Q:

What is a total eclipse?

A:

Quick Answer

A total eclipse is an event in which the moon and sun are in perfect alignment with a spot on Earth. This occurrence is much more rare than an annual eclipse, in which the sun leaves a halo of light around the moon. A random spot on Earth experiences a total eclipse approximately once every 400 years, explains the University of Virginia Department of Astronomy.

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Full Answer

The region in which a total eclipse can be seen is in the umbra of the moon's shadow; no light from the sun can reach this area. Because the sun and moon have the same angular size in the sky, there is only a very small region on the Earth's surface where the entire sun is covered up by the moon.

From geometrical models, the Greeks determined that the sun had to be larger than the moon with a size exactly proportional to its distance from the Earth. During a total eclipse, it is not dangerous to look at the sun at all although the phenomenon is only visible for a few minutes from any given location. During a total eclipse, planets and bright stars that are normally not visible to the human eye can be distinguished in the sky.

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Related Questions

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    How would you describe a solar eclipse?

    A:

    A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the Earth and the sun. The moon's shadow travels over the surface of the Earth and blocks out the light from the sun seen on Earth.

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  • Q:

    Why is totality during a solar eclipse not accomplished?

    A:

    According to CNN, a solar eclipse is only a total eclipse for those areas of the Earth directly beneath the moon's shadow. Since the moon is much smaller than the sun or the Earth, it may only completely block the sun's light over part of the Earth's surface. Anyone outside this full shadow may see a partial eclipse, but it will not achieve totality.

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    Why does the moon have phases?

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    The moon has phases with distinct appearances because it is constantly rotating around the Earth and being illuminated by the sun at different angles. The most common phases are the new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter.

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    Is the sun bigger than the moon and Earth?

    A:

    The sun is bigger than both the moon and the Earth. The Earth is approximately 7,926 miles in diameter, while the sun is roughly 900,000 miles in diameter. The moon is smaller than both the sun and the Earth, with a diameter of 2,159.26 miles.

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