On July 2, 2019, the world will experience a total solar eclipse: the only one of the year. Unlike the famous 2017 solar eclipse which spanned the continental United States, this year’s total solar eclipse occurs almost exactly coincident with both lunar perigee, where the Moon is closest to Earth, and solar aphelion, where the Sun is at its farthest point from Earth. July 2nd is just 2 days before our annual aphelion and 3 days before our monthly perigee, meaning that we’ll get 4 minutes and 33 seconds of totality during maximum eclipse: nearly twice as long as 2017′s maximum totality and the longest total solar eclipse we’ll experience until 2027.
How Rare Is The All-In-One Supermoon, Blue Moon, And Lunar Eclipse, Really?
“With all that, we can combine this information to arrive at how frequently we expect all of these to occur together:
Blue Moons make up about 3% of all full Moons,
Supermoons are approximately 25% of all full Moons, and
Total lunar eclipses occur during 5.6% of full Moons,
meaning that a Blue, Super, totally eclipsed Moon occurs with 0.042% of full Moons: once every 2,380 full Moons or so. On average, that corresponds to once every 265 years!”
On January 31st, 2018, an event that hasn’t occurred in the United States since 1866 will come to pass: a supermoon that’s also a blue moon, that’s also a total lunar eclipse. Sounds exciting, and incredibly rare! But if we look worldwide, we find that there was another such event just in 1982. This is puzzling when you consider that these events should only occur on timescales of centuries! Is this only a coincidence that we’re having so many “super blue blood moons” right now? Or is there a different explanation? You don’t know until you actually look at the science behind it, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.
It can be casual to forget the magnificence of our planet and get lost in our tight-knit everyday lives. In the advent of a lunar eclipse (January 31, 2018) it is worth knowing that when it comes to eclipses, Earth holds a pristine status in our solar system.
To understand why, we need to shift our perspective a little bit and ask -”How would it be like if you were on Io (one of the moons of Jupiter)?”
The most startling thing about this experience would be that the Jupiter would appear 36 times larger than the full moon (from earth). That’s HUGE!
Also since the moons of Jupiter lies in the same plane, you would be witnessing an eclipse every 42 hours …
Moons – Io, Ganymede, and Callisto in solar eclipse
In addition, since Jupiter has many moons (A large family of them), you might be able to catch some your fellow moons in eclipse with the sun. Their shadows though, appearing like tiny dots on the gas giant.
Saturn and its eclipse
If we make a slight detour and end up in Saturn, this is what it looks like when Saturn occults the Sun. Although not technically an eclipse, this image was captured by Cassini with Sun behind the planet, setting the rings and its atmosphere aglow.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
When people are not overwhelmed by the beauty of its rings, they notice the shadows cast by its many moons. Here is the solar eclipse of Saturn’s moon Titan:
Eclipse on our friendly neighbor – Mars
Larger of Mars’s two moons, Phobos passing in front of the sun – Solar eclipse.
Let’s forget about all those planets that are far away, if one were make a visit to Mars which is ~12 light minutes away, one would witness only partial eclipses because the moons of Mars are too small to block the entire sun.
Eclipses on Earth
One Earth, One moon, A spectacular eclipse
Eclipses on earth, on the other hand, are too surreal to be true. Our planet not only supports life but also is placed in a prime location that would cause a total solar eclipse.
And as though the entire universe wanted to amuse us even more, the moon’s orbital plane is slightly misaligned from the Earth’s orbital plane around the sun which makes an occurrence of an eclipse predictable but yet not long enough; leaving us in a state of desperation wanting for more.
Experiencing A Total Solar Eclipse For The First Time
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse occurred over the continental United States for the first time in nearly 39 years, when half the current US population wasn’t even born. For many of us, it was our first opportunity to ever experience a sight like this for ourselves, and not only lived up to the hype, it was something that even a scientist couldn’t fully anticipate. Here’s a first-person account of what the experience was like, and how to enjoy it to the fullest, yourself, the next time one comes around!
No, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Squashing Curiosity And Wonder Is Never Okay
“To anyone who felt excluded like they were being shamed for their own excitement at Neil’s comments, I sympathize with you. We all have our own niche, even peculiar interests that we get more excited about than most others will ever understand, and you should never be made to feel bad for that. […]
The wonders of the Universe we all share speak to much more than just our rational minds; they touch every part of what it means to be human. May we all touch each other with kindness and generosity whenever our lives intersect.”
Last week, millions of people across the United States got to experience the awe and wonder of a total solar eclipse, many for the very first time. But in a puzzling event, astrophysicist and one of the world’s most famous science communicators, Neil deGrasse Tyson, decided to use his fame to put down a great many people who were excited about this rare cosmic event. And sadly, when someone explained to him why they would (correctly) say that eclipses are rare, Tyson doubled-down with condescension. Coming from anyone, this would be a damnable act of gatekeeping: using your own position as an expert within your field to make it less accessible for others. But from America’s most famous living astrophysicist, it’s inexcusable. If science is about anything, it’s about the joy and pleasure of finding things out; of learning about the Universe; of increasing your knowledge; of experiencing the wonder of existence itself.
Ten Surprises For Scientists And Skywatchers During The Total Solar Eclipse
“3.) The solar corona really did turn visibly pink in some spots. When some people looked at the corona, myself included, there were some locations around the Sun’s rim that appeared pink to the naked eye. It wasn’t your eyes playing tricks on you, although I never expected human eyes would be sensitive enough to see that color! When you ionize a hydrogen atom, which the Sun’s corona is more than hot enough to do, you create free electrons. As those electrons fall back down onto the hydrogen nuclei, they go through a series of transitions. The most powerful optical transition is a red line at precisely 656.3 nanometers. Combined with the white light of the luminous corona itself, the hydrogen line creates a pink effect where the Sun’s plasma loops near the photosphere are strongest. The pink effect was real.”
No matter how well-prepared you were for your first total solar eclipse, no amount of reading or photograph-searching could do the experience justice. There were so many things to feel, see, and be overwhelmed by that you literally needed to be there to relate to. Yet it was remarkable how many things there were that surprised scientists and skywatchers alike. The temperatures really did plummet, and they dropped by more than even the weather models predicted. There was a star and a planet visible, but not the planets we thought would arrive. The sky turned red along the horizon, which was a mystery for centuries, even after we learned why the sky is blue. And the light, the way it looked across the landscape, was a unique treat that you’ll never experience during any other time than an eclipse itself.