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A Phenomenon of Astronomical Proportions

A rare astrological event is on the horizon. On April 8th there will be a total solar eclipse in the United States. The last total solar eclipse in the United States was in 2017 and the next one after this will be in 2044. 

If you find yourself wondering what the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse is, then look no further. A lunar eclipse is when the shadow of the Earth passes over the moon, blocking it from view. A solar eclipse is far more exciting and is when the moon passes over the sun, casting a night-like shadow over certain parts of the Earth.

There are different parts of a solar eclipse as it reaches totality. The first part is a partial eclipse or “first contact” when the moon begins to cover up the edge of the sun.

The second part is when Baily’s Beads appear, this is a thin ring of light on one side of the moon which is rays of the Sun’s light shining through valleys on the moon’s surface. 

The third part is the diamond ring stage. During this stage, the last bit of light from the sun is a burst on the side of the moon resembling the diamond on the ring of light around the moon. 

While it may look like Baily's Beads should come after the diamond ring stage, this is not the case. The light seen in the diamond ring stage is from the sun shining through its own atmosphere.

The final part of a total eclipse is totality. The Moon is completely blocking out any light from the sun and its edges are illuminated. Totality will last anywhere from 3-4 minutes depending on where you are on the path of totality and then the stages listed will repeat in reverse order.

During totality animals will become quiet, the sky will become dark, and the temperature will drop. A total eclipse is the only time that you can view the Sun’s atmosphere, the circle of light seen around the Moon is the corona (the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere). 

So much excitement for three minutes of darkness! The path of totality of the eclipse will make landfall in Mexico, go through 13 states, and hit the edge of Canada before ending over the Atlantic Ocean. Make sure to plan a trip to the path of totality soon and get some eclipse glasses. This is your last chance for 20 years!


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