100 Days Until Totality Blog! 99 Days Left – What is a Solar Eclipse?

Credit: Astronomical Society of South Australia

The word eclipse means “to obscure light.” A solar eclipse is an astronomical event where the Moon appears to cover up the Sun in our sky. But how is our tiny Moon able to cover up something as large as the Sun? (Check out the comparison of the Moon, Earth, and Sun on the right!) While the Moon is about 400 times smaller than our Sun, it is also 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun is. This causes it to appear to be exactly the right size in our sky to completely block out the light from our Sun.

We are able to see a solar eclipse when the Moon is located directly in a straight line between the Sun and the Earth, also known as the fun word syzygy. The Moon will then cast a shadow onto the Earth. In a small region of the Earth, the Moon will completely block out the Sun’s light. The full shadow is known as the umbra. The area on the Earth that will be within the umbra is known as the path of totality.

In Jackson we are lucky enough to find ourselves in the path of totality, allowing us to see a total eclipse! The rest of the continental United States outside of the path will be only partially in the Moon’s shadow, causing them to only see a partial solar eclipse. The partial shadow is known as the penumbra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *