A solar eclipse is one of the most spectacular things you can see in the sky. A distinction is made between a total solar eclipse and a partial solar eclipse. We tell you all the important details about a solar eclipse.
At the total solar eclipse the sun completely disappears behind the moon, with the partial only a part of the sun is hidden. Total solar eclipses are less common than partial ones. In addition to these two forms, there is also the so-called annular solar eclipse. With her, the moon is also between the sun and the earth, but appears smaller than the sun. That is why a luminous ring can be seen around the moon.
How does a solar eclipse occur?
Before people began to deal scientifically with the phenomenon of a solar eclipse, it was mostly considered a sign of the gods. Of course, that’s just superstition. Rather, a solar eclipse is a cosmic phenomenon that follows very specific rules. A solar eclipse can only take place under very specific conditions and can only be seen on earth under certain conditions. But always only in certain parts of the world, never everywhere at the same time.
“During a solar eclipse, the moon moves between the earth and the sun, preventing the sun’s light from reaching the earth. When the sun completely disappears behind the moon because they are in a straight line, it’s called a total solar eclipse. The The daytime sky then becomes almost as dark as at night – you can even see the stars,” explains the European Space Agency ESA the solar eclipse on their website. “A solar eclipse is only possible because the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun and the sun is 400 times further away from the earth,” the ESA explains on its website.
In general, a solar eclipse can only take place at a new moon. The sun’s rays hit the earth at a certain angle. The moon orbits the earth in a slightly inclined orbit. In this orbit it travels at an angle of five degrees, either below or above the angle of the sun’s rays. Occasionally, however, it crosses the Sun’s apparent path because of its inclined orbit. What we then see on Earth is actually nothing other than the so-called umbra of the moon. Depending on how much the moon crosses the angle of the sun’s rays, either a total or a partial eclipse can be seen. Astronomers call the period when the moon is between the earth and the sun “passage”. An eclipse lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. In certain constellations, an annular solar eclipse can be seen instead of a total one. Scientists call the bright ring that can then be seen around the moon the corona.
But these eclipses do not always take place in Europe. Sometimes you have to travel to other continents. The next total solar eclipse, for example, will take place on December 4th this year – but only in that Antarctic, in South Africa and over the South Atlantic. In Germany there will be in October 2022 the next partial solar eclipse. However, only a very small part of the sun is then covered by the moon. If you want to observe a solar eclipse, you don’t just have to be in the right place at the right time. He must also be lucky that the sky is clear of clouds. Because otherwise you either only see that it is getting dark, or in the case of partial eclipses maybe nothing at all. But even more important is protective equipment in the form of certain safety goggles that have been specially developed for solar eclipses. If you look at the sun without these special glasses, you risk going blind in the worst case. It becomes even more dangerous if you look towards the sun with binoculars or a telescope. Never look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse!
What is the difference between a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse?
The difference between a partial and a total solar eclipse is actually quite simple. During a total solar eclipse, the sun completely disappears behind the moon. At least that’s what it looks like from Earth. Therefore, during a total solar eclipse, the sun cannot be seen for some time. It can get so dark that you can see the stars in the sky during the day. Many animals are confused by a solar eclipse. Because it gets really dark during a total solar eclipse, birds, for example, think it’s night and stop singing for the time of the eclipse.
In a partial solar eclipse, as the name basically suggests, only part of the sun is covered by the moon. Although this is only an optical impression. In fact, during a partial eclipse, the moon only partially crosses the path of the sun’s rays. So from Earth it looks as if the sun is missing a little piece or as if it is nibbled like a big, round cheese. Regardless of whether you are observing a total or a partial solar eclipse: protective goggles are mandatory in both cases if you do not want to injure your eyes.
Dates: When and where is the next solar eclipse?
WBecause the moon and earth rotate at a certain speed, astronomers can accurately predict when and where the next solar eclipse will occur. That is why we know that there will be a solar eclipse on April 30, 2022. If you want to witness the spectacle, the best place to go is in Chile or Argentina be. The second chance in the coming year will come on October 25, 2022. Even then there is a partial solar eclipse. And that can also be seen from Germany. You will also be able to see something in parts of Africa and Asia. In Germany, the following applies to this date: The further you are in the north-east, the more you see. Visibility decreases towards the south-west. The date of this partial solar eclipse is worthwhile not least because you have to wait almost three years in Germany before it happens again.
These are the dates for the next solar eclipse:
- October 25, 2022 at 08:58 (UTC) – partial solar eclipse
- April 20, 2023 at 01:34 (UTC) – hyprid solar eclipse
- October 14, 2023 at 15:03 (UTC) – annular eclipse
- April 8, 2024 at 15:42 (UTC) – total solar eclipse
- October 2, 2024 at 15:42 (UTC) – annular eclipse
When is the next total solar eclipse in Germany?
A total solar eclipse can be experienced much less frequently than a partial solar eclipse in Germany. The ESA assumes that a person has the chance to do this once in their lifetime. The last total solar eclipse to be observed from Germany took place on August 11, 1999. The next date is September 3, 2081. It will be best seen at Lake Constance. But also in all other parts of Germany you will be able to observe the darkness, but sometimes not as total.
How often does a solar eclipse occur?
A solar eclipse is not as rare as many think. “We see a solar eclipse at least twice a year, but most of the time it’s a partial eclipse. The moon only covers part of the sun’s disk,” explains ESA on its website.