October 22, 2021

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Solar eclipses: When is the next one?

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A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between Earth and the sun, and the moon casts a shadow over Earth. A solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of new moon, when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth and its shadows fall upon Earth’s surface. But whether the alignment produces a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse or an annular solar eclipse depends on several factors, all explained below.

The fact that an eclipse can occur at all is a fluke of celestial mechanics and time. Since the moon formed about 4.5 billion years ago, it has been gradually moving away from Earth (by about 1.6 inches, or 4 centimeters per year). Right now the moon is at the perfect distance to appear in our sky exactly the same size as the sun, and therefore block it out. But this is not always true.

When is the next solar eclipse?

The next solar eclipse will be a total solar eclipse on Dec. 14, 2020, and it will be visible from the Southern Cone of South America. Parts of Chile and Argentina will experience up to 2 minutes, 10 seconds of totality, while much of the rest of the continent, as well as Antarctica, will experience a partial solar eclipse. 

How Solar Eclipses Work: When the moon covers up the sun, skywatchers delight in the opportunity to see a rare spectacle. See how solar eclipses occur in this Space.com infographic. (Image credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor)

Types of solar eclipses





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