Thursday, July 9, 2020
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Total solar eclipse; next one is in the US

A total eclipse of the sun occurred today over the Pacific, NASA reports. The moon’s shadow crossed from west to east over the International Date Line, meaning the eclipse started on March 9 and ended on March 8.

Eclipse of March 8-9, 2016 (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.)

For North American viewers and those in Europe, Africa, and anywhere with Internet access, the eclipse could be viewed through a live video feed provided by the San Francisco Exploratorium, here. NASA-TV also had a live feed of the eclipse, beginning at about 8 PM Eastern Time.

An animation of the eclipse, courtesy of Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, is shown at the right.

Times (UT) at the point of greatest eclipse:

  • Start of partial eclipse (C1): 23:19, March 8, 2016
  • Start of total eclipse (C2) : 00:15, March 9
  • Maximum eclipse: 01:59
  • End of total eclipse (C3): 03:38
  • End of partial eclipse (C4): 04:34

At the middle of the eclipse, the maximum duration of totality was about 4 minutes 12 seconds.

The time at maximum eclipse is just a few minutes before the actual geocentric conjunction in right ascension, which occurs at 8:05 PM, Central time. The maximum eclipse occurred at 7:59 PM, March 8, Central time.

Even before totality, a huge solar prominence, about the size of five earth diameters, could be seen at about the 11:00 position on the sun’s disk. These are gigantic loops of gas, along the ever-changing magnetic field lines of the sun, that rise from the sun’s surface. Their pinkish hue is the color of glowing hydrogen gas, and they could possibly reach earth.

Total solar eclipses occur about once every one to two years, the last one being in March 2015.

The next total solar eclipse will occur on August 21, 2017, and it will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental US in about 38 years. Many viewers are expected to visit the country during the eclipse, so stock up on those protective lenses.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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