An Eclipse is an astronomical occurrence where a heavenly body partially or completely moves into the shadow of another, making three heavenly bodies to be aligned in a straight line. This usually occurs with the moon, the sun and the earth.
Eclipse is derived from an ancient Greek word known as ‘ékleipsis’ which means to abandon or to fail.
Now imagine viewing the sky from the Earth, the sun gets eclipsed when the moon, which is another heavenly body, moves into the shadow of the sun and stays between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sunlight from radiating unto the earth, thereby casting a shadow on the earth. The moon is eclipsed when it moves to the planet Earth’s shadow that is formed by the sun.
Two types of eclipse observed from the earth
Two major kinds of eclipse can be observed from the earth, and they are Solar eclipse and Lunar eclipse.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves around the orbit of the earth and stays between the sun and the earth thereby blocking the sunlight from shining onto the Earth and causing a shadow to be cast on the earth. This incident leads to an eclipse of the sun. This only occurs during a new moon.
During a solar eclipse, the Earth, moon and sun align in a straight line. This usually occurs up to two to five times each year. There are different types of solar eclipse based on the distance of the moon from the earth, namely total solar eclipse, annular solar eclipse, partial solar eclipse and hybrid solar eclipse.
Total solar eclipse
This type of solar eclipse involves the sun being completely covered by the moon. The earth, moon and sun must be in a straight line. During a total solar eclipse, the sky becomes dark like it were at night.
This is visible from a small part of the earth where the centre of the moon’s shadow hits the earth, usually about 160km to 16,000km long. Outside this area, the eclipse might be viewed as a partial eclipse because the moon is way smaller than the Earth. This total eclipse can dwell for about eight minutes.
Partial solar eclipse
In a partial solar eclipse, the moon moves to the sun and covers it partially. From Earth, this eclipse can be viewed within the area where the sun is covered by the moon while in the other area, the sun is viewed as a crescent. The part of the sun covered by the moon makes the moon cast a shadow upon that area of the Earth.
This would form a small shadow on a small portion of the sun’s surface. This occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are not aligned in a straight manner.
Annular solar eclipse
This eclipse takes place when the moon covers the sun but not completely, thereby leaving the round rim of the sun still visible to Earth. An annular eclipse occurs due to the distance of the sun and the moon to the Earth at that particular time.
The sun is at a distance nearest to the earth and the moon is at a farther distance from the earth, this leads to the disk of the moon being smaller than the disk of the sun, thereby not being able to completely cover the sun and leaving the round edge of the sun exposed while covering only the centre of the sun’s disk. This forms an annulus or a “ring of fire” shining around the moon.
As the moon starts obstructing the sun, it first forms a visible crescent, making it a partial eclipse, till its centre aligns with that of the sun to give an annular solar eclipse. After the alignment and the moon starts moving away, the crescent of the sun forms again until the moon completely passes out of the sun’s disk.
Hybrid solar eclipse
Hybrid solar eclipse is an uncommon type of eclipse which involves the total and annular types of solar eclipse. During this occurrence, the eclipse transitions from total to annular eclipse and vice versa due to the movement of the moon’s shadow across the Earth.