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Learning the basics of a solar eclipse
solar eclipse preview
A solar eclipse will occur on Monday, April 8.

The natural world is wondrous to behold. In a given day, there is no shortage of events to capture human attention and imagination, and such occurrences are free of charge.

A solar eclipse is one phenomenon that never ceases to amaze. Millions of people will get a chance to experience this stunning phenomenon on April 8, 2024, when a total solar eclipse will be visible from Texas to Maine, according to the National Park Service. In anticipation of the eclipse, readers can learn about these unique events.

What is a solar eclipse?

According to NASA, a solar eclipse occurs when the sun, the moon and Earth line up, either fully or partially. During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on the planet. That shadow either fully or partially blocks the sun’s light in certain areas.

How frequently do solar eclipses occur?

NASA reports that solar eclipses happen only occasionally. That’s because the moon does not orbit in the exact same path as the sun and Earth.

Are all solar eclipses the same?

All solar eclipses are not the same. When a solar eclipse occurs, it may be categorized as a total solar eclipse, an annular solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse, or a hybrid solar eclipse.

Total solar eclipse: A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and the face of the sun is completely blocked. According to NASA, the sky darkens during a total solar eclipse, just as if it is dawn or dusk. The outer atmosphere of the sun, also known as its corona, is typically invisible because the sun is so bright. However, the corona is visible during an eclipse.

Annular solar eclipse: An annular solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth when the moon is at or near its farthest point from the planet. That distance is why the moon does not completely cover the sun. NASA notes an annular solar eclipse makes the moon appear as a dark disk on top of larger, bright disk. This creates the awe-inspiring impression that there is a ring around the moon.

Partial solar eclipse: During a partial solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth at a time when all three are not perfectly lined up. NASA notes that the visual effect of this is that only part of the sun appears to be covered, giving it a crescent shape.

Hybrid solar eclipse: As its name suggests, a hybrid solar eclipse features characteristics of two different types of eclipses. NASA notes that the curved surface of Earth helps to create a hybrid solar eclipse, during which a shift between annular and total eclipse occurs.

A total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024. NASA urges all individuals who intend to witness this awe-inspiring phenomenon for themselves to wear eclipse glasses or to utilize an alternative safe solar viewing method, such as a pinhole projector. More information about solar eclipses and how to view them safely can be found at