solar eclipse

What is a solar eclipse?

solar eclipse
credit:exploratorium.edu

Solar Eclipse, also referred to as Eclipse of the Sun, is a type of eclipse that occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, causing an orbit. The eclipse blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the earth, casting a shadow of the sun on the earth’s surface. The moon blockage is not big enough to cover the whole earth surface, however. This is because there is always a constant motion between the earth and the moon.

The eclipse is limited to one area. The area keeps on changing from one place to another depending on the angle in which the moon is blocking the earth. During the eclipse, the moon casts two shadows named Umbra and Penumbra. Umbra is the darker shadow while penumbra is the less dark shadow. A solar eclipse happens once every 18 months and last for only few minutes.

How does a solar eclipse occur?

solar eclipse

There are several types of the solar eclipse. The type of an eclipse is defined by the amount of the earth’s surface cast by the sun’s shadow. The eclipses are known as partial, total, annular and hybrid Solar Eclipse.

solar eclipse
credit:exploratorium.edu

Partial solar eclipse

Partial Solar Eclipse occurs when the moon partly blocks the sun’ rays from reaching the earth. This happens when the sun, moon and the earth are not totally lined up. The shadow ends up appearing on a small surface of the earth.

Annular solar eclipse

The Annular solar eclipse happens when the moon is farthest from the sun, known as the apogee. The moon appears very small during an annular solar eclipse and it may be invisible without the help of special glasses. The moon does not block the entire disk of the sun, however. The sun’s outer edges remain visible in form of a ring in the sky.

Total solar eclipse

This is a rare eclipse of the sun. Here, the sun, moon and earth are in a direct line. The moon completely blocks the sun. The sun can only be viewed by people standing in the umbra. It occurs along the section of the moon’s orbit called Perigee.

Hybrid solar eclipse

solar eclipse
Sun, Moon, and Earth during a hybrid eclipse. credit:timeanddate.com

Also known as an annular-total Eclipse, a hybrid solar eclipse is the rarest eclipse of the sun.  Here, the moon central shadow misses the earth. What the earth gets is the outer edges of the shadow. A hybrid eclipse occurs with an eclipse path that begins with annular and ends up with total eclipse.

When does solar eclipse occur?

Solar eclipse occurs when the moon is at its full phase. This phase is the new moon.

How to watch the solar eclipse

solar eclipse

Watching a solar eclipse is interesting. However, it is dangerous. Watching an eclipse occur without proper glasses is considered dangerous.  The sun produces ultraviolet rays that cause sunburns. These rays can have adverse effects to your eyes. The UV component in the rays damages the light- sensing cells of the retinas of the eyes. This can lead to temporary blindness or permanent blindness. According to NASA, even normal sun glasses are not safe. The only safe solar eclipse to watch with naked eyes is a total solar eclipse, when the moon fully blocks the sun rays.  Discover different safe ways to watching the solar eclipse below.

Use welding glasses

Welding glasses are meant to protect welders’ eyes from bright specks of light that the acetylene torch produces. They can also block the UV light from contacting the eyes. The glasses have to be dark with a shade of 13 or 14 for it to be effective. To be safe, avoid old glasses since their shades could have been scrapped off.

Use solar glasses

The solar glasses are mostly used by astronauts. They are the best glasses to wear since they have the correct shades for viewing a solar eclipse as recommended by NASA. Solar glasses are always on demand when a predicted eclipse approaches. They are available in many stores that sell science and physic related products.

Pinhole camera

If you cannot afford an advanced pinhole camera, you can make one using a piece of paper and tape. Alternatively, you can close your fist to barely let point of light through. There several ways to make a pinhole camera, but they are not very safe for viewing an eclipse.

Use binoculars

solar eclipse

When using binoculars, never hold your them up to your eyes and look at the sun. This will ruin your eyes. Instead, point the binoculars to a piece of paper. The piece of paper should be at the opposite side of sun. Adjusting the binoculars focality enables a clearer projection.

Shade of the tree

Although this method is not recommended, it works. Access a tree that has a proper shade. When watching the eclipse, make sure your eyes are not widely opened. Instead open them as little as the size of the pinhole camera. This way you reduce the risk of damaging your eyes. Alternatively, down a piece of paper down in sun rays for a clearer projection.

Watch online

If miss the chance to view the eclipse live due to tight schedules, online videos of the eclipse  can give you an opportunity to watch the solar eclipse at your own comfort. In fact, watching online is the safest way to watch solar eclipse since your eyes and skin won’t be in contact with UV rays.  NASA TV provides the best live feeds.