A total solar eclipse is expected to occur between Tuesday, Mar. 8, and Wednesday, Mar. 9. People in parts of Southeast Asia will see the sun in a new light during this eclipse which will last over a minute in every location on its path.
A rare phenomenon, as the moon passes precisely between the Sun and Earth, the total solar eclipse occurs around once a year, because of the fact that the moon and the sun do not orbit in the exact same plane.
It will begin shortly after 6 p.m. EST over Indonesia and travel northeastwards for more than three hours over Borneo and out over the Pacific Ocean.
The eclipse will block the sun’s bright part, revealing the corona, comparatively faint solar atmosphere. Sarah Jaeggli, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who has seen two total solar eclipses, said, “You notice something off about the sunlight as you reach totality. Your surroundings take on a twilight cast, even though it’s daytime and the sky is still blue. The moon blocks the light of the sun’s surface very, very precisely. You can see all the way down to the roots of the corona, where the atmosphere meets the sun’s surface.”
A very accurate geometry is behind the occurence of a total solar eclipse. Though the Sun is many times bigger than the moon, 400 times to put it in numbers, it appears to be the same size as that of the moon in the kay. This is because of the fact that the Sun is far away, while the moon is closer to the earth.
NASA wrote on its website,
“Totality will last for anywhere from one and a half to just over four minutes at each location, though more than three hours will pass between the time the westernmost location sees the eclipse begin and when the easternmost location sees the eclipse end. People along the path of totality – which is over 8,800 miles long, but only 97 miles wide at the widest point – will have the opportunity to see the solar corona only while the sun’s face is totally covered by the moon.”
Total solar eclipse has played an important part in the history of astronomy. It was a total solar eclipse during Middle Ages which gave early astronomers their first recorded glimpse of the corona. It also helped the astronomers witness and record for the first time the phenomenon of coronal mass ejection – the giant clouds of solar material that can erupt off the sun and travel through space.
NASA still studies coronal mass ejections to understand their effect on near-Earth space, where disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field can impact radio communications, onboard satellite electronics, and GPS.
NASA wrote in a statement,
“Though only people along the narrow path of totality will see the total eclipse, millions more will see some degree of a partial solar eclipse in Asia and the Pacific, including Hawaii, Guam and parts of Alaska. A partial eclipse will also be visible along the path of totality for over an hour before and after the total eclipse.”
The total solar eclipse will last at each location for anything from 90 seconds to four minutes. It will cover 8,800 miles in length and at its widest point be some 97 miles across.
NASA warned people against directly viewing the eclipse. It said,
“Eclipses can be viewed using a solar-filtered telescope, eclipse glasses, or a pinhole projector. Even when 99 percent of the sun’s surface is obscured by the moon, the unobscured sliver of the sun’s surface can damage the eyes.”
So make sure to carry appropriate eye safety equipment before you venture out to see this year’s total solar eclipse.
[Photo by Hideo Fukushima/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan via Getty Images]