Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun

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Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun
Solar eclipseNASA

  • Solar eclipses occur when there’s a New Moon in the sky and it comes in between the Earth and the Sun.
  • The annual solar eclipse — ‘Ring of Fire’ — will take place on 21 June 2020.
  • The total solar eclipse is scheduled to happen on 14 December 2020.
The Moon doesn’t give up. Every year, like clockwork, it tries to block the Sun from the Earth by placing itself in between. But, it’s only successful half of the time. During the annual solar eclipse, the night sky will be lit by a ‘Ring of Fire’. However, during the total solar eclipse, the Moon is able to cover the entire Sun.

Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun
The Moon's shadow falls on the Earth as it blocks the SunNASA

In addition to the Earth, the Sun and the Moon being lined up — solar eclipses can only occur when there’s a New Moon in the sky.

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This year, the annual solar eclipse will occur on June 21 and the total solar eclipse is scheduled to happen on December 14. Sky watchers will witness either a partial or a full solar eclipse depending on where they're situated.

Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun
Partial solar eclipse T. Ruen/NASA

The annual solar eclipse — ‘Ring of Fire’

Each month, the distance between the Earth and the Moon changes as the latter circles the former. It moves closer and further away because it doesn’t go around the Earth in a circle — instead, it’s orbit is elliptical.

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When the Moon is at its furthest point the Earth — the apogee — that’s when a solar eclipse occurs.

Since it’s so far away, when it does come in between the Sun and the planet — it’s unable to completely able to block the flaming ball at the entre of the Solar System. So, the outer edges of the Sun’s disk still peek through outlining the Moon’s silhouette.

The result is the ‘ Ring of Fire’.

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Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun
'Ring of fire' during the annual solar eclipseWikimedia


The total solar eclipse —

Although the Moon still comes in between the Sun and the Earth during the total solar eclipse, this time it’s a lot closer. In fact, it’s at the closest point on its orbit around the planet — the perigee.

Even though hasn’t grown physically, it’s apparent size looks much bigger from Earth.
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Instead of a ‘Ring of Fire’, the total solar eclipse from ‘diamond rings’. For a few fleeting seconds, before the solar corona becomes visible, a jewel of light gathers along the edge — creating what looks like a diamond ring.

Solar eclipses in 2020 — twice a year that the Moon will try to block out the Sun
Diamond ring observed during a total solar eclipseWikipedia

The total solar eclipse is also known for other interesting phenomena like shadow bands, Baily’s beads and a reddish glow that sets in right before the Sun completely disappears.

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Stargazing on the night during the solar eclipse

If you plan on skywatching, make sure you remember to protect your eyes. It may not matter during a lunar eclipse, but staring directly at a solar eclipse can potentially blind you. Arm yourself with a pair of ‘ eclipse glasses’ or special-purpose solar filters before looking directly at the sun.

Contrary to popular belief, the solar eclipse will have no impact on your achaars (pickles) or your baby.

See also:
6 stunning pictures you must see if you missed the 'Ring of Fire' solar eclipse
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11 incredible photos from yesterday's total solar eclipse

The longest total lunar eclipse in a century happens this week - here's the difference between a lunar and solar eclipse
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