Astronomy

Why solar eclipse paths are symmetrical?

Why solar eclipse paths are symmetrical?



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Reading upon the eclipse of March 20, 2015, I stumbled upon this page: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/list-solar.html. What caught my eye is that for each year there are two eclipses whose paths are almost symmetrical relative to equator.

I'm just curious why that's always exactly so.


The orbit of the moon is inclined by 5.14° to the ecliptic.

As you may know, the ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky, so it is also the plane of Earth's orbit around the Sun. The plane of the Moon's orbit is inclined by 5.14° to the plane of the Earth's orbit. The intersection of the two plans is a line bisecting both planes.

There is a nice picture of this at http://www.cnyo.org/tag/orbital-plane/. [I'll insert it here after checking the copyright]

So, it is only when the Earth is very near to the intersection line that an eclipse can occur, because it is only then that the Sun, Moon and Earth can be in a strait line. This occurs for slightly more than a month (called an eclipse season), twice a year.

Another angle comes into the picture too. The axis of the Earth is tilted, so the equator is at 23.4° to the plane of the ecliptic.

So, the pattern you have observed comes about because of that geometry, where mirror image eclipse paths occur about six months apart.

The linked pages explain a lot more of the complexities.


A solar eclipse is also responsible for the discovery of helium. The first piece of evidence for the existence of the second lightest and the second most abundant element known to humans was discovered by the French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse on August 18, 1868. Because of this, it's named after the Greek word for the Sun: Helios.

Surviving records have shown that the Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 BCE.

In China, solar eclipses were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. Legend has it that 2 astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse. Historians and astronomers believe that the eclipse that they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.


Why do eclipses happen?

Solar eclipses are relatively rare they happen when the Moon moves directly and precisely in front of the Sun. Why are they so infrequent, and why do solar eclipses always come in pairs with lunar eclipses?

It is all down to a mix of orbital alignments and cosmic coincidences. The Moon is able to cover the Sun’s disc precisely because the Sun is about 400 times bigger than the Moon, and also about 400 times further away, meaning they have the same size in our sky. That’s a huge coincidence! With all that sky above our heads though, what causes the Sun and the Moon to be in the same position in the sky at the same time?

It’s all a question of orbits. Earth orbits the Sun along a plane that we call the ecliptic – all of the planets orbit along this plane, more or less. The Moon, however, orbits Earth at an angle that is tilted to the ecliptic, by about five degrees. This means that on each orbit around Earth (a lunar orbit lasts 27 days), the Moon only crosses the ecliptic at two locations and these are the only two opportunities for an eclipse, be it a solar or a lunar eclipse.

A picture of the partial eclipse of 23 October 2014 taken using an HTC mobile phone at the eyepiece of a filtered 125mm refractor. Image: Nick James.

Now, an eclipse of either variety can only happen when the Sun, Moon and Earth are in a line. Usually, the Moon crosses the ecliptic when they are not in a line, so we do not see an eclipse. However, on odd occasions – roughly once every 18 months on average – the Moon crosses the ecliptic at a time when it is aligned with Earth and the Sun. If this crossing takes place when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun, we see a solar eclipse. Two weeks later the Moon moves to the other side of Earth, with the alignment still the same, causing the Moon to slip into Earth’s shadow. Here on Earth, we see a lunar eclipse.

So solar and lunar eclipses always come in pairs. This year, the eclipse of 10 June was proceeded by a total lunar eclipse on the night of 26/27 May which was visible from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region.


After the Events of 2020, One Writer Found Comfort in Chasing the Total Solar Eclipse in Chile

The forecast couldn&apost have been gloomier. December 12: rain. December 13: rain. December 14, the day of the solar eclipse I&aposd traveled 5,500 miles to see: more rain. I&aposd flown on the 11th, mid-pandemic, sitting masked up on a tense flight from New York to Santiago, then on to Temuco, in southern Chile. Of course I had registered the dour weather predictions before boarding, but after nine months of house bondage, I didn&apost care. The idea of perfect conditions or a perfect experience had long since fallen off the menu.

Throughout history, eclipses have been interpreted as cosmic, spiritual resets. Folklore from Scandinavia and Asia to the Americas depicts these events as a battle between light and dark, with the moon (or other malevolent actors like wolves, bears, frogs, or dragons) seeking to depose the diurnal status quo. Though the forces of light invariably triumph, the terror brought on by the sudden, surreal inversion of time, space, and temperature was typically interpreted by soothsayers and medicine men as a warning: Pay heed. Take nothing for granted.

That said, my ambitions for the trip were far from profound. At the end of a long and brutal year, I wanted to gauge what I&aposd lost in lockdown. The pandemic had disrupted—obliterated, even—the daily flow of stimuli by which I apprehended the world, and by which I understood myself in relation to it. How bad a hit had my senses taken? Had the experience done away with my capacity for wonder?

On the two-hour trip from the airport to a glampsite in southern Chile&aposs Lake District set up specially for the eclipse, my driver, peering out at dairy and berry farms through his rain-streaked windshield, fretted about the weather. Temperatures had been running some 20 degrees below the seasonal average, he said, with nighttime lows in the 40s. We came within sight of Lake Villarrica, a popular tourist destination. The surface of the lake, roused to a salt-and-pepper stipple by the rain, was devoid of sailboats or swimmers. So much for high season.

We came to Pucón, a resort town in the foothills of the Andes known as a hub for skiing, trekking, biking, and fishing. The humdrum landscape of commercial farms gave way to smallholdings, wood cabins, and country houses with corrugated tin roofs. Two snow-topped volcanoes, Rucapillán and Lanín, towered in the distance. Flocks of sheep, white and brown, grazed with choreographed precision, each one facing the same direction, amid ridges and valleys dense with evergreens and laced in mist.

When the car finally stopped at our destination, I was taken aback. Amid my tense travel preparations (face shield or goggles? One mask or two?), I hadn&apost given much thought to the accommodations. If anything, the word camping had conjured a basic, small-scale setup. But this site on the banks of the Río Liucura, a fly fisherman&aposs dream brimming over from the recent rain, felt more like a community.

The camp was the work of Raul Buenaventura, founder and CEO of VM Elite, an adventure broker that caters to high-end clients eager to explore Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, and far-flung parts of Peru and Bolivia. It consists of a dozen or so large, round tents about 50 yards apart from one another. From the woods surrounding the encampment, I could hear the distinctive chorus of black-throated huet-huet਋irds. The trees were covered with epiphytes, moss, and lichen, some fronds as thick as pasta. Fragrant smoke from wood fires drifted our way, mixed with the scent of pine and the humid cold.

Eclipse-spotting is rapidly gaining in popularity, and Buenaventura had set up a successful camp for a July 2019 eclipse some 650 miles north of Pucón, near the city of La Serena. I&aposd spent the two weeks preceding my trip frantically messaging with him as the weather and COVID-19 conditions shifted on what seemed like an hourly basis. He&aposd seemed, understandably, at the end of his rope.

The eclipse would be observable in its totality within𠅊nd only within𠅊 56-mile band running through Chile and Argentina, with visibility petering out somewhere in the South Atlantic. Given the rain, the need for social distancing, and travel restrictions that changed from town to town, province to province, and country to country, the logistics of hosting a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse-viewing event seemed taxing, to say the least. But in person, Buenaventura, a boyish fortysomething in preppy-chic trekking gear, seemed enthusiastic—if somewhat sleep-deprived.

"After all the closures this year, I really had no expectations," he said. "My main motivation was just to be able to see the eclipse, and help other people see it. I knew it was going to be difficult."

As Buenaventura led me around, he explained that the tents were made by Bell, a British company, and had the distinct advantage of being able to support electrical circuitry. "You can get heaters in there, AC, bathrooms, whatever you need." As we arrived at my tent, I noted only the warmth, and the plush-looking bed. At that moment, nothing else mattered.

At mealtimes over the next two days, I met the 25 or so other guests who&aposd braved the weather, travel restrictions, and dubious odds of actually seeing the eclipse. A chef served up hearty plates of lamb and beef and fresh-baked breads, which we ate outside on a deck overlooking the river. I learned what the eclipse meant for my fellow campers, and what had motivated them to come.

A 30-year-old man from Santiago said he&aposd heard that during eclipses, flower petals close, fish stop swimming, and trees make curved shadows. Another man explained that, as the source of all life, the sun is basically God. Therefore, a total eclipse is the only chance we get to look directly at the face of God.

"I think it's good sometimes," Dale said, "to just take things in instead of trying to capture and preserve them."

I had my own idea of what the event might mean. In 1979, as a stoned 14-year-old, I&aposd seen an eclipse in a shopping-mall parking lot in Minot, North Dakota. My oldest friend, David, and his father were joining a group of amateur scientists on a Science Museum of Minnesota expedition, and invited me along. We arrived at dawn after traveling all night by chartered bus, and huddled on a bleak stretch of tarmac eating sandwiches and watching the scientists unpack preternatural quantities of gear—telescopes, spectrometers, cameras, and more.

Sometime around mid-morning, the wind stilled. The birds fell silent. Darkness came over us like a steamroller. The current of warmth flowing from sun to skin ceased as the familiar firmaments of earth, sky, and sun gave way to purple-tinged shadow bands strobing across the plain. We gawked, spellbound for a total of two minutes and 49 seconds𠅊n adequate amount of time, we quickly realized, to be immersed in the infinite.

On the bus ride home my friend&aposs father, Dale, a former college football star, offered some advice. The amateur scientists had spent the eclipse hunched over their viewfinders, measuring, recording looking at their devices and not at the phenomenon we&aposd come to observe. We&aposd stood out, in fact, for being the only spectators looking on with naked eyes (this was the 70s, after all). "I think it&aposs good sometimes," Dale said, "to just take things in instead of trying to capture and preserve them."

In the intervening years, his words had come back to me again and again: Learn to resist the perpetual urge to interpret and analyze, to manufacture opinion and create meaning. Learn to be in the moment, of course. But also, learn to observe.

Buenaventura had been coming to the Lake District since childhood, on biking, trekking, and whitewater-rafting trips. He seemed to know every trail and river bend. The day before the eclipse, he and his younger brother, Nicholas, took me to visit an old friend: Irma Epulef, a machi, or traditional healer, and a member of the Mapuche Indigenous group. "I think she&aposll have an interesting perspective on the eclipse," he said.

We drove half an hour to a hamlet named Curarrehue, some 10 miles from the border with Argentina. Pulling off the highway, we found Epulef wearing a ceremonial poncho, standing next to her ruka𠅊 traditional sweat lodge with mud walls and a high, conical wooden roof. She invited us inside, and we sat down on benches lining the walls. A smoky woodstove stood in the center of the earthen floor.

Epulef began to speak. "When I was young," she said, "children and pregnant women were prohibited from viewing eclipses." The conflict between light and darkness was thought to be too violent. We talked about the meaning of the terms lightਊnd darkness. "Darkness is when we can&apost advance in anything," she said. "Like this whole last year."

If 2020 had been an annus horribilis for all of us, it had been especially horrible in Chile. In addition to the pandemic, the year had seen a continuation of 2019&aposs political upheaval, with protests across the nation, both peaceful and violent, and episodes of police brutality that made news around the world.

Epulef picked up a handmade drum marked with quadrants representing earth, wind, fire, and water. When the elements fall out of balance, she explained, ñuki mapo, or Mother Earth, is displeased. "Humans have pushed the earth too far. We&aposve betrayed the earth. We&aposve betrayed the soil." Noting that the previous year, the quila𠅊 type of bamboo found in the region—hadn&apost flowered, she shrugged. "For us, these natural events are like news announcements."

As we took turns fanning the fire, Epulef told us she and other Mapuche would be praying hard in the coming days. "We hope that humanity can learn humility, because we need a change. Let&aposs hope this eclipse brings us back in a positive direction."

Can modern people spend an entire two minutes (the length of time this eclipse was to last) without taking a picture or checking our phone—without needing a device to mediate the distance between ourselves and the world?

Toward the end of our visit the sky had cleared, and as we drove back to camp, the area&aposs lush beauty was lit up by golden sunlight. By night, however, the rain returned, and fell without respite, pelting my canvas roof right through to the next morning, when the eclipse was due to take place. I woke up to puddles outside my tent flap. At the breakfast table, no one had much to say. We&aposd felt adventurous, hopeful, brave. But now, in the cold and wet, we mostly felt foolish.

An hour and a half before the eclipse, Buenaventura invited everyone at the camp to gather on the deck outside the kitchen to talk as a group about our reasons for coming. The rain beat down so hard on the rubberized tarp over our heads, we had to raise our voices to make ourselves heard.

As we went around the circle, one man explained, "My life is always planned, always organized. Everything is very cuadradito," or chopped into little squares. "I wanted to let go of my thinking, my plans, and remember the rhythms of nature." Heads around the circle seemed to nod. Some of the speakers made more sense than others. The word alignmentꃊme up a lot, as did the cosmos, and life forces. Eclipses, we all seemed to agree, are a metaphor for the wonder of life, a chance to open ourselves to awe.

I was terrified to offer my opinion, especially in my imperfect Spanish. But when my turn came, I related my previous eclipse experience, explaining that I wanted to gauge whether I had retained—throughout the intervening decades, and especially during the pandemic—the ability to adhere to my own adopted creed. Was I still able to observe nature with my full capacities, undistracted by adult responsibilities? "I think it&aposs a real test," I said. Can modern people spend an entire two minutes (the length of time this eclipse was to last) without taking a picture or checking our phone—without needing a device to mediate the distance between ourselves and the world?

A self-described eclipse hunter named Sebastian Gonzales from Vi༚ del Mar offered to lead a meditation. After guiding us through a few breathing exercises, he asked the group to imagine planting roots from our feet into the soil. "Feel the alignment from the center of the earth through us and upward to the moon, the sun, and the Milky Way beyond. Try to connect with this special time," he urged, "this cosmic time, when everything lines up and the energy flows."

Then, suddenly, a ring. The corona. Flickering but whole, the circle held and shone. The crowd erupted in hesitant whoops.

The meditation ended, and for a beat or two, I felt adrift. There was nothing to do, no reason to continue organizing the day around an eclipse we weren&apost going to see. The rain had stopped, but the sky was implacably overcast. As I looked around for someone to commiserate with, the light level began to dim, then dim some more. Totally unlike the gradual dimming of dusk, this felt far more abrupt, as if the lights were going down in a theater. (I&aposd realize later that in one sense, I&aposd succeeded in my aim of having no expectations. I&aposd come a quarter of the way around the world to see an eclipse, and then was surprised when it happened.)

Then, from a nearby meadow, I heard a shout. "El anillo! El anillo!" ("The ring! The ring!"). Some guests had set up cameras under umbrellas, on the off chance the eclipse might still become visible. I ran over and joined their skyward gaze to where a patch of sky, not blue so much as absent of dark gray, began to open. I found it hard to trust what I was seeing or feel remotely optimistic as the clouds parted like fleece, one minute fleeting, the next minute darkening again. Yes, no, yes, no light, dark, and then, suddenly, a ring. The corona. Flickering but whole, the circle held and shone. The crowd erupted in hesitant whoops.


How Thursday’s total solar eclipse will affect your star sign

With a solar eclipse this week, it will have a big impact on your star sign. And one group needs to be use it to set financial goals.

Take a look at some of the most breathtaking and surreal photographs of all things astronomy in 2020.

Take a look at some of the most breathtaking and surreal photographs of all things astronomy in 2020.

Astrologer Vanessa Montgomery from Astro All Starz tells you what this week holds for your sign. Source:istock

Welcome to this week’s horoscopes, where a solar elipse on Thursday evening promises a wild-card-anything-can-happen and probably will, kind of week.

Sometimes eclipses don’t play nicely, but they do shove you back onto your path and reveal truths you might have been avoiding.

If you’re Taurus (April 20-May 20), then this is the week to finally get to the bottom of any financial issues.

This week’s new moon is in your financial zone, so setting your financial goals now is a no-brainer. The solar eclipse suggests finality and a new beginning. Perhaps it’s time to lay an old money story to rest and narrate your own.

To find out what else awaits you as a Taurus this week or for all other star signs, sign up to our weekly horoscopes.

What the solar elipse means this week

Eclipses travel in pairs, book-ending the dramatic full moon lunar eclipse of two weeks ago. Equally dramatic, unfortunately, this ‘ring of fire’ won’t be visible from Australia.

However, you might feel another bump if you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Decide this is the stop you’re getting off at, and put an end to any drama.

Astrology is about cycles, themes tend to pop up like the next instalment of an ongoing story – look for the themes, and you’ll find them.

It’s a great time to journal and ‘see what comes’. Accept the truth of a situation, let go, and from here, step into your dreaming. Plant your intentions for this next cycle around themes represented by the twins. Honour and balance rational and intuitive intel, communications, use your voice, express yourself authentically, and be heard.

Square to the planet Neptune, ongoing themes of blurred lines of truth and fiction, missing intel or an ideal are prominent. Aim for rational facts while holding compassion for the story or person representing raw, complex data in the other.

You can register for free for your weekly horoscope reading by Ms Montgomery and discover what this week holds for your sign.

Mars into Leo: Why be basic when you can be extra?

Mars is the planet of action, assertion, and aggression in the sign of Leo, it’s ready to don a cape and show off its best dance moves. So make the most of the extra energy this placement suggests and put flair into your actions —– if you enter a room or leave it, do it dramatically. Be sure people notice what you’re doing, and don’t be shy about calling attention to it. This is a creative influence and, along with Venus in Cancer, is wonderful for connecting and hugging the people that you care for. Goddess knows we could all do with a few extra hugs over the eclipse/Mercury retro season and the rest, right?

Chiron and Venus are in a tense square

Protect your heart and stand up for your love rights. It’s pride month, after all, and that goes for everyone.

The relational planet Venus is in a challenging aspect to Chiron, known as the wounded healer. Your sensitive spots may be easily and perhaps accidentally nudged. Watch falling prey to insidious beauty standards, and perhaps use any insults to your perfection as a call to heal and reclaim your rights to your appearance, aesthetics and desire.


Solar eclipses are caused by the Moon casting shadows on Earth. There are 3 different types of shadow that the New Moon can cast on Earth: the umbra, the penumbra, and the antumbra.

To see annularity, you must be in a location where the Moon casts the antumbra. At the maximum point, the width of the annular path is typically around 150 km (93 mi) although this can vary considerably. If you're at the center of this zone, you will see the annularity's maximum point as a perfect ring of fire. In other areas of annularity, where the Moon is not perfectly centered on the Sun, the ring has varying width.

If you're at the edge of the annularity path, you may see a broken ring of fire and–for a brief moment–a phenomenon called Baily's beads, which are little bead-like blobs of light at the edge of the Moon. These happen because gaps in the mountains and valleys on the Moon's surface allow sunlight to pass through in some places, but not in others.


Rare ‘Ring Of Fire’ Solar Eclipse Takes Place Thursday But Will You See It In South Florida?

Miami (CBSMiami) — Just a few weeks after May’s lunar eclipse, another very cool celestial event will take place on Thursday, June 10. This time it will be a solar eclipse called the “ring of fire.”

“This is such a blazing name that catches our attention, and we absolutely need an explanation for why this solar eclipse is named like this,” said CBS4 Meteorologist Jennifer Correa.

June 10th’s solar eclipse is called the “ring of fire” because it is an ‘annular solar eclipse.’

According to NASA, during an annular solar eclipse, the moon is positioned near or at apogee, which is the farthest point from Earth. At this point, the moon is so far away, it can’t block the entire sun during the solar eclipse. So a thin, fiery ring is exposed during an annular solar eclipse. This type of eclipse is different than a total solar eclipse in which the entire sun is blocked, and no bright light is visible.

“It is important to point out that the word annular should not be confused by the word “annual” as the two words look similar in spelling. The word annular is used to describe something that is ring-shaped. Hence, the thin, fiery ring that is created during the annular solar eclipse,” said Correa.

For this type of solar eclipse to occur or any solar eclipse for that matter, the phase of the moon must be a New Moon. In addition to this requirement, the earth, the moon, and the sun must be aligned in a straight line or nearly straight. Also, the moon must be located between the sun and the earth. And finally, for the annular solar eclipse to take place, the moon must be near or at apogee as previously explained.

So, will South Florida get to catch the fiery ring Thursday night?

“Well, I don’t mean to take the solar flare out of this solar eclipse, but this special event will not be visible in South Florida,” said Correa. “Just know that we’re not alone because much of the United States won’t be under the path of this solar eclipse.”

However, a partial eclipse may be visible in the far northeast section of the U.S. like in Maine. But the people there must be early birds as the partial eclipse will occur early morning at 5:35 a.m. EDT. Some locations in Canada, the Arctic, Russia, and Greenland will get the full annular-solar-eclipse-shadow cast on them.

The timing of the entire “ring of fire” solar eclipse will occur between 4:12 a.m. and 9:11 a.m. local time on Thursday, June 10th.

Now to a critical note that must be mentioned, never look at the sun during any type of solar eclipse because it is dangerous to the eyes, and doing so can permanently damage them.

By the way, South Florida will have a visible partial eclipse in October of 2023.


The 'ring of fire' solar eclipse of 2021 will look like the 'Death Star' in front of the sun, astronomer says

If you snap a photo of the 2021 annular solar eclipse let us know! You can send images and comments to [email protected].

People across the Northern Hemisphere will be able to spot a "ring of fire" in the sky as an annular solar eclipse moves across our planet this Thursday (June 10).

Solar eclipses happen when the moon moves directly between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on our planet and blocking out at least some of the sun's light. This Thursday at sunrise, we can look forward to an annular solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon is too far away from Earth in its elliptical orbit to completely block out the sun like it does during a total solar eclipse. Instead, it leaves the outer ring of the sun exposed, creating the appearance of a "ring of fire" in the sky during the only annular solar eclipse of 2021.

"It is not going to look like your regular sun," Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, told Space.com. While the full "ring of fire" will be visible from the northernmost latitudes (including the North Pole and parts of Greenland and Canada), most viewers will see only a partial version of the eclipse, which will be visible from parts of North America, Europe and Asia.

A partial eclipse, in which the moon appears to take a bite out of the sun, may not be as impressive as an annular "ring of fire" eclipse. However, Faherty noted that even a partial eclipse can be incredible to witness. Thursday's partial eclipse will look like "the 'Death Star' is in front of the sun as it's rising," she said, referring to the moon-size space weapon from "Star Wars."


No, It’s Not An ‘Annual’ Solar Eclipse. Discover The Celestial Cycles Behind This Week’s ‘Ring Of Light’ Solar Eclipse

Map of the world by Edward Stanford Limited marked with the paths of totality for the Saros cycle of . [+] eclipses from 1927-2164. The time and location of solar and lunar eclipses repeat themselves over a period of about 18 years. This series was discovered by Chaldeans over 2,500 years ago, and named by them the Saros. This map was modified by the drawing office of the Science Museum, London, for an exhibition held in 1927. The display at the Science Museum was to celebrate the total solar eclipse that was going to pass over North Wales and North West England that year. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Go type “annular” into your word processing software. It got changed to “annual,” right?

The rare solar eclipse coming to North America on June 10, 2021 is one that commonly gets mis-named and, therefore, completely misunderstood.

So let’s clear this up: there is no such thing as an “annual solar eclipse.”

What happens on June 10, 2021 will be an annular solar eclipse. Here’s everything you need to know about the science that makes it happen:

XIAMEN, CHINA - JUNE 21, 2020 - An annular eclipse of the sun, photographed on the rooftop of the . [+] tallest hotel in kulangsu, Xiamen City, Fujian Province, China, June 21, 2020. - PHOTOGRAPH BY Costfoto / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Annular means ring-shaped—hence the colloquial term “ring of fire” (though “ring of light” is more accurate). During this event 89% of the Sun will be blocked by the Moon—as seen from a path through Canada, Greenland and Russia—to create a bright ring around the Sun. Much of northeast U.S. will see a big partial eclipse of the Sun around sunrise. Everyone will have to wear solar eclipses glasses and use solar filters on their cameras and telescopes.

So the “annual” thing is a complete mis-type or auto-correct? Don’t solar eclipses happen every year? Well, actually, yes they do—usually—but there is no annual pattern whatsoever. It’s way more intricate and incredible than that.

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“About every 18 months” is usually what’s quoted for the recurrence of a particular kind of solar eclipse, but that’s not actually correct. Here are the annular solar eclipses coming up in the next decade:

  • June 10, 2021
  • October 14, 2023
  • October 2, 2024
  • February 17, 2026
  • February 6, 2027
  • January 26, 2028
  • June 1, 2030
  • May 21, 2031

You can see no pattern at all, right? And yet there is usually an annular solar eclipse every year or two. So what’s going on?

How an annular eclipse appears depending on whether your location is in the antumbra or penumbra.

Rather, eclipses of the Sun and Moon occur every Saros—Greek for cycle. A Saros lasts for 6,585 days—18 years, 11 days and eight hours. Every Saros the Sun, Moon and Earth come full circle and for a few brief minutes they line-up to cause a spectacular totality (or annularity, which depends on the distance of the Moon from Earth).

The eclipses in the same Saros throw a shadow onto the Earth that’s incredibly similar in geometry. The 18 years, 11 days difference means their date drifts 11 days forward for each subsequent eclipse, and the eight hours means that the Earth rotates a third, so the path shifts roughly 120º west.

This pattern repeats, though each Saros begins as a set of repeating partial solar solar eclipses, then becomes annular, then total, then annular, then partial again before fizzling out. This process takes centuries.

Let’s take this week’s solar eclipse on June 10, 2021 as an example. It’s an annular solar eclipse and it’s a member of Saros 147. It’s been causing eclipses since 1624 and will do so until 3049. Here’s what it’s been doing, and will do, in our immediate era—with each event exactly 18 years, 11 days and eight hours apart:

  • May 31, 2003: annular solar eclipse (Greenland, Iceland, northern Scotland)
  • June 10, 2021: annular solar eclipse (Canada, Greenland, Russia)
  • June 21, 2039: annular solar eclipse (Alaska, northern Canada, northern Scandinavia)

You can see the pattern in the dates, above, and the westward drift of the paths of annularity.

It’s exactly the same process for total solar eclipses, which are from a Saros that is currently producing totalities.

In the same way, the totality experienced by 12 million Americans on August 21, 2017’s “Great American Eclipse” was part of Saros 145, so was witnessed 18 years, 11 days and eight hours previously on August 11, 1999 in the U.K. and Europe. Almost precisely the same shadow across Earth will fall on September 2, 2035, but this time on China, Japan and the Pacific Ocean.

That’s not to say that eclipses close to each other aren’t related. “Most people don’t realize that eclipses follow each other,” said Dr. Jackie Faherty, Senior Scientist and Senior Education Manager jointly in the Department of Astrophysics and the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History. “It’s not a coincidence that two weeks prior to this we had a total lunar eclipse—it’s the way it goes.”

We’re in the middle of an eclipse season. “The Earth, Moon and Sun line up on one side and it takes a while for it to move out of that lined-up position, so just two weeks later it’s going to bring you right back into that lineup,” said Faherty. “You’re either lined-up where you get the Earth’s shadow on the Moon or your lined-up where the Moon throws a shadow on the Earth.”

The Moon’s orbit of Earth is tilted by 5º to the ecliptic, but it must cross the ecliptic twice each month. Those two positions are called nodes. Usually it reaches these nodes when the the Sun and Moon seem far apart from our point of view on Earth. This is why an eclipse does not occur each and every New Moon (because the Moon is above or below the Sun) and full Moon (because the Moon is above or below Earth’s shadow).

But solar eclipses occurring outside the same eclipse season are unrelated. So when you’re watching a solar eclipse, remember that it’s part of a pattern that’s far larger than a human lifespan. It repeats through the ages, almost like a mathematical heartbeat as our Sun, Moon and Earth come full circle.


Solar eclipse 2021: ‘Ring of fire’ to sweep across the Earth

This particular event is what's termed an annular eclipse. It will see the Moon move across the face of our star but not completely block out the light coming from it.

Instead, there will be just a thin sliver of brilliance left to shine around the Sun's disc.

The best of the action will be in the Arctic.

Yes, not many people live there, but a good portion of the globe will still get treated to a partial eclipse where the Moon appears to take a big bite out of the Sun.

This will include the eastern United States and northern Alaska, along with much of Canada, Greenland, and parts of Europe and Asia.

In the UK, the most favourable place to watch, in terms of the percentage of the Sun's disc that gets covered up, will be in Scotland - somewhere like Lerwick in the Shetland Islands (11:27 BST), or Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis (11:18 BST)

These places will see about 40% of the Sun eclipsed.

But even down south, in London (11:13 BST) for example, 20% of the star will be covered over.

As ever, the advice is not to try to look at the Sun with the naked eye. This can do severe damage.

Anyone gazing skyward should only do so with the aid of protective viewing equipment, such as approved eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector.

Better still, attend an organised event. Local astronomy clubs will be out in force to show people how to view the eclipse safely.

The so called "path of annularity" - the track across the Earth's surface where the Moon sits entirely within the Sun's disc to give the greatest spectacle - begins at sunrise in Ontario, Canada, at 09:49 GMT (10:49 BST).

It then sweeps across the top of the globe, including over the North Pole, to eventually reach Russia's Far East and lift off the planet at sunset at 11:33 GMT (12:33 BST).

The place which enjoys the greatest duration eclipse - at almost four minutes in length - is in the middle of the Nares Strait, the narrow channel that divides the Canadian archipelago from Greenland.

There'll be few there, however, to see 90% of the Sun's disc being blocked out. Perhaps only the odd walrus or two on an ice floe.

For all other locations, there are plenty of calculators out there where you can input your nearest city or town to get more relevant timings, such as here.

Not every eclipse can be total. The Moon's orbit around the Earth is not perfectly round the satellite's distance from the planet varies from about 356,500km to 406,700km (221,500 to 252,700 miles).

This difference makes the Moon's apparent size in the sky fluctuate by about 13%.

If the Moon happens to eclipse the Sun on the near side of its orbit, it totally blocks out the star (a total eclipse). But if the Moon eclipses the Sun on the far side of its orbit, as now, the satellite will not completely obscure the star's disc - and a "ring of fire" or annulus of sunlight is seen.

"An eclipse gives us an opportunity to connect with the Sun," said Prof Lucie Green from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

"Normally, our star is so dazzlingly bright we kind of don't pay it much attention. But during an eclipse of one form or another, we're able - if we look safely - to watch the Moon glide in front of the Sun and remind ourselves of this clockwork Solar System we live in," she told BBC News.


Watch the video: Spektakuläre Messung: Sonnenfinsternis gescannt (August 2022).