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A solar eclipse is an event that occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, partially or totally blocking the sunlight.

A solar eclipse is an event that occurs when sunlight does not reach Earth because it is totally or partially blocked by the Moon. Even though the Moon is many times smaller than the Sun, they can appear to be the same size in the sky because the Moon is so much closer. There are three types of eclipses and between two and five eclipses occur every year.

A total eclipse occurs when the Sun is completely obscured by the Moon. This only occurs when the Sun is far away or the Moon is close to Earth and is viewed from the umbra region, where the shadow is the darkest. A partial eclipse can occur when viewed from the penumbra area and the Sun is partially blocked by the Moon. A third type of eclipse is known as an annular eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is far away from Earth or the Sun is very close. The Moon doesn’t appear large enough in the sky to cover the Sun completely; the Sun appears as a bright ring in the sky.

Eclipses are significant for historians as they are normally well reported and can be dated precisely. Some historians believe a solar eclipse occurred on Good Friday as people reported that there was darkness during the crucifixion of Jesus. An eclipse is a natural phenomenon that has occurred many times, but earlier civilizations who didn’t understand the science behind them often associated them with bad omens and relied on supernatural explanations. The total eclipse of 1919 was used to provide data to support Einstein’s theory of relativity. The eclipse provided an opportunity for scientists to observe light bending around our Sun.

Observing solar eclipses can be dangerous if you don’t use the correct protective equipment because permanent damage can occur to the retina, which could lead to blindness. While indirect sunlight normally does no harm to the cells in our retina, direct sunlight when focused onto our retinas can cause permanent damage to the cells there.

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Learn more about the stars and other celestial bodies in our Picture Encyclopedia of Astronomy Terms!
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