On Tuesday, March 8, the celestial event of the year will take place: a total eclipse of the sun, which happens when the Moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking the sun from view.
This is the only total solar eclipse we’ll see this year, but sadly for the US, only people in certain parts of South East Asia will see the total eclipse.
Moreover, others, in parts of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and America Samoa will witness a partial solar eclipse, when the Moon eclipses part of the sun.
Though the rest of us cannot see the event directly, NASA and the Slooh Community Observatory will be hosting live coverage of the event.
NASA’s coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET and Slooh’s starts at 6 p.m. ET. We’ve provided the live feeds for both at the end of this post.
The most stunning part of the eclipse, called totality — when the Moon is directly in front of the sun — will take place at approximately 1:59 UT, which is 8:59 p.m. ET.
The map below, from TimeandDate.com, reveals who will see this stunning event on March 8. The thin, dark blue line stretching through South East Asia and making its way across the Pacific marks who will see a total solar eclipse, whereas the rest of the shaded regions show who will see a partial eclipse.
What’s going on
The reason only a small part of the world can see a total eclipse at one time is because the Moon is about the same size in our sky as the sun.
Therefore, when the Moon passes directly between Earth and the sun, it casts a small shadow on Earth. There are two parts to this shadow called the penumbra and the umbra, shown below:
If you are standing underneath that penumbra, then you will witness a partial solar eclipse, but if you’re underneath the much smaller penumbra, then you get the rare treat of experiencing a total eclipse of the sun.
Remember that no one should look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse without proper equipment, as it can damage the eyes.
Because the Moon orbits Earth, both the penumbra and umbra move across the face of our planet during an eclipse. On March 8, the shadow will traverse across 8,800 miles, stretching from just west of South East Asia all the way past Hawaii.
For a better idea of how the Moon’s shadow moves across Earth, watch this 60-second-long NASA animation:
The next time the US will get a chance to see a total solar eclipse will be on August 21, 2017. And that’s a date to mark your calendars for because it will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the entire US since 1979!
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