In the early hours of tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, I will be talking on BBC Radio 5 about the total solar eclipse which is happening in Asia. I am scheduled to be live on the radio at 01h35 GMT/UT; I will provide an update to this blog later on Wednesday with a link to the programme on iPlayer if you miss hearing it when broadcast.
This total solar eclipse is visible in Indonesia in its totality; and in large parts of China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, North and South Korea, the Philippines and Australia as a partial eclipse. The figure below shows the path of totality, percentages of partiality and it also includes the times (in UT – universal time) of when the eclipse will happen in these different places.
There is also a wonderful interactive map which you can find by following this link. This allows you to click anywhere on the map to see what fraction the eclipse will be from your particular location in Asia/Australia or the Pacific, as well as the timings of the beginnings and ends of the partial (and total if you are lucky) eclipse. Below is a screen capture from that page. For the particular location I chose, it shows the start time (in UT) of the start of the partial eclipse, the start of the total eclipse, the time of the maximum eclipse, the end of the total eclipse and the end of the partial eclipse (even if you are in the path of totality there is a long period before and after the few minutes of totality where you will see a partial eclipse).
How common are solar eclipses?
A question I often get asked is “how common are solar eclipses”? There are typically two solar eclipses a year, but these are usually only partial. Total solar eclipses (or annular, where the Moon is too far away to block out the Sun entirely even though it moves across near the centre line of the Sun) are rarer, occurring about once every 18 months. But, the time between a total solar eclipse occurring in the same place on Earth is a lot longer, about 350 to 410 years apart. So, having a total solar eclipse happen near where you live is a very rare event indeed.
The map below shows all of the total and annular solar eclipses in the period 2001-2020. Total eclipses are shown in blue, annular eclipses in red, and hybrid eclipses (where it changes between total and annular) in dark pink. On each eclipse curve the mid-point, where the eclipse is at its longest, is also shown. You can easily see from this map that annular eclipses are about as common as total eclipses. The width of each curves changes as the distance between the Earth and the Moon and the Earth and the Sun changes, so some eclipses have a wider part of totality than others, and some also sweep along shorter paths than others.
As you can also see from this map, the big one coming up in the near future is the total eclipse which sweeps across the continental USA on August 21 next year (2017). This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for hundreds of millions of people to see a total solar eclipse for themselves. I will blog about the details of that eclipse nearer the time.
But for now, if you happen to live in south-east Asia, Australia or the Pacific, keep an eye out for this total eclipse happening tomorrow (Wednesday March 9 2016). And, if you live anywhere else, you can watch it live on the internet.
Eclipses this decade (2011-2020)
Many of you may remember that Europe had an eclipse just last year (2015), on March 20th. It was partial for most of Europe, only visible as a total eclipse way up north in places like the Faroe islands. I blogged about that eclipse here, and in this blogpost I showed some of the photographs I had taken in Cardiff, where it reached 87% at maximum. The last total eclipse to sweep across the European continent was in August 1999, and this is the only total eclipse which I have seen so far.
I thought I would briefly summarise the eclipses which have happened or are happening this decade (2011-2020). I also show whether they are total, annular, hybrid or partial. If you want to find out the details of any of them (or any other eclipse in the past few thousands years or in the next few thousands years), then go to Fred Espenak’s webpage here (Fred works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and maintains this amazing resource.)
|Table of eclipses from 2011 to 2020|
|2011||January 4 – partial||June 1 – partial||July 1 – partial||November 25 – partial|
|2012||May 20 – annular||November 13 – total|
|2013||May 10 – annular||November 3 – hybrid (annular and total)|
|2014||April 29 – annular||October 23 – partial|
|2015||March 20 – total||September 13 – partial|
|2016||March 9 – total||September 1 – annular|
|2017||February 26 – annular||August 21 – total|
|2018||February 15 – partial||July 13 – partial||August 11 – partial|
|2019||January 6 – partial||July 2 – total||December 26 – annular|
|2020||June 21 – annular||December 14 – total|