Eclipses explained

What is the next eclipse? Know your ‘Total’ from your ‘Ring of Fire’

Total, Annular, Partial or Lunar? Know what to expect before you make plans to travel

It pays to know the difference between the types of eclipse – and know that the very NEXT eclipse is a Total Lunar Eclipse (‘Blood Moon’) on January 31, 2018, which is visible from Asia, Australia, the Pacific & North America.

So what are the types of eclipse?
1 – Total Solar Eclipse

This is the one worth traveling for – and what those within the Path of Totality in the USA saw on August 21, 2017. Only possible at New Moon, a Total Solar Eclipse happens when the Sun and Moon’s paths cross exactly. Stand anywhere in the hallowed Path of Totality and you’ll witness a blackout for a few minutes – and an awesome view of the Sun’s corona.

2 – Annular Solar Eclipse

Although total darkness doesn’t occur, an annular eclipse can be inspiring. It happens when the Moon’s orbital path takes it furthest from the Earth, so the Sun appears slightly bigger in the sky and isn’t fully eclipsed. One witness has described the Sun as looking like ‘a bicycle wheel on fire’. Others call it a ‘Ring of Fire’. Either way, it’s a great spectacle to see, though it never gets dark and you have to use solar filter safety glasses throughout the event.

3 – Partial Solar Eclipse

This is when the Moon takes a chunk out of the Sun. It’s an event in its own right – though a potentially dangerous one to view with the naked eye. This is exactly what everyone in the USA – and far beyond – saw on August 21, 2017 if they didn’t get themselves into the Path of Totality. It’s also what everyone within the Path of Totality saw in the run-up to the moments of Totality. Almost as good as a Total Solar Eclipse? Absolutely not!

4 – Lunar Eclipse

Rather than witnessing the Moon’s shadow racing across the Earth, a Lunar eclipse is the opposite. The Earth casts a shadow that’s bigger than the Moon, so when a Full Moon passes into it, it becomes invisible, right? Wrong. The Earth’s atmosphere distorts the Sun’s rays, so once the Earth’s shadow has slowly crossed to cover whole of the Moon, it turns a copper colour. It’s a beautiful sight, and it lingers for hours at a time. But is it worth traveling for? Probably not – stay where you are and you’ll see a Lunar Eclipse every few years or so.

Photo credit: Public domain