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14 Fun Interesting Facts About Solar Eclipses You Might Not Know

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A plunge into darkness is rarely a good thing, but when that darkness is a solar eclipse, that’s a spectacular phenomenon. In April 2024, a great celestial occurrence will be witnessed in some parts of the United States, Mexico, and Canada—a total solar eclipse. There will not be another total eclipse until 2044.

Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, and its shadow falls on the Earth’s surface. A total eclipse happens when the Moon completely covers the Sun, creating a brief period of darkness known as totality.

It’s not every day that the moon photobombs the sun, and when it does, humans come out to watch. Let’s journey through space to uncover some fascinating facts about solar eclipses.

1. There Are Different Types of Eclipses

Different Types of Eclipses
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Depending on how much the moon obscures the sun’s beams, various kinds of solar eclipses can happen on Earth. When the Moon entirely obscures all direct sunlight, a total eclipse occurs, significantly darkening the sky along its path. On the other hand, a partial eclipse happens when the Moon just partially obscures the Sun, allowing some of its disk to be seen from Earth and creating a partial shadow on its surface.

When the Moon is too far from Earth to totally block the Sun, an annular solar eclipse occurs, producing a “ring of fire” effect around the Moon’s borders due to the ring of sunlight known as an annulus.

2. They Last Only a Short While

Eclipse doesn’t last very long
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

While an eclipse gets hyped for months or even years before it happens, the actual eclipse doesn’t last very long. The total phase of a solar eclipse can last from a few seconds to about 7.5 minutes. The shortest eclipse lasted 9 seconds.

If you plan to watch the expected 2024 solar eclipse, you may want to set your alarm and avoid taking a nap, or you’ll definitely miss it. The solar eclipse in April will last about 4 minutes.

3. They Make the Earth Cooler

happy traveling couple mountains sunset
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Do not be surprised if it suddenly gets chilly while you’re out marveling at the solar eclipse. The temperature can drop by several degrees Celsius during a total solar eclipse as sunlight is blocked.

The drop in temperature is greatest in places along the path of totality, where the Moon completely blocks out the Sun and causes brief darkness to fall over the area.

4. We Get to See the Sun’s Corona

sunset
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

The sun’s outermost atmosphere is called Corona, but we don’t get to see it because of its brightness. The Sun’s Corona becomes visible during a total solar eclipse.

During an eclipse, do you see that wispy halo surrounding the obscured solar disk? That’s the corona, a gorgeous sight.

5. The First Eclipse Photograph was In Russia  

black and white picture of solar eclipse
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Many people are always ready to take photos during an eclipse; it’s great to document such incredible occurrences. JuLil Berkowski captured the first-ever solar eclipse photograph in 1851, during a total solar eclipse in Russia.

However, as others who attempted before Berkowski discovered, you may not get very good images without high-tech cameras [and the skills] to take clear shots millions of miles away.

6. There are Multiple Eclipses Every Year

Partial Solar Eclipse Collage
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

It may not seem like it, especially if you haven’t seen one recently, but Solar eclipses occur approximately two to five times per year somewhere on Earth.

Some people become dedicated eclipse chasers, journeying to locations where the phenomenon is predicted to occur. This pursuit offers a compelling incentive for travel, as it provides the opportunity to experience the awe-inspiring event itself and discover and explore the surrounding landscapes once the fleeting moments of the eclipse have passed.

7. Eclipses Travel from West to East

Total Solar Eclipse phases. Composite Solar Eclipse.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

When people in one location spot the eclipse, those to the East of them will see it later. This is because when the Moon gets in between the Earth and the Sun to create a solar eclipse, it’s like a moving shadow that travels from west to east across the Earth’s surface.

The earth spins from West to East, making the sun appear to move from East to West.

8. The Baily‘s Beads

Solar eclipse into the darkness
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

One of the most stunning sights during a solar eclipse is the Baily’s Beads, named after British astronomer Francis Baily, who first described them in the early 19th century. These glowing beads encircle the moon’s edge and are seen both before and after totality.

These beads occur because the Moon isn’t a perfect sphere; it has mountains, valleys, and other features. As the Moon covers more of the Sun’s disk, sunlight streams through the Moon’s valleys, creating the beads.

9. Eclipses Affect Animals’ Behaviour

Gray wolf
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

The solar eclipse isn’t just a gorgeous spectacle for humans; animals, too, seem to get affected by the celestial alignment of the sun, moon, and earth. While humans understand what’s happening and that the darkness is only temporary, most animals get confused by the sudden darkness and may interpret it as nighttime.

It’s not unusual for chickens to come home to roost and crickets to start singing because it’s suddenly night. You may want to observe and calm your dog; they may get agitated and confused at the sudden changes.

10. Eclipse Shadow Speed

Eclipse Shadow
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Just how fast does the moon’s shadow travel? While the few minutes of observation may not show it, the shadow of the Moon during a solar eclipse moves across the Earth’s surface at an average speed of about 1,600 kilometers per hour (1,000 miles per hour), which is about the speed of an average fighter jet.

Although the shadow is technically traveling at the speed of the moon’s orbit around the sun, it’s falling on a rotating earth, which affects its speed.

11. Eclipses Can Damage Eyes

Close Up of a Human Eyee
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

People don’t wear eye protection to look at the eclipse just because they look cool; observing a solar eclipse directly without proper eye protection can cause permanent eye damage. Looking directly at the sun’s rays can burn your retina, even when that sun is half or fully blocked by the moon.  

Specialized solar eclipse glasses or viewers are necessary to view the event safely. Ensure your loved ones, especially children, have the proper eyewear to protect them against sun radiation.

12. They Can Be Predicted Accurately

Predict Solar eclipse
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

It’s largely impossible to predict the future, but solar eclipses are outside that bracket of impossibility. Modern science has made it possible for astronomers to forecast solar eclipses accurately using advanced astronomical calculations.

Future solar eclipse locations and dates can be predicted by astronomers using knowledge of the Sun, Moon, and Earth’s mechanics. Keep tabs on your favourite astronomy channel to find out when the next one is scheduled.

13. The Smaller Moon Covers the Larger Sun

Moon and Sun
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

How does the moon, which is much smaller than the sun, block the sun’s rays from totally reaching the Earth in a total eclipse? Well, it’s the same way that you can cover the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty with your thumb!

The distance between your thumb and the statue makes it possible to look like you’re blocking it. The moon is about 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun, making it possible to block the sun’s rays.

14. Only A Small Part of the Earth Experiences Them

Couple enjoying the eclipse together.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

While it may look like the moon blocks the sun on the whole Earth, the Moon completely obscures the Sun over only a narrow portion of the Earth’s surface. This path’s breadth is flexible, however it usually has a maximum width of 269 kilometers, or roughly 167 miles.

Every solar eclipse has a different path of totality, although it is always very small when measured against the whole surface of the planet.

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