What is an Solar Eclipse? How Do You See It?

During the peak of this phase the sun can become obscured by an accompanying planetary eclipse, visible from Earth. When we observe a solar eclipse it is because the earth’s shadow falls directly on the Earth’s disk during a 3-hour maximum, but that usually only happens at sunset. The shadow in reality only touches our planet at its highest point in the sky, called the terminator (Earth’s north-south line at the equator). As the terminator is a flat line the eclipse can be seen with one eye as darkness comes down from the West to the East.

On 27 March 2017 the earth is covered in a partial solar eclipse for a few hours. The sun only narrowly misses our planet as the eclipse continues to progress across the Americas.

On the 28 of March, the globe is treated to a total solar eclipse, when the sun completely hides the surface of the Earth.

For a brief period during June and July the planet is entirely covered in darkness as the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon.

By late August the full phase begins and the only view the eye can have is at the very end when the sun takes a larger silhouette. During this time it is a rare event that occurs about once every 2-3 years.

It was an excellent opportunity to view the total solar eclipse during the evening of 26 February. The event began at 11:28pm UT and lasted for less than 4 hours. The maximum eclipse occured at 4:49pm UT and it will lasted for a total eclipse lasting for 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

How to see the solar eclipse?

For anyone who is not looking at a nice clear night with no chance of clouds or precipitation, the whole eclipse has an interesting effect. For those who are viewing with a telescope the eclipsed moon is beautifully seen above the solar disk and left through the telescope.

Partial solar eclipses are spectacular and can easily be seen in a dark sky without a telescope, binoculars or a digital camera. For those with good glasses to view the solar disk the eclipse is only an hour or two long.

For the best view the eclipse should be overcast with good visibility of the sun. Slight haze around the edge of the moon should always be visible, but will not spoil the view. The moon’s shadow will appear at least a couple of minutes before the moon becomes fully covered. You will also be able to see the lunar limb, the half of the moon outside of the eclipse shadow, bending slightly as the shadow moves.

In the northeast the shadow will recede over the course of a couple of hours, leaving a ring of lunar prominences at the edge of the shadow. The limb of the moon will be seen flaring out and won’t turn completely black until the eclipse is over.

As the eclipse progresses the moon will continue to slip through the shadow until it is completely covered after about 4.5 minutes and 40 seconds.

Just before the moon reaches the center of the shadow the edge of the moon’s shadow will catch the sun, producing a total solar eclipse that will last nearly two hours.

The total solar eclipse of January 7th 2016 may be viewable in many locations in the continental United States, as it will be an especially good partial solar eclipse. People living farther east or west will see fewer total solar eclipses and the pattern will change with time. The closest totality will occur in early November, and late November and early December will be the days with the most total solar eclipses. For an overview of this eclipse schedule click here. The eclipse will also be visible in parts of South America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

For most locations with location-specific eclipse predictions, find the coordinates of your viewing location at the Space.com tip-off interactive map. Don’t forget to click on your time zone to convert your local times to UTC. You can use our Solar Eclipse Circumstances Finder to find the date and time of your eclipse.

Eclipse glasses are needed to view the total solar eclipse, and NASA has prepared special viewing glasses. And the Sun will be very bright! Bring extra batteries for your digital camera and phone so you don’t need to worry about run time. Solar eclipse glasses are available from Space.com Store.