So, yesterday I missed an annular solar eclipse by about 2 time zones. Living in New York, it was already night by the time the event occurred, but people in places like California supposedly got a great view! Of course, what do eclipses make me think of: geometry!
So, I made you this picture to think about how an eclipse works. Enjoy my MS Paint artwork abilities. Remember, there’s a reason I’m a scientist.
It only works under very specific circumstances. You’ll notice the black lines come to a point, and if you aren’t in or around that point, you won’t see the eclipse proper, you’ll just see part of it. Also, the sun and moon have to cross paths during your day for you to see it. To make it even harder, this distance between the Earth and the moon is the shortest one, any further away (which is where the moon is much of the time) and it gets too far to block out the sun. Even more annoying, the moon orbits the Earth at an angle, so even when all of these things happen, sometimes the moon is not in line with the sun. Wow! Doesn’t knowing how complex the math is make eclipses that much cooler? No, only me? Okay.
Other people have worked out the actual math on this if you are interested, as well as eclipses in the future, which can range from 2-5 per year of different types visible in different places. Also, NASA notes that the moon is slowly moving away from the Earth, so in 600 million years, there will be no more eclipses. Enjoy them now while you can! Our next partial in North America will be October 2014 and our next total eclipse should be in August 2017.