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Solar Eclipse

March 19, 2015

The Sun will disappear across a narrow strip of Arctic waters early tomorrow during a total solar eclipse. The only land in the path of the eclipse is a few small islands. But viewers across Europe and parts of Asia and Africa will see a partial eclipse.

Solar eclipses occur when the new Moon passes directly between Earth and the Sun. The Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon, but it’s also about 400 times farther away. As a result of that coincidence, the Moon and Sun are almost exactly the same size in our sky, so the Moon can completely cover the solar disk.

Geometry of a total solar eclipseGeometry of a total solar eclipseThe dark inner part of the lunar shadow — the path of the total eclipse — is only about 300 miles wide. But there’s a partial eclipse across hundreds of miles on either side of that path, with the Moon covering part of the Sun.

This eclipse begins in the wee hours of the morning here in the U.S., when the shadow first touches Earth, northeast of Newfoundland. The shadow then sweeps between Iceland and the British Isles and past Norway.

Although no big cities are in the path of totality, a few will see pretty good partial eclipses. From Reykjavik, Iceland, the Moon will cover about 98 percent of the Sun, while Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland will see the Moon cover more than 90 percent of the Sun’s disk.

The eclipse ends at the North Pole — a spot that’s just starting to see the Sun at all after six months of darkness. More about that tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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