A Spectacular Solar Eclipse

Chile and Argentina just experienced a spectacular solar eclipse during a sunset. The view was the best from these two countries with a path of totality almost directly above the European Solar Observatory in Chile while also passing through the center of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes the shadow cast by the moon, fully or partially blocks the sun. This can only occur when the sun, moon, and Earth are nearly aligned on the straight line in three dimensions during a full moon when the moon is close to the ecliptic plane.

The ecliptic plane is the plane on which the Earth orbits the sun. The solar system history the sun’s distance from the Earth is about 400 times the distance compared to the moon’s distance to Earth, the sun’s diameter is 400 times bigger than the moon. With these ratios approximately the same, the sun and the moon are seen from Earth could seem to look approximately the same size.

In a total eclipse, the sun is completely blocked by the moon, but if the moon were in a circular orbit and on the same orbital plane as the earth then there would be total eclipses every new moon.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

On the contrary, since the new moon’s orbit is tilted more than 5 degrees off the Earth’s orbit around the sun, it’s shadow usually misses Earth. Another factor is that the moon’s orbit around the Earth is also slightly elliptical so the distance from Earth varies.

The sun also has a similar elliptical orbit around the Earth that can vary in the distance just like the moon. This also affects the power and size of the sun in the same way but not as much as it does the moon’s varying distance from the Earth.

When the moon approaches the furthest distance from the Earth (what happened this month in Chile and Argentina) a total eclipse is more likely to occur, whereas conditions favor an annular eclipse when the Earth is at the closest point from the sun that occurred in January.

This solar event gave the citizens of Argentina and Chile the perfect evening eclipse. For more on the solar phenomenon along with the news, check out the video above.

Author: Kaitlyn Kinshella

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