Tag Archives: Solar eclipse

A Partially Eclipsed Setting Sun 

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Image Credit & Copyright: Andrew Wall

If you look closely, you will see something quite unusual about this setting Sun. There are birds flying to the Sun’s left, but that’s not so unusual. A dark sea covers the Sun’s bottom, and dark clouds cover parts of the middle, but they are also not very unusual. More unusual is the occulted piece at the top right. And that’s no occulting cloud — that’s the Moon. Yesterday the Moon moved in front of part of the Sun as visible from Australia, and although many locations reported annoying clouds, a partially eclipsed Sun would occasionally peak through as it set. The above image was captured yesterday on the western horizon of Adelaide, South Australia. The maximum eclipse was visible only from a small part of Antarctica where the entire Moon could be seen covering the entire center of the Sun in what is known as an annular eclipse, leaving only a ring of firefrom the Sun peaking out around the edges. The next solar eclipse will be another partial eclipse, will occur on 2014 October 23, and will be visible from most of North America near sunset.

NASA APOD 30-Apr-14

Southern Annular Eclipse 

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Image Credit & Copyright: Cameron McCarty, Matthew Bartow, Michael Johnson –
MWV Observatory, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus State University Eclipse Team

It’s eclipse season, and on April 29 around 06:00 UT the shadow of the new Moon will reach out and touch planet Earth, though only just. Still, if you’re standing on the continent of Antarctica within a few hundred kilometers of 79 degrees 38.7 minutes South latitude and 131 degrees 15.6 minutes East longitude you could see an annular solar eclipse with the Sun just above the horizon. Because the Moon will be approaching apogee, the most distant point in the elliptical lunar orbit, its apparent size will be too small to completely cover the solar disk. A rare, off-center eclipse, the annular phase will last at most 49 seconds. At its maximum it could look something like this “ring of fire” image from last May’s annular solar eclipse, captured by a webcast team operating near Coen, Australia. Otherwise, a partial eclipse with the Moon covering at least some part of the Sun will be seen across a much broader region in the southern hemipshere, including Australia in the afternoon.

NASA APOD 26-Apr-14

A Solar Eclipse from the Moon

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Video Credit: NASA, Surveyor 3; Acknowledgement: R. D. Sampson (ECSU)

Has a solar eclipse ever been seen from the Moon? Yes, first in 1967 — but it may happen again next week. The robotic Surveyor 3 mission took thousands of wide angle television images of the Earth in 1967, a few of which captured the Earth moving in front of the Sun. Several of these images have been retrieved from the NASA archives and compiled into the above time-lapse video. Although the images are grainy, theEarth’s atmosphere clearly refracted sunlight around it and showed a beading effect when some paths were blocked by clouds. Two years later, in 1969, the Apollo 12 crew saw firsthand a different eclipse of the Sun by the Earth on the way back from the Moon. In 2009, Japan’s robotic Kaguya spacecraft took higher resolution images of a similar eclipse while orbiting the Moon. Next week, however, China’s Chang’e 3 mission, including itsYutu rover, might witness a new total eclipse of the Sun by the Earth from surface of the Moon. Simultaneously, from lunar orbit, NASA’s LADEE mission might also capture the unusual April 15 event. Another angle of this same event will surely be visible to people on Earth — a total lunar eclipse.

NASA APOD 07-Apr-14

Solar eclipses

As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks (“occults”) the Sun. This can happen only at new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth in an alignment referred to as syzygy. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses only part of the Sun is obscured.
An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. Nevertheless, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses have been attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the Sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes.

There are four types of solar eclipses:

  • 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.
  • An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, 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 (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 occurs when the Sun and Moon are not exactly in line and the Moon only partially obscures the Sun. This phenomenon can usually be seen from a large part of Earth outside of the track of an annular or total eclipse. However, some eclipses can only be seen as a partial eclipse, because the umbra passes above the Earth’s polar regions and never intersects Earth’s surface.

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