- What is a solar eclipse?
What is a solar eclipse? In general an eclipse is when one object blocks an observer from seeing another. In a solar eclipse the Moon passes in front of the Sun and creates a shadow that falls on the Earth. While an eclipse can't been seen everywhere, for those in the shadowed areas the Sun appears dark. Solar eclipses only occur during the new moon phase and based on the position of the Moon, Sun and Earth there are four possibly types of solar eclipses that can be seen. This phenomenon lasts a few minutes and on average occurs every 18 months.
This video clip by Bill Nye introduces solar eclipses and one way to view them safely.
Solar eclipses are the product of coincidence. With a diameter of 1.39 million kilometers the Sun is 400 times larger than the moon (with a diameter of 3,474 kilometers). However, the moon is roughly 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun (384,400 km vs 149.6 million km). Something else to note is that the moon has been gradually moving away from the Earth since its formation billions of years ago. At its current distance, the moon is at the perfect position to appear in the sky as the exact same size as the Sun to block it out.
- Solar Eclipse vs Lunar EclipseAnother type of eclipse that can be seen from space is called the Lunar Eclipse. In a lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Moon and the Sun blocking part of the Sun's light from hitting the Moon. When this happens, the Earth's shadow appears on the Moon. Lunar eclipses only occur on the night of a full Moon, and can be viewed by anyone on the 'night side' of the Earth. Unlike Solar eclipse, this phenomenon lasts for hours and can be safely seen without eye protection.
In this video by Physics Girl, the differences between Solar and Lunar Eclipses is discussed.
- Types of Solar Eclipses
As mentioned before, there are four types of solar eclipses. Below, we'll go over each type.
Total Solar Eclipse
Annular Solar Eclipse
- How to View a Solar Eclipse
This video by shows how to make an inexpensive projector using a shoe box.
Eclipse glasses can be worn to safely view an eclipse. Check your nearest museum or science center to see if glasses can be bought or rented, otherwise they can be found online for sale.Welder's Goggles
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