Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipses – Short Video
• This video touches on the various types of
solar eclipses.
An Eclipse from Another World
• Mars’ Phobos eclipses the sun as seen from
Curiosity Rover.
Solar Eclipse
• A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves
between Earth and the sun.
– There are total solar eclipses – the moon covers
the disk of the sun completely.
– Partial solar eclipses – less dramatic, when the
moon only covers part of the solar disk.
A total
Partial Eclipse
Angular Diameter
• Solar eclipses are spectacular because the
moon and sun have nearly the same angular
– This means, simply, that the moon appears big
enough that it covers almost exactly the sun’s disk.
• Angular diameter of an object is the angle
formed by lines extending toward you from
the opposite edges of the object and meeting
at your eye.
Angular Diameter
• This is the figure from your book – Figure 3-7.
Angular Diameter
• The formula for angular diameter is:
• Angular diameter/206.265 = linear diameter/distance
• 206.265 is the number of arc seconds in a
radian. This allows us to, when we divide, to
convert the angle from arc seconds to radians.
– A radian is a unit of angular measure.
Angular Diameter
• Angular diameter/206.265 = 3476 km/384,000
– This gives us an angular diameter 1,870 arc
seconds. When we divide 1,870/60 we get 31 arc
minutes. An when we divide that by 60, 31/60,
we get degrees.
– The angular diameter of the moon is
approximately .5 degrees.
Angular Diameter
• Using this same equation, you can find the
angular diameter of the sun.
– AD/206.265 = 1.39 X 106km/1.5 X 108km
– AD = 1,900 arc seconds
– This, after dividing by 3600, gives as
approximately 0.5 degrees.
– In other words, the sun is actually a touch bigger
but not by much
Angular Diameter
• As luck would have it, our moon is the right
size to almost exactly cover up the sun –
leaving the sun’s atmosphere, its corona,
Why is this Important?
• At a total solar eclipse observed from the
ground, we can see part of the corona that is
not accessible in any other way.
– Though we do now have space crafts that are able
to send us pictures of the corona, eclipses were,
pre-space age, the only opportunities to observe
the corona.
– It was especially important for measuring the
temperature of the solar corona.
Why is this Important?
• The corona has a temperature of one to three
million degrees Kelvin (water boils at 373
degrees Kelvin).
– This is significantly hotter than the sun’s surface
which is only 5,800 degrees Kelvin.
• We also use total solar eclipses to study how
sun’s magnetic field shapes the corona.
Sun’s Magnetic Field Photographed
During an Eclipse
Why is this Important?
• Most importantly of all, it was observation of
a total solar eclipse in 1919 (along with
observation involving the precession of
Mercury) which provided significant support
for Einstein’s general theory of relativity
(specifically the bending of space time) and
the overthrow of Newtonian gravitational
– Einstein’s conception of gravity became accepted,
though Newton’s still is useful.
The First Evidence for General
• In May 1919, a team led by the British
astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington claimed
to have confirmed Einstein's prediction
of gravitational deflection of starlight by the
Sun while photographing the solar eclipse
with dual expeditions in Sobral,
northern Brazil, and Príncipe, a west African
The Moon’s Shadow
• To see a solar eclipse you must be in the
moon’s shadow.
• Like in a lunar eclipse, there is a penumbra
and an umbra.
The moon’s umbral shadow produces a
spot of darkness about 170 miles in
diameter on the Earth’s surface.
The picture at right is of the umbral
shadow over Alaska.
The Moon’s Shadow
• Due to the orbital motion of the moon and
the rotation of Earth, the moon’s shadow
moves across Earth at high speeds (1,600
– This called its “path of totality.”
– People in the path of totality see a total eclipse.
– Outside the umbral shadow, there is a penumbral
shadow, which is a partial eclipse.
Eclipse Depends on Distance to Earth
• At apogee, the moon is at its farthest point
form Earth and its angular diameter is 6% less
than average.
At apogee, the moon’s disk
may not cover the sun’s.
This produces an annular
eclipse – an eclipse in
which a ring (an annulus)
is visible around the
moon’s disk.
Next Total Solar Eclipse in US
• From what I was able to find, August 21, 2017
will be the date for the next solar eclipse
visible near us.
• Takes place at noon CDT.
Features of a Solar Eclipse
• When there is a total eclipse, it is dark
causing: birds to go to roost (bed) and
automatic streetlights to come on.
• The sun’s photosphere (the bright surface of
the sun) is completely covered in a total
– This allows you to directly view the corona, the
sun’s outer atmosphere.
– At the point of totality, seeing only the corona, it is
safe to look directly at an eclipse.
Features of a Solar Eclipse
• The corona is made up of hot, low-density gas,
which has a wispy appearance due to the solar
magnetic field.
Why is the sun’s magnetic field
• Much solar activity appears to be directly
connected with the properties of the sun’s
magnetic field.
• The sun has a magnetic field cycle that
changes in polarity every 22 years, which is
exactly twice the length of time of the sunspot
Why is the sun’s magnetic field
• They are caused by intense magnetic activity,
which inhibits convection currents, forming
areas of reduced surface temperature. They
usually appear as pairs, with each sunspot
having the opposite magnetic pole to the
• Most solar flares and coronal mass
ejections originate in magnetically active
regions around visible sunspot groupings.
Why is the sun’s magnetic field
• The number of sunspots correlates with the
intensity of solar radiation.
Why is the sun’s magnetic field
• The increase in the sun’s ejections can be seen
on Earth as the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora
– Video: Aurora Borealis:
Why is the sun’s magnetic field
• “The sudden increase [from the sun’s ejections] in
power can damage sensitive electronic equipment.
Power transformers can overload, causing long-lasting
blackouts. Long metal structures like oil and gas
pipelines can carry currents, which can enhance their
corrosion over time and lead to devastating effects if
proper safety measures are not in place. The resulting
variations in the ionosophere can disrupt GPS signals,
giving inaccurate readings.”
• Why do solar eclipses happen only at new
– Why not every moon?
• Why isn’t the corona visible during partial or
annular solar eclipses?
Features of an Eclipse
• Just above the unseen photosphere, we are
able to see the chromosphere during an
– The chromosphere is marked by eruptions on the
solar surface
– Astronomers call these eruptions prominences –
glowing with a “clear pink color due to the high
temperature of the gases involved.
Totality is Short
• It lasts no longer than 7.5 minutes, but is
usually only 2 to 3 minutes long.
– When totality ends, the corona and chemosphere
A Misconception
• Sunlight is not more dangerous during a solar
– It is always dangerous to look at the sun.
– Eclipses are more dangerous only because it is
when people are tempted to ignore common
sense and look at the sun directly burning their

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