Solar Eclipses Facts

An eclipse happens when one object in space blocks the vision by the observer of another space object.

On Earth we can see two types of eclipses: solar eclipse and lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse happens when our Moon passes in front of the Sun.

It will cast a shadow, also known as an occulation that falls on specific areas of the Earth. This is why not everyone can see every solar eclipse.

The shadow on happens in some places. When you witness a solar eclipse, everything goes dark and the Sun seems to almost disappear. Most solar eclipses don’t last very long.

It’s thought that as Earth observers, we may be the only planet in our Solar System to be able to see these types of eclipses.

It all has to do with the size of the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon and the distances from each one.

Why do we see the Eclipse

The reason that we can see a solar eclipse is that the distance between the Earth and the Sun is almost 400 times the distance of the Moon from the Sun –and- the Sun’s diameter just happens to be around 400 times larger than that of the Moon’s.

We are lucky to have a Moon and Sun with very similar view sizes when seen from the Earth.

What happens during the Eclipse

A solar eclipse has three specific parts to the eclipse process: umbra, penumbra, and antumbra.

  • Umbra – The umbra is the part of the shadow of the Moon where the Moon completely covers the sun.
  • Antumbra – The area of the shadow after the umbra where the Moon covers the Sun but you can still see the outline of the Sun around the Moon.
  • Penumbra – The area of the shadow where only a part of the Moon is in front of the Sun and you can see some of the Sun.

Three types of Solar Eclipse

There are three types of solar eclipse and the type that you experience depends on what location of the shadow you find yourself in: total, annular, or partial.

  • Total – A total eclipse is where the Sun is totally covered by the Moon. Those that are in the umbra of the eclipse experience a total eclipse. A total eclipse is the most desired and people travel all over the world as “eclipse chasers.” When you see a total eclipse you only see a faint solar corona.
  • Annular – An annular eclipse is when the Moon almost completely covers the Sun, but you can still see the edges of the Sun around the Moon. Those in the antumbra experience an annular eclipse. When you view an annular eclipse the Sun shows a very bright ring, also known as an “annulus” that surrounds the Moon’s dark disk.
  • Partial – A partial eclipse is when only a part of the Sun is blocked by the Moon. This means that it isn’t a full eclipse. Those in the penumbra will observe a partial eclipse.


Even though the Moon is covering the Sun, it doesn’t stop the incredibly damaging rays of the Sun.

Never look directly at a solar eclipse as it can severely damage your eyes. If you intend on attending a solar eclipse get specially designed eclipse glasses.

You should also never try to view an eclipse through a camera that doesn’t have a specially designed lens.

Solar Eclipses Facts

  • Every year there are between two and five solar eclipses that can be viewed from various parts of the Earth.
  • A total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely obstructs the view of the Sun and leaves only the corona, is called a “Totality.”
  • Total solar eclipses occur around every 18 months and can be seen from someone on the Earth.
  • A completely rare type of third eclipse is called a “hybrid eclipse.” This form is dependent on where you view it from Earth and shifts between a total and annular eclipse.
  • Solar eclipses can last from just thirty seconds to 7 minutes, depending upon your location.
  • A solar eclipse is dependent upon the speed of the Moon which is 1,398 mph as it moves across the Sun.
  • If you are viewing from either the South or North Pole, you will only ever see a partial eclipse.
  • The maximum width for the path of totality is 269 km.
  • A Saros Cycle is the situation where almost identical eclipses happen after 18 years and 11 days.


  • Should you ever look directly at a solar eclipse without appropriate glasses?
  • What are the three parts to a solar eclipse?
    umbra, penumbra, and antumbra
  • What is the rare kind of solar eclipse called?
    hybrid eclipse
  • What is the faint light of the Sun called that is observed in a total eclipse?
  • Can you see a total eclipse from the North Pole?
  • What are the three types of solar eclipse?
    total, annular, and partial