solar eclipse occurs when the New Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun,
blocking out the sun's rays and casting a giant shadow on our planet.
A lunar eclipse
occurs when the Full Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth.
From some point or other on Earth, there may
be up to seven eclipses in any one year. Solar eclipses are less common than lunar
Because the Moon is much smaller than the Earth, its shadow can only cover a small part of
the Earth's surface and solar eclipses are only seen from a small portion of the planet.
Partial eclipses occur when the moon only
blocks out part of the sun. People who see a partial eclipse are in the moon's penumbra.
Those who see totality are in the umbra --
where the whole sun is blocked out by the moon and a total shadow is cast;giving the
effect of dusk or even night time -- the animals think it is.
Although the Sun is 400 times the diameter of
the Moon it's also 400 times further away. This makes a total eclipse possible.
As the Earth's orbit around the Sun is not
quite circular the Moon may pass in front of the Sun, but the outer ring of the Sun's disk
will still be visible. This is called an annular eclipse.
During totality, when the light from the
bright disk of the Sun is blocked out by the Moon, the sky looks like night with stars and
planets clearly visible. The whitish glow around the eclipsed Sun is called a corona.
The length of totality
depends on how close the Moon is to the Earth. The 1999 eclipse reached a maximum totality
of 2 minutes 23 seconds in Romania, with partial phases lasting hours.
During a 1999 total of 3 hours 7 minutes, the
Moon's shadow, cloudless skies permitting, will have travelled along a path of 14,000
kilometres, covering 0.2% of Earth's surface area.
Never look at the Sun through a telescope or
binoculars. The eye is an optical instrument and you will burn your retina, much the same
as a magnifying glass can burn paper when the sun is directed through it.
It is even dangerous to look at the Sun with
the naked-eye, although it is completely safe to look at the Sun during the brief period
of total eclipse itself.
Partial eclipses, or the partial phase of a
total eclipse, should not be viewed without eye protection. There are special glasses for
this purpose. Do not use normal sunglasses.
Travel Notes takes no responsibility for the
actions of others when viewing solar eclipses.
Get proper safety advice and enjoy the
experience of a solar eclipse safely.
Looking at the sun at any time is potentially dangerous and can result in serious eye
damage or blindness. A solar eclipse can be observed safely by following the DOs and
1999 Eclipse Report:
Total solar eclipse from Lake Balaton on August 11th, 1999.