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Solar Eclipse

February 14, 2018

Those hoping for a big encore after last year’s total solar eclipse will have to wait a while. The Sun and Moon will stage three solar eclipses this year, but they’re all pretty much duds. They’re all partial eclipses, so the Moon won’t fully cover the Sun. And all three will be visible mainly over open ocean or sparsely settled land, limiting the size of the audience.

The first of these eclipses takes place tomorrow. It begins around midday as measured here in the United States. But it won’t get anywhere close to the U.S. Instead, the eclipse path will sweep across Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and into South America — mainly Argentina and Chile. At the eclipse’s peak, the Moon will cover about half of the Sun’s disk.

The next eclipse, in July, will be even meeker, and will appear above the ocean between Antarctica and Australia. And the one after that, in August, will be visible mainly from northeastern Russia and across the north pole.

Eclipses vary because the Moon’s orbit around Earth is tilted compared to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. So the configuration of Sun, Moon, and Earth is different each time the new Moon crosses between Sun and Earth. Most months the Moon skips above or below the Sun, so there’s no eclipse at all. For this year’s eclipses, the Moon will cover only part of the Sun. It’s only when the alignment is just right — when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun — that we see the spectacle of a total solar eclipse.

Script by Damond Benningfield


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