The United States just experience a solar eclipse that spanned from the West to East coast. While solar eclipses are not that rare, seeing a total eclipse is a very rare occurrence. Often solar eclipses occur in the middle of oceans or they are not total eclipses. But what are eclipses and why are they so special?
A solar eclipse occurs when a planet’s moon comes between it and its star. This casts a shadow on the planet which then blocks off part of the sun and prevents 100% of the sun’s rays from reaching the planet. A partial eclipse occurs when only part of the sun is blocked off (also known as an “occult”). Here we still receive the sunlight and it does not get dark; however, the temperature does drop and it feels much cooler. A total eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks out the sun and the we can only see the outermost layer of the sun: the coronal filaments. This layer is the brightest layer of the sun and should not be looked at directly. Many people have described total solar eclipses to feel very spiritual in nature and a life changing experience. A complete solar eclipse (totality) will only last a few minutes in any given area before moving on because the Moon’s shadow moves eastward at roughly 1700 km/hr. The moon travels from west to east during the eclipse On average, the Earth will experience a solar eclipse once every 18 months, although these are usually in remote locations. However, there will usually be two to five eclipses every year and about 240 every 100 years.
Historically. Eclipses have been considered as bad omens in the past in many cultures. At the Battle of Thales (585 BC), both the Medes and the Lydians stopped fighting and agreed to a truce due to a solar eclipse. Biologically, a total eclipse can mess with animal behavior and the circadian rhythm. Birds will often retreat to their nests and nocturnal animals will come out due the darkness.
Solar Eclipses are an exciting event to experience and one day I wish to see a totality. It is very rare to see space phenomena from Earth and this is one of the few we are able to.