As a student, you must have heard of the solar eclipse and got excited about witnessing one. A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes in between the sun and the earth. It then casts its shadow on the earth and eclipses the sun. So, a solar eclipse becomes possible only during the new moon phase when moon will pass between the sun and earth. But, this shadow may create different types of eclipses; it can be total, partial, or hybrid, depending on multiple factors. The last solar eclipse on June 10, 2021 was an annular solar eclipse in which east Hudson Bay, parts of Baffin Bay, northern Greenland, and north-east Russia came within the “ring of fire”.
Different types of solar eclipse:
- Total solar eclipses are rare and worth looking forward to when the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon. This usually happens about every one and a half years or so. Umbra refers to the shadow where sunlight is completely blocked out; it is surrounded by the penumbra where sunlight is partly blocked out.
- Partial solar eclipse happens when only penumbra or partial shadow is cast; so parts of the sun can still be seen.
- Annular solar eclipses are rare and not like total eclipses. They are called “counterfeit twilight” because a lot of the sun can be seen. These usually last within 12-and-a half minutes. While here too the moon passes centrally over the sun, like the total eclipse, the moon is still not big enough to cover the sun completely.
- Hybrid solar eclipses are referred to as annular-total eclipses and happen when the moon’s distance comes close to the limit for umbra to reach the earth.
For eclipse fans, there is good news because 2021 has two occurrences of solar eclipse. The first has happened already in June while the next is scheduled for December 4, 2021. This is going to be on the other side of the globe, covering the Antarctica skies. This will be a total solar eclipse after the last total eclipse in 2020 December. In this, the moon will be blocking 100% of the sun’s disk. So, if you stand on the path of totality, you can see a 360-degree sunset. The corona or the outermost layer becomes visible during the peak of the eclipse. The December eclipse will pass across Antarctic Peninsula; unfortunately, the Southern Polar Regions have very less land. So, while Antarctica and its waters may be the best places to get a view, others like southern parts of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina, will get partial views. Unlike the previous annular eclipse, this time the moon will be much nearer to the earth and will cover the sun’s full face.
NASA’s website provides a list of all the solar eclipses that are due to occur in the future. You will find the maps of their paths so that you can make preparations beforehand. The next solar eclipse in the US, for instance, is to be on April 8, 2024. So, while people have witnessed many solar eclipses in the past, the charm remains. Even now, you will find hundreds of star gazers flocking to destinations on the path of totality to catch this magic of nature.