages solar eclipses have been associated with many different things, most of them bad. Some were put down to supernatural forces while others viewed them as warnings of doom.

For anyone that has had the good fortune to experience a total eclipse it is easy to see understand why they can be so frightening. One minute the earth is saturated with daylight, the next moment it becomes pitch dark as an artificial night is induced.

But we now know better. Free of superstitious beliefs we can enjoy one of the most spectacular sights in the Solar System.

Highly Recommended Reading

Total Solar Eclipses And How To Observe Them gives a great account of how to photograph these awesome sights as well as a detailed explanation of why they occur.

You can obtain Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them (Astronomers’ Observing Guides).
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain:Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them here.
For Germany: Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them (Astronomers’ Observing Guides).
For France: Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them.

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