0 In Astronomy/ NASA/ Slooh

Solar Eclipse of the Heart…

Oh wait those aren’t the right lyrics? I just have solar eclipses on my mind because TODAY THERE IS A SOLAR ECLIPSE. If those caps seem a little unnecessary to you, we should get back into elementary school enthusiasm and talk about how rare but also fascinating solar eclipses are.

So the science behind solar eclipses isn’t all that interesting. The Moon gets in front of the sun and casts a shadow on the Earth. We are all aware of the concepts of shadows. Parasols, hats, umbrellas are all legitimate products designed to shield ourselves from the sun. And if you are broke, can’t afford a shield, and live in the sunshine state, you may spend most of your time running from awning to trees to escape the Sun’s beating rays. So why is it sooo special when the Moon casts a shadow?

  1. As I said earlier, it is super rare for you to be standing under the Moon’s shadow. This is because although the moon is large it is also very close to the Earth. So when it casts its shadow (an eclipse), it only covers a small portion of the Earth. Okay so now you understand why you don’t see eclipses all the time, but why then do they not happen that often?

    Moon Orbit Schematic by Jay Anderson

    A new moon is when the Moon is out during the day and is between the Earth and the Sun which occurs every month. Why aren’t there eclipses every month? Eclipses are still rare because the Moon’s orbit is off  from the Earth’s by about 5 degrees. This means the Earth’s and the Moon’s orbits aren’t on the same plane which you can see in the image. The Moon’s shadow is often just above or just below the Earth during most New Moons.

  2. Okay okay so it doesn’t rain Solar Eclipses but is that why it is so special? Of course not. Solar eclipses are truly fascinating to experience because the Moon is JUST large enough to block the Sun. Why does that even matter? Because the Moon just barely blocks the Sun so that observers can see the Sun’s atmosphere. Yes the Sun has an atmosphere and it is a rather amazing and violent one at that. Besides the craziness of being in total darkness in the middle of the day, you get a chance to look at the Sun and realize how intricate and phenomenal the burning orb is without the glare of its surface.

Now that I have sold you on the solar eclipse let’s talk the details!
This solar eclipse will occur from about 7:00pm EST 3/8 (midnight GMT 9/3) to 11:00pm EST 3/8 (4:00 am GMT 9/3) and will be covering portions of Southeast Asia and Northwest Australia as well as much of the pacific ocean. If you are in any of these areas be sure to check out NASA/Google’s interactive map for all the details about your city’s time or check out Slooh’s map below for a general idea.

If you are not from those areas, you can still enjoy this year’s eclipse by tuning in to either NASA or Slooh’s coverage of the event! NASA’s coverage begins at 8:00pm EST (midnight GMT) from Micronesia. Totality will be from 8:38pm EST (01:38 GMT) to 8:42 pm EST (01:42 GMT) at that location. Slooh’s coverage will begin at 6:00pm EST (23:00 GMT GMT 8/3) from Indonesia. They haven’t released when totality is at their site but it should be around 7:30pm EST (00:30 GMT) to 7:45 pm EST (00:45 GMT). They will also feature coverage of the partial eclipse from their telescope in Hawaii towards the end of the event. NASA is also streaming their telescopes without commentary starting at 7:00 pm EST (midnight GMT).

If watching the eclipse via the Internet just isn’t enough for you, here are the next scheduled eclipses. Check out the complete list here.

  • September 1, 2016 Africa and Madagascar – Annular Eclipse*
  • February 26, 2017 South America and Africa – Annular Eclipse*
  • August 21, 2017 North America – Total Eclipse

That is all for today! I am sorry if you now have a sudden need to listen to Total Eclipse of the Heart (not really). Here is it on spotify and youtube. 😉 Also check out Jay Anderson’s site if you want to learn more about eclipses (link in the caption of the Moon orbit pic).



*Annular Eclipse- The Moon is farther away from Earth so it looks tiny and doesn’t totally cover up the Sun even though it is completely in front of it


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