Solar Eclipse

Astrology: An Overview of Prominent Solar Eclipse Occurrences in History

On December 4, the world will witness a complete solar eclipse compared to this year’s Annular Solar Eclipse on June 10, 2021. The polar eclipse will be visible in Africa, Australia, South America, and the Atlantic. Unfortunately, this eclipse will not be seen in India. Know everything about Saturday’s celestial event, including the date, time, live streaming, and dos and don’ts.

The year’s last solar eclipse will occur on December 4, 2021. In contrast to the last Annular Solar Eclipse, which occurred on June 10 of this year, this celestial event will be a Total Solar Eclipse. We see a solar eclipse when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out the Sun. The polar eclipse will affect countries such as Africa, Australia, South America, and the Atlantic.

Solar Eclipse
Credit: Pixabay

Timings of the December 4th Eclipse

  • It will commence at 10:59 a.m. (IST) on Saturday.
  • The total eclipse will begin at 12:30 p.m., with the greatest eclipse occurring at 1:03 p.m.
  • The total solar eclipse will end at 1:33 p.m., while the partial solar eclipse will end at 3:07 p.m.
  • It will go on for 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Another fascinating statistic is that the moon will make its closest approach to Earth (called perigee) in 2021: 221,702 miles (356,794 km). But, even more intriguing, the moon’s closest approach to Earth — 5:07 a.m. EST (0807 GMT) — will occur only 144 minutes following the new moon.

As a result, both the sun and moon will be on the same side of the Earth, with the moon at its closest point to the Earth. Such “proxigean” moons can cause the highest tides of the year, and ocean tides will be experiencing a significantly greater than typical variation in the few days following this new moon. For example, low tides will be substantially lower and high tides will be much higher than usual. Except for Antarctica, the total Solar Eclipse will be visible only in South America, Australia, South Africa, and nations in the Southern Atlantic.

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a enthralling sight and a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical phenomenon. Unfortunately, each one is only viewable from a specific location. We call it a total solar eclipse when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on our globe. A shadow comprises two parts: a dark inner circle where all of the sunlight is blocked, known as the umbra, and an outside zone of the shadow that blocks just a portion of the sunlight, known as the penumbra. The Moon covers the whole solar disc during a complete solar eclipse, whereas partial and annular solar eclipses only cover a portion of the Sun.

NASA claims that “A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, producing a shadow on the Earth and obscuring the Sun’s light in some locations. Therefore, the Sun, Moon, and Earth must be in a direct line for a total solar eclipse to occur.”

Moon Eclipsing the Sun

A solar eclipse is one when the New Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, obscuring the Sun’s beams and creating a shadow on sections of the Earth.

Because the Moon’s shadow is too small to encompass the entire Earth, it is permanently restricted to a specific area. This region fluctuates throughout the eclipse because the Moon and Earth are constantly in motion: the Earth rotates about its axis while orbiting the Sun, while the Moon circles Earth. That is why solar eclipses appear to move from one location to another.

Solar Eclipse
Credit: Pixabay

Types of Solar Eclipses

Solar eclipses are classified into four categories. First, the eclipse magnitude, or how much of the Sun’s disc is obscured, is determined by where the shadow of the Moon falls on the Earth.

  • Partial solar eclipse: It is when the Moon obscures the Sun’s disc just partially and casts only its penumbra on Earth.
  • Annular solar eclipses: It is when the Moon’s disc is not large enough to cover the entire Sun dick, and the Sun’s outer edges remain visible in the sky, forming a ring of fire. When the Moon is at apogee, an annular eclipse of the Sun occurs, and the Moon’s antumbra falls on Earth.
  • Total solar eclipses: It is when the Moon entirely obscures the Sun, and they can only occur when the Moon is approaching perigee, the point of the Moon’s orbit closest to Earth. A total solar eclipse may only be seen if you are in the path where the Moon throws its thickest shadow, known as the umbra.
  • Hybrid Eclipses: The rarest variety is a hybrid solar eclipse, an annular-total eclipse. It happens when the same eclipse transitions from an annular to a complete solar eclipse, and vice versa, along its course.

Solar Eclipses are Usually Partial

Solar eclipses can only be seen from the area of Earth where the Moon’s shadow falls. It is when the viewer is closer to the shadow’s path centre, the larger the eclipse seems. They are typically called after they are the darkest or maximum. The hybrid eclipse is an exception. Solar eclipses’ darkest point is only observable from a narrow area. Total, annular, and hybrid eclipses seem to be partial solar eclipses in most regions and for most of their length.

Only around the New Moon

It will be a solar eclipse when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are perfectly or almost perfectly aligned in a straight line. During the New Moon, the three bodies come close to aligning every lunar month. The plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is inclined at an angle of about 5° to the ecliptic, the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Lunar nodes are the sites where the plane of the Moon’s orbital path intersects the ecliptic.

A pure perfect or near-perfect alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth can occur only when the New Moon remains close to a lunar node. It is only possible during periods fewer than six months apart and lasts an average of 34.5 days. Eclipses may occur exclusively during this period, also known as the eclipse season. A lunar eclipse occurs when there is a full Moon during the eclipse season.

Great American Eclipse
Credit: Pixabay

Famous Solar Eclipses in History

Great American Total Solar Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, the United States witnessed the first complete solar eclipse in four decades. According to Space.com, the Moon’s 70-mile-wide (110-kilometer) shadow darkened the sky from Oregon to South Carolina during the so-called Great American Total Solar Eclipse. The Moon only took a “bite” out of the Sun during most solar eclipses, known as partial solar eclipses.

Because of its accessibility, this eclipse was exceptionally unusual. Most total eclipses passed over the ocean or unpopulated areas of the world. According to scientists, the August event will be remembered as the only total solar eclipse since 1776, in which the path of totality remained entirely within the United States.

Ugarit Eclipse

The Ugarit eclipse, one of the oldest known solar eclipses, darkened the sky for a span of 2 minutes and 7 seconds. It occurred on May 3, 1375 B.C., according to a study of a clay tablet unearthed in 1948. Then, in 1989, a paper in the magazine Nature claimed that the eclipse happened on March 5, 1223, B.C. The revised date is based on the tablet’s historical chronology and a study of the tablet’s content, which cites the appearance of Mars during the eclipse. According to Mesopotamian historians at Ugarit, the sun was “put to shame” during this complete eclipse, at a port city in Northern Syria.

Assyrian Eclipse

The sun was entirely hidden for 5 minutes in 763 B.C. by the Assyrian empire, which controlled Iraq. Early records from the era describe the eclipse in the same section as an insurgency in Ashur. Today, it is popular as Qal’at Sherqat in Iraq, implying that the ancient people associated the two.

Solar Eclipse Phases
Credit: Pixabay

Early Chinese Eclipse

Chinese historians recorded an enormous complete eclipse that shut out the Sun for 6 minutes and 25 seconds in 1302 B.C. Because the Sun was the emperor’s emblem, an eclipse was a sign of warning to the ruler. According to 2003 study research published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, after an eclipse, a monarch would eat vegetarian meals and perform rituals to save the Sun.

Kevin D. Pang, an astronomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, and his colleagues used inscriptions on ancient turtle shell pieces. They used it to determine the date of the eclipse: June 5, 1302 B.C. An inscription about the eclipse read, “Diviner Ko inquires if the next day will be sunny or not… On the 52nd day, there will be fog till the following daybreak. Three flames devoured the Sun, and large stars could be seen.”

According to NASA, Pang interpreted “three flames” as “coronal streamers licking out from the Sun’s surface. These were observable exclusively during total eclipses.”

Throughout the solar eclipse, “huge stars” would be visible during the day when the Moon’s shadow obscured the Sun.

According to the Christian narratives, the sky darkened for hours following Jesus’ crucifixion, which historians interpret as either a miracle or a foreshadowing of gloomy days to come. Later historians employed astronomy to locate Christ’s death based on this eclipse reference. Some historians attribute the crucifixion to a complete solar eclipse that lasted 1 minute and 59 seconds in 29 C.E… In contrast, others believe it was marked by a second total eclipse. This eclipse blocked the Sun for a span of 4 minutes and 6 seconds in 33 C.E.

Birth of Mohammed

The Quran describes an eclipse that occurred before Mohammed’s birth. Historians eventually linked this to a complete eclipse in 569 C.E. lasting 3 minutes and 17 seconds. The sun likewise vanished for 1 minute and 40 seconds after Mohammed’s son Ibrahim died. However, the world’s earliest Muslims did not consider the eclipse a divine sign. Instead, Mohammed declared in Islamic literature known as Hadiths that “the sun and the moon do not suffer eclipse for anyone’s death or life.”

King Henry’s Eclipse

When William the Conqueror’s son, King Henry I of England, died in A.D. 1133, it coincided with a total solar eclipse lasting 4 minutes and 38 seconds. In his manuscript “Historia Novella”, William of Malmesbury describes how the “hideous gloom” upset men’s emotions.

Einstein’s Eclipse

While the ancients saw the 1919 solar eclipse as evidence of tremendous divine deeds, physicists saw it as a scientific success. Scientists studied the bending of light from the stars as they passed near the Sun during 1919’s epic eclipse, in which the Sun disappeared for 6 minutes and 51 seconds. The findings were with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which explains gravity as bending space-time.

Impactful Solar Eclipse

The March 20, 2015 Solar Eclipse was the first occurrence of an eclipse to substantially affect the power system, with the electrical industry taking precautions to prevent any harm. The synchronous areas of continental Europe and the United Kingdom received around 90 gigatonnes of solar power. Additionally, production momentarily decreased by 34 gigatonnes compared to a clear sky day.

Eclipses may produce a 3°C drop in temperature, as well as a 0.7 m/s decrease in wind power. There are changes in the behaviour of animals and a decrease in light intensity and air temperature. Birds and squirrels, for example, return to their nests while crickets chirp.

Skygazers
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Dos and Don’ts During a Solar Eclipse

Proper eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are necessary when witnessing a solar eclipse. It is because gazing directly at the Sun may lead to severe eye damage or blindness. Only the complete phase of a total solar eclipse is viewable without any assistance and protection. Eclipse chasers, also known as umbraphiles, travel to remote regions to see or experience projected central solar eclipses.

Even on a regular day, it is not advisable to look straight at the sun. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one should wear special-purpose solar filters or ‘eclipse glasses’. It also warns against using homemade filters or conventional spectacles. Even the darkest shades would transmit much too much sunshine, perhaps damaging the eyes.

Dos and Don’ts During a Solar Eclipse

Even with eclipse glasses, NASA advises covering one’s eyes before staring up at the sky during a solar eclipse. Then, remove your glasses only when you’ve entirely glanced away or after the solar eclipse has ended – not before. Though it sounds tempting to use a camera to film the event or a telescope or binoculars to get a better look, experts advise against it – even if one is wearing eclipse glasses. By doing so, one risks the danger of injury by concentrated sun’s rays. One should not remove  glasses to see the eclipse, whether nearsighted or farsighted. Instead, they can wear the eclipse glasses on top of them. They can also use a hand-held viewer if that makes them feel more at ease.

Driving during a solar eclipse is not advisable. However, the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends that individuals drive with their headlights on. They should carefully park their cars before attending the event – with enough protection and appropriate attire.

Conclusion

An eclipse is a natural occurrence. People uninformed of the astronomical rationale for a complete solar eclipse may be terrified when the Sun appears to disappear during the day, and the sky darkens in a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, it is a phenomenon to witness and a spectacular sight to see!

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