2016's First And Only Total Solar Eclipse Was Spectacular

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Progression of total eclipse as seen in Belitung, Indonesia (Photo Credit: BBC.com)

Though not rare, total solar eclipses are highly anticipated. That's because they are visible from a narrow corridor of the planet and last for just a few minutes. 2016's first and only total solar eclipse that took place on March 8 or 9 (depending on the time zone), was no exception. The celestial event could only be seen in totality by residents of the Indonesian Islands of Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and Halmahera.

Residents of southern and eastern Asia, northern and western Australia, and Hawaii had to be content with a partial eclipse. As for the rest of world? They just had to watch it on their computers and smart devices. Fortunately, many organizations including NASA were streaming it live. But no matter how the eclipse was observed everyone agreed, it was a spectacular sight.

Photo Credit: NASA/Exploratorium

As the moon slid between the Earth and the sun, it hid the bright star allowing fans to observe the full glory of the solar corona for a few minutes. The delicate light that streams out into space above the sun's surface is a rare treat because it is typically outshone by the bright photosphere. It is no wonder that thousands of people from all over the world flocked to Indonesia to see the amazing phenomenon live.

Fleeting as they are, total solar eclipses are important to scientists. That's because it gives them an opportunity to conduct experiments to solve mysteries like why the sun is so hot or the reason behind the unpredictable and often dangerous solar flames that emanate from its surface.

Solar Eclipse Up-Close (Photo Credit: NASA/Exploratorium)

A solar eclipse occurs when a new moon gets in between the sun and the Earth. The orbit of the moon determines whether it is a total or partial eclipse. That's because the moon's orbit around the earth is not perfectly round but oval. Hence, its distance from the Earth varies between 221,500 to 252,000 miles. For a total eclipse to occur, the moon has to be at its closest orbit distance (so it appears larger than the Sun), and in perfect alignment with the Earth and sun.

Photo Credit: Tomruen via Wikipedia

Unlike a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse has to be observed through special glasses. That's because the reflection emits intense infrared and ultraviolet radiation rays, that can cause permanent eye damage even if exposed to for a few minutes.

Photo Credit: usasolareclipse2016-annular.rhcloud.com

This is important information to keep in mind for those of you that live in the USA. That's because the next total solar eclipse that will take place on August 21st, 2017, will be visible across the country β€” All the way from Oregon to North Carolina!

Resources: Space.com, NASA.gov

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VocabularyPlay Game


Reading Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. Why are total solar eclipses considered special? When did it occur in 2016? From where was it visible?
  2. What are the conditions needed for a total solar eclipse to occur?

Critical Thinking Challenge

What is the key difference between a solar and a lunar eclipse?


Vocabulary in Context

“That's because they are visible from a narrow corridor of the planet and last for just a few minutes.”

In the above sentence, the word visible most likely means:


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  • akayla_stevens
    akayla_stevensThursday, May 31, 2018 at 4:31 pm
    • SofiaSunday, March 25, 2018 at 4:18 pm
      • kk2345
        kk2345Friday, December 8, 2017 at 8:47 am
        the lion said that i am not lioning
        • dtFriday, October 20, 2017 at 10:38 am
          so cool
          • logan paulWednesday, September 20, 2017 at 8:20 am
            BE A MAVERICK
            • WAFFLES!!!!Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 10:05 am
              this is so cool cause the clouds blocked my view of the full solar eclipse
              • jimmytree
                jimmytreeMonday, August 28, 2017 at 7:41 pm
                Oh, and Asia
                • jimmytree
                  jimmytreeMonday, August 28, 2017 at 7:41 pm
                  They're not talki ng about the American Solar eclipse they're talking about the one in Australia and Hawaii
                  • nemmon
                    nemmonWednesday, September 20, 2017 at 9:39 am
                    lol they are
                • eliTuesday, August 22, 2017 at 9:17 am
                  • steveMonday, August 21, 2017 at 9:41 am
                    • gdhcftgchggfhMonday, August 21, 2017 at 7:02 am
                      i liked this passage
                      • lizzyMonday, August 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

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