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What causes an eclipse of the sun?

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Quick Answer

According to Space.com, a solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, which casts the moon's shadow on Earth. This event happens only when the sun, moon and Earth are aligned.

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Full Answer

The four different types of solar eclipses are total, partial, annular and hybrid. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon's shadow completely blocks the sun. There are two different types of shadows. The umbra blocks all sunlight and creates a dark cone shape surrounded by the penumbra, which is a funnel-shaped shadow that partially hides the sun. In a total solar eclipse, the moon casts its umbra on Earth and covers a third of it.

In a partial eclipse, only part of the sun is blocked. An annular eclipse occurs when the sun creates a ring of light around the moon while it is at its farthest point. During this eclipse, the moon passes directly in front of the sun, but it is too small to cover it completely. An annular eclipse, also called a hybrid eclipse, occurs when the moon's distance is almost too far away for its umbra to reach Earth. It begins as an annual eclipse, and then it becomes a total one. It then returns to annular before it is complete.

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