How does a solar eclipse occur?
The moon moves exactly between the earth and the sun. The moon's shadow
falls across the earth, and a few lucky people in the right places see a
total solar eclipse. People not lucky enough to live in these places travel
thousands of miles to see this event. It's certainly one of the most awe-inspiring
alignments that can happen. To see a total solar eclipse, you have to be
in just the right spot on the earth. When you look up in the sky at the
sun and the moon, you notice a strange coincidence--both look the same size
in the sky. Both the sun and the moon look about one-half degree in diameter.
Now, they're not really the same size. The sun's diameter is actually 400
times the moon's diameter. But, you must understand that the sun is also
400 times further away from the earth, reducing its apparent size to the
same as the moon's. Because of this relationship, when you are standing
on the earth, looking up at the two, you must be in a very limited zone
to see the moon cover the entire face of the sun. If you were to move a
little north, the sun would peek out over the top of the moon; a little
south, and the sun shines past the southern limb of the moon. The match
is so good that the "path of totality" is never more than 167
miles in diameter, and is usually less. This means that very few people
have seen a total eclipse because the shadow only covers a very small area
on the earth.
We visited some live broadcast websites during the solar eclipse in
February and got permission to use these images on our page. You may also
visit the sites by following the links below or just enjoy the pictures