The Oh-So-Beautiful Eclipses!

The universe outside of Earth is so vast and unimaginably big. Cosmic space is known to consist of many galaxies, stars and planets. Its intriguing existence makes it an interesting subject of study. Though the findings around the astronomical phenomena are time-taking and difficult to record, it has not deterred our scientists from providing details with facts and figures to substantiate. One such fascinating feature of celestial objects in the galaxy of our solar system is eclipse which people love to observe.

In astronomy, an eclipse occurs when one celestial body gets obscured totally or partially by another. For around four to seven times a year, this cosmic shadow show called eclipse occurs in the sky.

Solar Eclipse – A phenomena when the Moon (seen as a black circle) blocks the Sun’s disc totally or partially. It occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. Such an alignment coincides with a new moon, indicating the Moon is closest to the plane of the Earth's orbit.

When the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth, its shadow sweeps over Earth’s surface. This shadow consists of two parts: the umbra, a cone into which no direct sunlight penetrates; and the penumbra, which is reached by light from only a part of the Sun’s disk.

Four Types of Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse- The grandest of all nature’s events, it occurs when the Sun vanishes from the sky. When the Moon and Sun are in perfect alignment, amazing sights emerge to delight eclipse watchers standing in the umbra—the dark lunar shadow. Two “diamond rings” herald the beginning and end of the total eclipse. Totality can last no longer than 7.5 minutes. Total solar eclipse is a rare occurrence. Although they occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, it is estimated that they recur at any given place only once every 360 to 410 years, on average.

Partial Solar Eclipse- ‘Partial’ means the Moon covers only part of the Sun.

Annular Solar Eclipse- It is the end result of a not-quite-perfect celestial configuration. Though the Moon and Sun are in alignment, the apparent diameter of the Moon is less than the Sun’s. A brilliant ring of sunlight surrounds the Moon, which leads to the nickname “Ring of Fire” for annular eclipses.

Hybrid Solar Eclipse- A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when it shifts between annular and total as the Moon's shadow moves across the globe because of Earth’s elliptical surface.

Lunar Eclipse- A phenomena when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. This occurs when the Earth moves between the Moon and the Sun, casting a large shadow on the Moon, putting the Moon in darkness. This means the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a exact straight line. Total lunar eclipses occur when the Moon happens to be in a Full Moon phase.

Three Types of Lunar Eclipses

a) Total Lunar Eclipse- The Moon moves into the inner part of Earth’s shadow, or the umbra. Some of the sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere reaches the Moon’s surface, making it appear red or orange.

b) Penumbral Lunar Eclipse- The Moon travels through Earth’s penumbra, or the faint outer part of its shadow. The Moon dims so slightly that it can be difficult to notice.

c) Partial Lunar Eclipse- An imperfect alignment of Sun, Earth and Moon results in the Moon passing through only part of Earth's umbra. The shadow grows and then recedes without covering much part of the Moon.

Why are eclipses special?

· Total solar eclipse helps the scientists to see the outer ring Corona around the Sun. This ‘ring of fire’ is annular in nature.

· When at its peak, the solar eclipse cut Earth's surface ozone levels to a minimum.

· The solar eclipse also cooled Earth's atmosphere, changing temperature, relative humidity and wind speed.

· Exciting to watch, the beautiful ‘Blood Moon’ is seen during the total lunar eclipse. It looks red from sunlight being scattered from the atmosphere and directed towards the surface of the moon.

· A lunar eclipse allows the scientists to see the stars and the position of the Sun in comparison to them.

· The rate of Earth’s rotation is also being studied using the previous eclipse records.

You know, these spectacular celestial events occur when one object moves into another one’s path and casts a shadow. In essence, these say a lot about new beginnings, inner energies, completion of a journey and shifting courses. This holds true for both people and nations alike.

Eclipses signify periods of change and transformation.

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