5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Solar Eclipses
by Emma Bailey • February 17, 2016
(Image: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)
1. Earth is the only planet in our solar system from which you can witness a perfect total solar eclipse. A curious coincidence makes it possible: The sun is 400 times the diameter of our moon, but it's also 400 times farther away from us—so both bodies appear to be the same size in the sky, and the moon perfectly covers the sun. If the moon were closer, it would block out both the sun and its corona; farther away and it would not cover the sun completely. No other planet has the right-sized moon.
2. To produce a total eclipse, the sun, moon, and Earth need to line up in a straight line. Astronomers call this “syzygy.”
3. During an eclipse the moon’s shadow races faster than the speed of sound across the Earth— more than 1,200 miles per hour.
4. Solar and lunar eclipses happen in pairs (sometimes even trios!). The total solar eclipse on March 8 will be followed by a lunar eclipse two weeks later on March 23.
5. If you stood in one place and waited to see a total solar eclipse, you could wait for 300 years or more.
Join us from anywhere in the world to see this amazing phenomenon live stream online. The Exploratorium's webcast team is traveling to the coral island of Woleai, in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles north of New Guinea, to bring you this upcoming astronomical event.
Watch the stunning real-time total solar eclipse from our four telescopes on Woleai on March 8, 2016, 5:00–6:15 p.m. PST.