How An Eclipse Works

For the first time since 1979, there was a solar eclipse of the sun that covered the entire contiguous US. Every single year there are two eclipses either of the sun or the moon. “But Adele, if there are two eclipses every year then why can’t I see one every single year here in the US?” Well my reader, that is exactly why this article is here. This article will cover why we can’t see an eclipse every year, why eclipses occur, and exactly where and when you can view the next total solar eclipse of the sun. So grab your solar protective sunglasses and moon pies and get ready to hear some info on our favorite star, the sun.

Photo taken by Jeff Goldader

Why eclipses occur

Eclipses occur when the sun and the moon align at a particular time of year when the moon is in the new moon stage. Every 6-7 months there is a period of time in which an Eclipse can be viewed. Solar eclipses occur when the moon covers the sun. The reason why you can’t see eclipses worldwide when they occur is because of your perspective. The shadow of the moon falls over certain parts of the world when it eclipses the sun. These parts of the world are dependent on the time of year, the moon’s orbit, and the position of the earth.

Photo taken of 2017 Diamond ring by alum Neil Goldader

Why isn’t there an Eclipse every year in the US?
As stated previously, every eclipse covers different parts of the world. No two eclipses are the same. The path of totality is different every single eclipse, and because of that eclipses are in other spots every time one occurs. For example, the path of the 2017 solar eclipse (shown below) is very different than the path of the 2024 solar eclipse (see when is the next Solar Eclipse in the US). However, both eclipses occur in the US.

Path of 2017 Eclipse by Michael Zeiler

When is the next Solar Eclipse in the US?

The next solar eclipse viewable in the US is on April 8th, 2024. For the class of 2022 (myself included) this will be right in the middle of our college years. So prepare accordingly, and you will be able to see the next eclipse. As long as you’re going to college in North America.

Path of 2024 Eclipse by Michael Zeiler

Some recent and old myths surrounding eclipses

This is an interesting topic, and one of my personal favorites. To start off with a few modern ones, you don’t need to look much farther than South Carolina. In this southern state, a few people believe that when the moon covers the sun and the world goes dark a lizard man will come out. People have named this mysterious reptilian Sunsquatch, referencing the legend Sasquatch that will also, apparently,  make an appearance during the eclipse.

In ancient China, people believed that a dragon was eating the sun. In an attempt to scare away the dragon, people would go outside and bang pots and pans and would shoot arrows at the sky. There is a legend that says that two scientists, Hi and Ho, were the royal astronomers for the Chinese emperor. They didn’t take their job very seriously, and would drink alcohol all the time. Because of their drinking, Hi and Ho failed to predict an eclipse. The emperor got super mad at Hi and Ho because he didn’t know that the eclipse was happening and was unable to get people to bang pots and pans and shoot arrows at the sun. As such, the emperor took off both their heads. Now it is said that you will never catch an astronomer drinking alcohol during a solar eclipse.

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Adele Goldader

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