NASA/JPL | What’s Up for March 2015: Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse.
What’s Up for March. A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse.
Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Total eclipses of the sun have puzzled and amazed observers since ancient times. An eclipse occurs when one celestial body appears to partially or totally block the light from another celestial object–as seen from a specific location. Solar eclipses can only occur during the new moon, when the moon is between Earth and the Sun–and the Earth, moon and sun form a straight line.
There are 4 kinds of solar eclipses: total, partial, annular and hybrid.
A total solar eclipse–like the one this month and the one visible in parts of the U.S. in 2017–can only be seen from within a narrow track called the “path of totality” where the moon completely blocks our view of the sun’s disk. The cone-shaped shadow of the moon becomes narrower as it extends towards Earth. Therefore the path of totality is narrow, typically 10,000 miles long but only about 100 miles wide.
The only total solar eclipses visible in the U.S. in the last 40 years were in 1979, visible in the northwest part of the country, and 1991, visible in Hawaii.
The Babylonians and ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 B.C. But it wasn’t until 1605 that astronomer Johannes Kepler made a scientific observation of a total solar eclipse. More than a century later, Edmund Halley predicted the timing and path of a total solar eclipse that took place on May 3, 1715.
That’s why amateur astronomers like me are traveling to the March 20 eclipse in the Faroe Islands, far out in the North Sea, hundreds of miles from Iceland, Norway and the U.K.
The best place to find out about all eclipses and where they are visible is at: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov
And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions at: www.nasa.gov
That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.