A solar eclipse is coming your way on August 21st around 1:00 pm. We’re here to help you prepare! Find solar eclipse fun facts in time for the event!

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes in front of the Sun and casts a shadow across Earth. It’s also known as an occultation. The reason solar eclipses happen is that the distance between the Sun and the Earth is about 400 times the Moon’s distance from the Sun and the Sun’s diameter is approximately 400 times larger than the Moon’s.

What this means is that the Sun and the Moon both have a very similar size when viewed from Earth, so when the Moon passes in front of the Sun, it blocks the light from reaching Earth.

Different Types of Solar Eclipses

  • Partial solar eclipse. This is when the Moon does not line up completely with the Sun, and so only partially blocks the sunlight from reaching Earth.
  • Annular solar eclipse. This is when the Moon and the Sun are both exactly in line but either the Moon is further from Earth or the Earth is closer to the Sun. When this happens, the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun and the Sun then appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon.
  • Total solar eclipse. A total eclipse happens when the dark silhouette of the Moon completely covers the intense bright light of the Sun. Only the much fainter solar corona is visible during a total eclipse.
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A total solar eclipse helped confirm Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Twenty Fun Facts About Solar Eclipses

  1. Each year there are between 2 and 5 solar eclipses.
  2. The total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely obscures the Sun and leaves only the faint solar corona, is known as a Totality.
  3. There is another type of solar eclipse, known as a hybrid eclipse, which shifts between a total and annular eclipse depending on where you view it from on Earth. These are comparatively rare.
  4. The speed of the Moon as it moves across the Sun is approximately 2,250 km (1,398 miles) per hour.
  5. A total solar eclipse can last a maximum of 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
  6. A total solar eclipse is not noticeable until the Sun is more than 90 percent covered by the Moon. At 99 percent coverage, daytime lighting resembles local twilight.
  7. Eclipse shadows travel at 1,100 miles per hour at the equator and up to 5,000 miles per hour near the poles.
  8. The width of the Moon’s shadow is at most 170 miles wide.
  9. There are at least 2 solar eclipses per year somewhere on the Earth.
  10. Every eclipse begins at sunrise at some point in its track and ends at sunset about half way around the world from the start point.
  11. Before the advent of modern atomic clocks, studies of ancient records of solar eclipses allowed astronomers to detect a 0.001 second per century slowing down in Earth’s rotation.
  12. Local animals and birds often prepare for sleep or behave confusedly during totality.
  13. Local temperatures can drop as much as 20 degrees during a total solar eclipse.
  14. On average, there are no less than 2 and no more than 5 solar eclipses per year.
  15. If you are at the North or South Poles, you cannot view a total solar eclipse.
  16. After a total solar eclipse, it takes about an hour before total daylight is restored.
  17. Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
  18. If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.
  19. Looking directly at the Sun, even for just a few seconds, can cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye.
  20. The observation of a total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919 helped to confirm Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
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