What is a Solar Eclipse?
It is a natural event that takes place on Earth when the Moon moves in its orbit between Earth and the Sun (this is also known as an occultation). It happens at New Moon when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction with each other. During an eclipse, the Moon’s shadow (which is divided into two parts: the dark umbra and the lighter penumbra) moves across Earth’s surface.
Then, why isn’t there a solar eclipse every month?
If the Moon was only slightly closer to Earth and orbited in the same plane and its orbit was circular, we would see eclipses each month. The lunar orbit is elliptical and tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit, so we can only see up to 5 eclipses per year. Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, the Sun can be totally blocked, or it can be partially blocked.
Solar Eclipse Types
1. Total Solar Eclipse:
It occurs when the Moon completely blocks the solar disk. In a total solar eclipse, the narrowest part of the path (where the Sun is completely blocked and the Moon casts its darkest shadow (called the umbra)) is called the “zone of totality”. A phenomenon called “Bailey’s Beads” often appears as sunlight shines out through valleys on the lunar surface.
2. Annular Solar Eclipse:
When the Moon is farther away in its orbit than usual, it appears too small to completely cover the Sun’s disk. During such an event, a bright ring of sunlight shines around the Moon. This type of eclipse is called an “annular” eclipse.
3. Partial Solar Eclipse:
It occurs when Earth moves through the lunar penumbra (the lighter part of the Moon’s shadow) as the Moon moves between Earth and the Sun. The Moon does not block the entire solar disk, as seen from Earth. Depending on your location during a partial eclipse, you might see anything from a small sliver of the Sun being blotted out to a nearly total eclipse.