Astronomy

How often do partial solar eclipses of 90% of totality occur in same place?

How often do partial solar eclipses of 90% of totality occur in same place?


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I know that the mean interval between total eclipses in a single place is about 375 years, which is not surprising given the small band of area of the totality. However, the penumbra of the eclipse partially shadows a much larger area than the totality:

Image Credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

If we were to take a wider area, such as the band of 90% coverage, how many years would there be between eclipses at a single place on average?


Are Total Solar Eclipses Rare? Well, the last one was in 2012 and the next one is in 2024 – so you tell me. Are they as rare as the media has implied, for the Total Solar Eclipse across America?

There is a lot of excitement about how RARE this total solar eclipse across America is…well they are not so rare. Solar eclipses occur in some capacity every year (annular, partial, hybrid, and total are the possibilities) – a minimum of two times a year.

There are 6 total solar eclipses on Earth in this decade, alone, from 2011 to 2020.

For a little perspective – there are total solar eclipses, and then there is the FREQUENCY of a total solar eclipse occurring AT THE SAME LOCATION – which is on average once every 400 – 500 years.

So, that little fact is what the American media has seized upon and led people to believe that total solar eclispses are rare — or that total solar eclipses in the same continent are rare. They are not. Take for evidence the total solar eclipse due to land in Dallas, Tx in 2024 (and Montreal Canada), just 7 years after the total solar eclipse that shadowed from Portland, Or area to Charlottsville, NC.

400 Year average for repeat total solar eclipse in same location

For instance, there will be a total solar eclipse that crosses both Montreal and Dallas in April 2024, and the last time Dallas saw totality was just over 400 years ago.

So, the return of a total solar eclipse to an exact same location is in general rare – but with our ability to travel the world so easily – there is the chance for most of us to experience a total solar eclipse via a long drive or regional flight, once every decade (a rough estimate), if we can afford it.

Vedic Astrology suggests not to seek out total solar eclipses…read about that in the other posts.


On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was visible in a narrow track spanning the United States. This was the first total solar eclipse visible from anywhere in mainland United States since the total solar eclipse in February 1979. The next total eclipse in the US is in April 2024.

On average, it takes about 375 years for a total solar eclipse to happen again at the same location. By comparison, a total lunar eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon, can be seen from any location approximately every 2.5 years.

On average, there are about 240 solar eclipses and a similar number of lunar eclipses each century.


Contents

  • 16 April 413
    • A total eclipse was visible in far southern Ireland, northern Wales, and the English Midlands. Totality lasted about 2 minutes.
    • Another total eclipse of similar duration (2:21), it followed a somewhat more oblique path, from South Wales to Lincolnshire. The point of greatest eclipse was located just east of Llandovery (then Alabum), where it occurred at about 11 in the morning.
    • 2 August 1133 [4]
      • "King Henry's Eclipse": A total eclipse, recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle (under 1135 due to the vagaries of the dating system in use [5] ): and the next day, as he lay asleep on ship, the day darkened over all lands, and the Sun was all **
      • A total eclipse, recorded by William of Malmesbury in his Historia Novella. In his opinion this was a sign which foretold the capture of King Stephen in the Battle of Lincoln in 1141. This is the Lenten eclipse also reported in the Peterborough Chronicle as being on the thirteenth day before the kalends of April: 'After this, during Lent, the sun and the day darkened about the noon-tide of the day, when men were eating and they lighted candles to eat by. That was the thirteenth day before the kalends of April. Men were greatly wonderstricken[7] Totality was experienced at about 3:00 pm at the centre line of the eclipse (near Derby).
        [8]
        • A total eclipse of almost 2 and a half minutes duration in the extreme north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland.
        • Another Scottish total eclipse from the Hebrides in the north-west to the English borders in the east and then a strip of the Yorkshire coast.
        • Partial eclipse visible in London the same day as Richard III's queen, Anne Neville, died. Claimed as an ill omen by Richard's Tudor opponents.
        • A total eclipse with a diagonal track from Cornwall in the south-west to Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland.
          • Another total solar eclipse with a diagonal track, this time across Pembrokeshire, the Lake District and then Scotland from the south-west to the north-east, including most of the major cities.
            • Yet another total eclipse for Scotland, this time a track across the north of Scotland near Aberdeen.
            • A narrow path of totality just clipped the north-east corner of Scotland, including Wick.
            • A marvellous British Total Solar Eclipse from Cornwall in the south-west to Lincolnshire and Norfolk in the east. Edmund Halley, (later the second man to be appointed Astronomer Royal), observed the eclipse from London. The city of London enjoyed 3 minutes 33 seconds of totality.
            • A fine Total Solar Eclipse with a north-west to south-east track, from southern Wales and Devon in the west, eastwards to Hampshire and Sussex, but passing to the south of London.
              • Total Solar Eclipse: A short duration total eclipse at sunset in British waters to the north of the Hebrides. Although it nowhere touched land, the path of totality ran very close to several outlying Scottish islands, including St Kilda the islet of Sula Sgeir experienced 99.9% totality.
              • Total Solar Eclipse: A mere 24 seconds of totality in the early morning, along a narrow track from North Wales, through Lancashire to the English north-east coast, but weather was very poor with cloud and high winds. However the Astronomer Royal's expedition to Giggleswick in North Yorkshire was amongst the few to catch sight of totality.
              • Total Solar Eclipse at Unst in the Shetland Islands, although the centre line was north of British territorial waters. A large partial eclipse was widely observed over the whole of the UK.
              • A partial eclipse visible over the whole of the United Kingdom ranging from approximately 20% in Northern Scotland to approximately 40% in South West Cornwall.
              • The United Kingdom was greeted at dawn with a large portion of the Sun covered with maximum eclipse being approximately on the horizon ranging from 85% in Northern Scotland to between 92% and 95% in Southern England.

              Partial solar eclipses also occurred on 20 May 1966, 22 September 1968, 25 February 1971, 10 July 1972, 30 June 1973, 11 May 1975, 29 April 1976, 20 July 1982, 15 December 1982, 4 December 1984, 21 May 1993 and 10 May 1994. (Source: HMNAO Eclipses On-line Portal.)


              How is solar eclipse formed?

              Some parts of Earth fall inside a region that experiences complete darkness, known as the path of totality. Inside this path, a total solar eclipse looks like a black ball in the sky with wisps of light streaming out around it. On the moon, a solar eclipse makes Earth look like a giant eyeball staring at the moon.

              Also, what do you mean by solar eclipse? Solar Eclipse Definition. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking it out partially or completely. The eclipse results in parts of the earth being covered in the shadow of the moon.

              Thereof, how often do solar eclipses occur?

              It is a popular misconception that the phenomenon of a total eclipse of the sun is a rare occurrence. Quite the contrary. Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth's surface. That's two totalities for every three years.

              What are the parts of a solar eclipse?

              The shadow created on the Earth by the moon during a solar eclipse is broken down into three parts. These are the umbra, penumbra, and antumbra. The Umbra is the darkest part of the shadow, where the moon is completely covering the sun.


              Facts about Solar Eclipses

              • Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, there can be between 2 and 5 solar eclipses each year.
              • Totality occurs when the Moon completely obscures Sun so only the solar corona is showing.
              • A total solar eclipse can happen once every 1-2 years. This makes them very rare events.s.
              • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
              • The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 km across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
              • Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
              • During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
              • If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.

              � by Fred Espenak

              Introduction

              What is an eclipse of the Sun? What causes eclipses and why? How often do eclipses happen and when is the next eclipse of the Sun? You'll learn the answers to these questions and more in MrEclipse's primer on solar eclipses. Before we learn more about the eclipses of the Sun, we need to first talk about the Moon.


              Phases of the Moon

              Phases of The Moon

              The Moon is a cold, rocky body about 2,160 miles (3,476 km) in diameter. It has no light of its own but shines by sunlight reflected from its surface. The Moon orbits Earth about once every 29 and a half days. As it circles our planet, the changing position of the Moon with respect to the Sun causes our natural satellite to cycle through a series of phases:

                  • New Moon > New Crescent > First Quarter > Waxing Gibbous > Full Moon >
                    Waning Gibbous > Last Quarter > Old Crescent >New Moon (again)

                  The phase known as New Moon can not actually be seen because the illuminated side of the Moon is then pointed away from Earth. The rest of the phases are familiar to all of us as the Moon cycles through them month after month. Did you realize that the word month is derived from the Moon's 29.5 day period?

                  To many early civilizations, the Moon's monthly cycle was an important tool for measuring the passage of time. In fact many calendars are synchronized to the phases of the Moon. The Hebrew, Muslim and Chinese calendars are all lunar calendars. The New Moon phase is uniquely recognized as the beginning of each calendar month just as it is the beginning on the Moon's monthly cycle. When the Moon is New, it rises and sets with the Sun because it lies very close to the Sun in the sky. Although we cannot see the Moon during New Moon phase, it has a very special significance with regard to eclipses.


                  Geometry of the Sun, Earth and Moon During an Eclipse of the Sun
                  The Moon's two shadows are the penumbra and the umbra.
                  (Sizes and distances not to scale)

                  The Moon's Two Shadows

                  An eclipse of the Sun (or solar eclipse) can only occur at New Moon when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun. If the Moon's shadow happens to fall upon Earth's surface at that time, we see some portion of the Sun's disk covered or 'eclipsed' by the Moon. Since New Moon occurs every 29 1/2 days, you might think that we should have a solar eclipse about once a month. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen because the Moon's orbit around Earth is tilted 5 degrees to Earth's orbit around the Sun. As a result, the Moon's shadow usually misses Earth as it passes above or below our planet at New Moon. At least twice a year, the geometry lines up just right so that some part of the Moon's shadow falls on Earth's surface and an eclipse of the Sun is seen from that region.

                  The Moon's shadow actually has two parts:

                  1. Penumbra

                  • The Moon's faint outer shadow.
                  • Partial solar eclipses are visible from within the penumbral shadow.

                  2. Umbra

                  • The Moon's dark inner shadow.
                  • Total solar eclipses are visible from within the umbral shadow.

                  When the Moon's penumbral shadow strikes Earth, we see a partial eclipse of the Sun from that region. Partial eclipses are dangerous to look at because the un-eclipsed part of the Sun is still very bright. You must use special filters or a home-made pinhole projector to safely watch a partial eclipse of the Sun (see: Observing Solar Eclipses Safely).

                  What is the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse? A lunar eclipse is an eclipse of the Moon rather than the Sun. It happens when the Moon passes through Earth's shadow. This is only possible when the Moon is in the Full Moon phase. For more information, see Lunar Eclipses for Beginners.


                  Total Solar Eclipse and Path of Totality

                  Total Solar Eclipses and the Path of Totality

                  If the Moon's inner or umbral shadow sweeps across Earth's surface, then a total eclipse of the Sun is seen. The track of the Moon's umbral shadow across Earth is called the Path of Totality. It is typically 10,000 miles long but only about 100 miles wide. It covers less than 1% of Earth's entire surface area. In order to see the Sun become completely eclipsed by the Moon, you must be somewhere inside the narrow path of totality.

                  The path of a total eclipse can cross any part of Earth. Even the North and South Poles get a total eclipse sooner or later. Just one total eclipse occurs each year or two. Since each total eclipse is only visible from a very narrow track, it is rare to see one from any single location. You'd have to wait an average of 375 years to see two total eclipses from one place. Of course, the interval between seeing two eclipses from one particular place can be shorter or longer. For instance, the last total eclipse visible from Princeton, NJ was in 1478 and the next is in 2079. That's an interval of 601 years. However, the following total eclipse from Princeton is in 2144, after a period of only 65 years.


                  2006 Total Solar Eclipse
                  A composite image reveals subtle structure in the Sun's corona.
                  (click to see more photos)

                  Awesome Totality

                  The total phase of a solar eclipse is very brief. It rarely lasts more than several minutes. Nevertheless, it is considered to be one of the most awe inspiring spectacles in all of nature. The sky takes on an eerie twilight as the Sun's bright face is replaced by the black disk of the Moon. Surrounding the Moon is a beautiful gossamer halo. This is the Sun's spectacular solar corona, a super heated plasma two million degrees in temperature. The corona can only be seen during the few brief minutes of totality. To witness such an event is a singularly memorable experience which cannot be conveyed adequately through words or photographs. Nevertheless, you can read more about the Experience of Totality in the first chapter of Totality - Eclipses of the Sun.

                  Scientists welcome the total eclipse as a rare opportunity to study the Sun's faint corona. Why is the corona so hot? What causes it to spew massive bubbles of plasma into space through coronal mass ejections? Can solar flares be predicted and what causes them? These major mysteries may eventually be solved through experiments performed at future total eclipses.

                  For amateur astronomers and eclipse chasers, an eclipse of the Sun presents a tempting target to photograph. Fortunately, Solar Eclipse Photography is easy provided that you have the right equipment and use it correctly. See MrEclipse's Picks for camera, lens and tripod recommendations. For more photographs taken during previous lunar eclipses, be sure to visit Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery. It's also possible to capture a solar eclipse using a video camcorder.

                  The total solar eclipse occurred on March 29, 2006 and was visible from Africa and central Asia. Fred Espenak led a Spears Travel tour to Libya to witness the event. You can see a collection of his photographs at 2006 Eclipse Gallery. Reports (with photos) from some of his earlier eclipse expeditions include 2001 Eclipse in Zambia, 1999 Eclipse in Turkey, 1998 Eclipse in Aruba and 1995 Eclipse in India.

                  The next two total eclipse of the Sun occur on: March 20, 2015 and March 09, 2016. Join Fred Espenak on a Spears Travel tour to witness one (or both!) of these spectacular events.


                  Annular Solar Eclipse and the Path of Annularity

                  Annular Solar Eclipses

                  Unfortunately, not every eclipse of the Sun is a total eclipse. Sometimes, the Moon is too small to cover the entire Sun's disk. To understand why, we need to talk about the Moon's orbit around Earth. That orbit is not perfectly round but is oval or elliptical in shape. As the Moon orbits our planet, its distance varies from about 221,000 to 252,000 miles. This 13% variation in the Moon's distance makes the Moon's apparent size in our sky vary by the same amount. When the Moon is on the near side of its orbit, the Moon appears larger than the Sun. If an eclipse occurs at that time, it will be a total eclipse. However, if an eclipse occurs while the Moon is on the far side of its orbit, the Moon appears smaller than the Sun and can't completely cover it. Looking down from space, we would see that the Moon's umbral shadow is not long enough to reach Earth. Instead, the antumbra shadow reaches Earth.

                  The track of the antumbra is called the path of annularity. If you are within this path, you will see an eclipse where a ring or annulus of bright sunlight surrounds the Moon at the maximum phase. Annular eclipses are also dangerous to look directly with the naked eye. You must use the same precautions needed for safely viewing a partial eclipse of the Sun (see: Observing Solar Eclipses Safely).

                  Annularity can last as long as a dozen minutes, but is more typically about half that length. Since the annular phase is so bright, the Sun's gorgeous corona remains hidden from view. But annular eclipses are still quite interesting to watch. You can read reports about the annular eclipses of 1999 in Australia, 2003 in Iceland, and 2005 in Spain. More recently, visit the 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery.


                  2005 Annular Solar Eclipse
                  This sequence shows the eclipse just before, during and after annularity.
                  (click to see more photos)

                  The "Oddball" Hybrid Eclipse

                  There's one more type of solar eclipse to mention and its a real oddball. Under rare circumstances, a total eclipse can change to an annular eclipse or vice versa along different sections of the eclipse path. This happens when the curvature of Earth brings different points of the path into the umbral (total) and antumbral (annular) shadows, respectively. Hybrid eclipses are sometimes called annular/total eclipses. The last hybrid eclipse was in 2013 and the next one is in 2023.

                  Solar Eclipse Frequency and Future Eclipses

                  During the five thousand year period 2000 BCE to 3000 CE, planet Earth experiences 11,898 solar eclipses as follows:

                  Solar Eclipses: 2000 BCE to +3000 CE
                  Eclipse Type Symbol Number Percent
                  All Eclipses - 11898100.0%
                  PartialP 4200 35.3%
                  AnnularA 3956 33.2%
                  TotalT 3173 26.7%
                  HybridH 569 4.8%

                  This works out to an average 2.4 eclipses each year. Actually, the number of solar eclipses in a single year can range from 2 to 5. Nearly 3/4 of the time there are 2 eclipses in a year. On the other hand, it is quite rare to have 5 solar eclipses in a single year. The last time it happened was in 1935 and the next time is 2206. Typically there is 1 total eclipse every 1 to 2 years. Although it is possible to have 2 total eclipses in a single year, it is quite rare. Examples of years containing 2 total eclipses are 1712, 1889, 2057 and 2252.

                  The table below lists every solar eclipse from 2019 through 2025. Click on the eclipse Calendar Date to see a global map showing where the eclipse is visible from. The Eclipse Magnitude is the fraction of the Sun's diameter covered by the Moon at greatest eclipse. For total and annular eclipses, this value is actually the ratio of the apparent diameters of the Moon to the Sun. The Central Duration lists the duration of totality or annularity at greatest eclipse. The link produces a table of geographic coordinates of the eclipse path. The last column is a brief description of the geographic regions of eclipse visibility. The descriptions in bold are for the paths of total or annular eclipses.

                  Eclipses of the Sun: 2019 - 2025
                  Calendar Date Eclipse Type Eclipse Magnitude Central Duration Geographic Region of Eclipse Visibility
                  (Link)
                  2019 Jan 06 Partial 0.715 - ne Asia, n Pacific
                  2019 Jul 02 Total 1.046 04m33s s Pacific, S. America
                  [Total: s Pacific, Chile, Argentina]
                  2019 Dec 26 Annular 0.970 03m39s Asia, Australia
                  [Annular: Saudi Arabia, India, Sumatra, Borneo]
                  2020 Jun 21 Annular 0.994 00m38s Africa, se Europe, Asia
                  [Annular: c Africa, s Asia, China, Pacific]
                  2020 Dec 14 Total 1.025 02m10s Pacific, s S. America, Antarctica
                  [Total: s Pacific, Chile, Argentina, s Atlantic]
                  2021 Jun 10 Annular 0.943 03m51s n N. America, Europe, Asia
                  [Annular: n Canada, Greenland, Russia]
                  2021 Dec 04 Total 1.037 01m54s Antarctica, S. Africa, s Atlantic
                  [Total: Antarctca]
                  2022 Apr 30 Partial 0.640 - se Pacific, s S. America
                  2022 Oct 25 Partial 0.862 - Europe, ne Africa, Mid East, w Asia
                  2023 Apr 20 Hybrid 1.013 01m16s se Asia, E. Indies, Australia, Philippines. N.Z.
                  [Hybrid: Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea]
                  2023 Oct 14 Annular 0.952 05m17s N. America, C. America, S. America
                  [Annular: w US, C. America, Columbia, Brazil]
                  2024 Apr 08 Total 1.057 04m28s N. America, C. America
                  [Total: Mexico, c US, e Canada]
                  2024 Oct 02 Annular 0.933 07m25s Pacific, s S. America
                  [Annular: s Chile, s Argentina]
                  2025 Mar 29 Partial 0.938 - nw Africa, Europe, n Russia
                  2025 Sep 21 Partial 0.855 - s Pacific, N.Z., Antarctica

                  Geographic abbreviations (used above): n = north, s = south, e = east, w = west, c = central

                  For an extended version of this table, see: Solar Eclipse Preview: 2015-2030.

                  The last total solar eclipse visible from the continental USA occured on Aug. 21, 2017. A total solar eclipse was visible from Hawaii and Mexico on July 11, 1991. The next total solar eclipse visible from the USA occurs on and Apr. 8, 2024.


                  2006 Total Solar Eclipse
                  This Baily's Beads sequence shows both 2nd and 3rd Contact.
                  (click to see more photos)


                  The Trifecta Of Lunar Events Taking Place On Jan. 31

                  While you will be able to see another total lunar eclipse, I still recommend trying to look up at the total lunar eclipse on Jan. 31, as it's not the only lunar event happening that night — there will actually be three happening at once. In addition to a full moon in a total lunar eclipse, the Jan. 31 moon will be a blue moon (aka the second full moon to happen in one month, following the Jan. 1 full moon), as well as a super moon.

                  A super moon occurs when the moon becomes full while it is at least 90 percent to it's closest distance to Earth within it's rotation. This means that the moon must become full no farther than 226,000 miles away from Earth. You will recognize a super moon, as it will be bigger and brighter than an ordinary full moon.

                  Then, of course, the total lunar eclipse is the third. While each of these events will happen repeatedly throughout your lifetime, the odds of them all happening at the same time again are not in your favor: The last time a super moon happened at the same time as a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse was over 150 years ago.

                  The total lunar eclipse will be visible at any location on Earth where it's night when it happens. While there will be view of a partial eclipse as the moon approaches and moves away from the Earth's shadow, the total eclipse will last anywhere from a few seconds to over an hour and a half. Additionally, the moon will appear to have a slight reddish, "blood"-colored tinge to it, hence this moon being called the super blue blood moon.

                  So step outside on Jan. 31, and soak in the beauty of the sky. We could all use some more celestial wonder in our lives.


                  Solar eclipse LIVE

                  A partial lunar eclipse, barely visible in the UK, will next take place on 19 November 2021. However, there will be a longer wait for the next total lunar eclipse.

                  19 November 2021 Partial lunar eclipse
                  16 May 2022 Total lunar eclipse

                  On 16 May 2022 a total lunar eclipse will be visible over South America, most of North America and parts of Europe and Africa.

                  People in the UK will not be able to see every part of the eclipse but will still be able to see the lunar eclipse at totality when the entire Moon turns red.

                  The Moon will start to enter the Earth’s shadow just after 2.30am BST and the full eclipse will occur just before 4.30am.

                  The entire eclipse lasts for more than five hours, ending at 7.50am. However, observers in the UK will only be able to see the eclipse from 2.32am – 5.10am as the Moon will have set below the horizon by the end of this period.

                  The optimal viewing time to see the eclipse is between 4.29am – 5.06am. This is the period of totality in London, where the Moon lies entirely in the Earth’s umbra (full shadow) appearing red and the whole of the Moon will still be visible.

                  How to see a lunar eclipse

                  See astronomer Tom Kerss's top tips for observing and photographing a lunar eclipse in the video below.

                  What time is the 2022 total lunar eclipse?

                  The table below lists the timings for the whole 2022 eclipse as seen from London and they might differ by a few minutes for other parts of the UK.

                  Local time (BST) in London

                  The Moon will start to enter the Earth’s penumbra (area of partial shadow) and start to darken.

                  The Moon will start to enter the Earth’s umbra (area of full shadow) and leave its penumbra and will darken considerably, almost as if it is changing its phase from full moon to waning crescent in just over an hour.

                  Very low in the south west

                  The Moon has completely entered the Earth’s umbra and starts to turn red.

                  Very low in the south west

                  This is when the Moon is closest to the centre of the Earth’s umbra. The maximum eclipse in London is at 5.06am as this is the point at which the entire Moon is still above the horizon at the greatest magnitude Moonset is at 5.10am. The actual maximum eclipse is at 5.11am however the Moon will be below the horizon at this time and as it sets

                  The Moon will start to leave the Earth’s umbra and enter its penumbra losing its red colour.

                  The Moon has left the Earth’s umbra and has completely lost its red colour. One side starts to get lighter whilst the other is still very dark as it enters the Earth’s penumbra, almost as if it is changing from a waxing crescent to a full moon in around an hour.

                  The Moon will look slightly darker than usual and has now left the Earth’s penumbra.

                  When was the last lunar eclipse in the UK?

                  16 July 2019 - partial lunar eclipse

                  A partial lunar eclipse took place in the UK on 16 July 2019, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. Some of the eclipse was visible over parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, select parts of North America, South America and Antarctica.

                  20-21 January 2019 - total lunar eclipse

                  A total lunar eclipse took place in the UK in the early hours of 21 January 2019. The eclipse happened during the first full moon of the year, earning it the nickname 'Super Wolf Blood Moon'.

                  Royal Observatory Greenwich broadcast a live stream of the total eclipse via Facebook. Watch the video back below.

                  How often do lunar eclipses happen?

                  A lunar eclipse happens between two to five times a year, with a total lunar eclipse occurring at least two every three years.

                  Why doesn't a lunar eclipse happen every month?

                  A lunar eclipse occurs during the full moon phase but an eclipse does not happen every month, even though the lunar cycle is 29.5 days. This is because the moon’s orbit is inclined by 5˚ relative to the Earth’s orbit. This means that as it travels around the Earth it also moves up and down in its orbit.

                  How long does a lunar eclipse last?

                  Since the Earth is around four times wider than the Moon, its shadow can darken the moon for up to five hours depending on conditions. Lunar eclipses can be seen between two and five times every year – from somewhere on the Earth’s surface. Total lunar eclipses are much rarer from one particular location.

                  What is a supermoon?

                  When the moon is close to perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit, it makes the moon appear slightly larger than usual. This phenomenon has been dubbed a “supermoon”. Much like “blood moon” it is not an official astronomical term. A “supermoon” will appear up to 7% larger than a regular full moon.

                  Why are blood moons red?

                  People sometimes refer to a lunar eclipse as a ‘blood moon’ because of the way the Moon can turn a deep coppery red colour during its eclipse.

                  However, the colour of the Moon during totality will depend on the global state of dust in the Earth’s atmosphere – sometimes red or possible virtually invisible. Dust in the atmosphere blocks out the higher frequency blue light waves, but the longer wavelength of red light comes through.

                  This article has been written by an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich


                  Viewing

                  Looking directly at the photosphere of the Sun (the bright disk of the Sun itself), even for just a few seconds, can cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye, because of the intense visible and invisible radiation that the photosphere emits. This damage can result in impairment of vision, up to and including blindness. The retina has no sensitivity to pain, and the effects of retinal damage may not appear for hours, so there is no warning that injury is occurring. [57] [58]

                  Under normal conditions, the Sun is so bright that it is difficult to stare at it directly. However, during an eclipse, with so much of the Sun covered, it is easier and more tempting to stare at it. Looking at the Sun during an eclipse is as dangerous as looking at it outside an eclipse, except during the brief period of totality, when the Sun's disk is completely covered (totality occurs only during a total eclipse and only very briefly it does not occur during a partial or annular eclipse). Viewing the Sun's disk through any kind of optical aid (binoculars, a telescope, or even an optical camera viewfinder) is extremely hazardous and can cause irreversible eye damage within a fraction of a second. [59] [60]