Total eclipse of the heart.. I mean sun…

How does this even happen?!?

It is really pretty simple once you figure out that the Earth isn’t actually the center of the universe. In fact, the Earth rotates around the sun!! I know, mind blown. To add onto that, the moon rotates around the Earth. Now when we put those facts together, we can figure out that sometimes the moon enters the path of the sun, which in turn causes an eclipse. If it makes you feel any better, NASA thinks you should learn this somewhere between 5th and 8th grade.

Why doesn’t this happen more often?

Now one might think this should happen a lot more often, say, once per orbit of the moon around the Earth (roughly once per month), but as we know, that isn’t the case. It turns out that the moon’s orbit around the Earth is tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit around the sun. Don’t worry about the numbers, but assume that it is enough that the moon often is too high or low when crossing the path of the sun to cause an eclipse. Only when the Earth, moon and sun line up to the intersection of the orbital planes will you get an eclipse.

There are actually 4 types of eclipse.

A TOTAL ECLIPSE happens when the moon completely covers the sun. Here, the observer is standing under the umbral shadow of the moon. In a total solar eclipse, the sun’s outer atmosphere can be seen.

A PARTIAL ECLIPSE occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, off center and only a portion of the sun’s disk is obscured. Here, the observer is standing in the penumbral shadow of the moon.

AN ANNULAR ECLIPSE occurs when the moon passes dead center in front of the sun but, because the moon’s orbit is elliptical and so is sometimes closer and sometimes further from Earth, it appears too small to fully cover the disk of the sun.

A HYBRID ECLIPSE is a combination of total and annular eclipses. The eclipse begins as one type and ends as another.

*Stolen straight from NASA, so you can trust this part.

So when will you get to see this?

Hopefully I don’t have to explain time zones to you as well, but the time you’ll get to catch (at least a glimpse) varies. If you’re on the East coast, you’ll be looking at about a 1PM start time, with the eclipse lasting just under 3 hours. If you’re on the West it will start around 9AM for you. If you’re in between, well, do your best interpolation to figure it out .

One last thing. If you’re going to be staring at the sun, make sure to wear the proper eye protection! Personally, I think this is just a scam for someone to make a quick buck, but you might want to invest in a pair of glasses to be safe. Hopefully you’ll now have enough info to wow your friends, or at least not be the one thinking the end of times are here.

Have any feedback about this post? Just want to say hi? Feel free to reach out at unprofessoinalengineering@gmail.com.

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Although James and Luke are both product marketing managers for Autodesk, Inc. their views do not represent those of Autodesk.