A Solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun effectively casting the shadow of the Moon over the Earth.
Types of solar eclipses
Due to the distance variations between the Moon, Sun, and the Earth, there are different kind of solar eclipses.
- A "Partial Eclipse" is when the Moon isn't completely lined up between the Sun and the Earth so only part of its shadow is cast upon the Earth.
- An "Annular Eclipse" is when the Moon is perfectly aligned between the Earth and the Sun, but the Moon appears smaller than the Sun, so rings of light appear around the Moon. The Earth below is not cast in complete darkness.
- A "Total Eclipse" is when the Moon lines up perfectly between the Sun and the Earth and the Moon appears larger than the Sun does. Therefore, the Sun is completely blotted out except for a few odd rays of sunlight that appear around the moon for the first 15 seconds of the eclipse. The Earth below is cast in to complete darkness.
Direct observation of an eclipse
Direct observation of a solar eclipse is not recommended because it can lead to permanent loss of eyesight. The retina does not have pain receptors so any damage done by the sun will go unnoticed. Many tools used for indirect observation are available to those who want to gaze upon a solar eclipse.