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When will the next solar eclipse be? Closer than you think.

By March 12, 2015 No Comments
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When will the next solar eclipse be? Let’s start with the basics; what is a solar eclipse? A solar eclipse is a natural event, which is seen from Earth. A solar eclipse is produced when the Moon moves in its orbit between the Earth and the Sun; it can also be known as an occultation. If the Moon were closer to Earth, a solar eclipse would be seen every month. On average, solar eclipse’s happen 2.4 times a year.
The Moon’s shadow is divided into two parts; the dark umbra and the lighter penumbra. During an eclipse, the Moon’s shadow moves across the Earth’s surfaces.

On March 20th  2015, the world will be experiencing a total solar eclipse. This is when the Moon completely blocks the solar disk. What makes this March 20th extra special is it’s the same day as the Spring Equinox. The night before, the Moon will also be known a supermoon, this won’t be visible in our own sky, however, it will have a large effect on the Earth’s oceans. This means the Spring Equinox, a supermoon and an eclipse will all fall on the same day!

What else makes March 20th eclipse so special? In the UK, eclipses were seen in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011, however these were only partial eclipses. This upcoming eclipse will be plunging the UK into darkness, with Scotland being most affect. In Scotland, 94% of the sun’s rays will be blocked. It will be the biggest eclipse since 1999. The amount of light that is blocked is dependent on the location you are in. It can range from blocking out 30% to 98%. The further North you go, the more light that will be blocked out. In England, it will be seen as a partial eclipse, as 80% of the Sun will be obscured.
This eclipse will be different to the one in 1999. In 1999, the eclipse was mainly seen in Southern UK, northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg and many other nearby. This eclipse will be seen in Northern Europe and the Arctic mainly.

There isn’t just one type of eclipse; so let’s run through them before we think about when will the next solar eclipse be.

Total Solar Eclipse
This is when the Moon covers the entire disk of the sun. There are 5 main stages to a total eclipse:
1)    The partial eclipse begins – This is the first contact. The Moon’s shadow starts to become visible over the Sun’s disk. This can make the Sun look like it has been bitten into.
2)    Full eclipse begins – This is the second contact. Nearly the whole disk has now been covered by the Moon’s shadow. If there are people in the path of the Moon’s Umbra, they will notice phenomenon’s called Bailey’s bead and the diamond ring effect. Bailey’s bead is when sunlight shines out through valleys on the lunars surface. The diamond ring effect is as the name says; it looks like a diamond ring. It occurs as a part of Bailey’s bead.
3)    Total eclipse! – The Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. The only visible part of the Sun is the Sun’s corona. This is the moment where the sky goes dark, the temperature falls extremely drastically and animals and birds go very quiet.
4)    Full eclipse ends – This is the third contact. The Moon’s shadow moves away and the Sun reappears.
5)    Partial eclipse ends – This is the fourth contact. This is when the eclipse ends completely.

Be aware! Never look directly at the Sun! This should be the case at all times, but it should be considered even more when watching an eclipse.

Partial Eclipse
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This is when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but it does not completely cover it, as it doesn’t align perfectly straight. The next partial solar eclipse will be on September 13, 2015. This gives the appearance to the sun that a bite has been taken out of it. The Penumbra of the Moon’s shadow is cast on Earth.
The only way a partial eclipse will occur is when a New Moon is around. There are 3 stages to a partial eclipse:
1)    Partial solar eclipse begins – The Moon starts to move over the Sun’s disk.
2)    Maximum eclipse – The Moon partially covers the Sun. If you are in the path of the eclipse, you’ll see the Moon taking a ‘bite’ out of the Sun.
3)    Partial solar eclipse ends – and then it ends.

Annular Eclipse
This is when the Moon covers the Sun’s centre. It leaves the Sun’s outer edges visible, so it looks like a ‘ring of fire’, or an ‘annulus’ around the Moon.  The next annular eclipse will be on September 1, 2016.
However, there needs to be certain scenarios when an annular eclipse can occur;
–    The Moon needs to be a New Moon.
–    The Moon is at or in close proximity of a lunar node.
–    The Earth, Moon and Sun need to be perfectly aligned.
–    The Moon needs to be at its apogee. This apogee occurs once a month.

Hybrid Eclipse
This type of eclipse shifts between a total and annular eclipse. It depends on where you view it from Earth, and they are completely rare.

Did you know?
–    If planets are in the sky at the time of the solar eclipse, they can also be seen! You can see them as spots of light in the sky.
–    ‘Almost’ identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days.
–    The longest a total eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
–    If you were to watch a total eclipse from the North or South Pole, you would only see a partial solar eclipse.
–    The eclipse in the UK seen in 1999 was the first eclipse seen since 1927!

With some binoculars, great detail can be seen of the Moon’s surface. You can’t normally see this during a full Moon, as it is too bright.  So make sure you don’t miss the eclipse on the 20th March, as you’ll be waiting 11 years for the next; 12 August 2026.