There will be four eclipses in 2023: Two of the Sun and two of the Moon. Learn when and where they will occur as well as ancient folklore and superstitions about them.
1) April 19-20 – Annular-Total (“Hybrid”) Eclipse of the Sun
The dark shadow cone of the Moon (the umbra) sweeps northeast across Indonesia. However, the Moon’s distance at the time (233,582 miles) is such that the tip of the umbra merely scrapes the surface of the Earth. For the first minute or so, it does not touch down and the eclipse starts off annular (ring-shaped). As seen from the South Indian Ocean, approximately 270 miles west-northwest of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, the Moon does not quite cover the Sun; instead, a very fine and rapidly narrowing ring of fire shows around the Moon’s outline. Then, at 02:38 Universal Time on April 20, the umbra tip hits the surface. At that instant of crossover, a properly positioned ship sees the Moon exactly covering the Sun for an instant. From then on, the eclipse transitions to total, as the umbra cuts into our planet; the breadth of its path on the surface and the duration of totality as seen within that path grow.
First landfall is North West Cape, a peninsula in western Australia. From Cape Range National Park, the Sun is totally eclipsed for 63 seconds. The point of greatest eclipse occurs in the Timor Sea. Continuing northeast, it cuts through West Papua, New Guinea, and then turns east, narrowly missing the tiny island of Kosrae of Micronesia. The umbra lifts back out into space at 5:54 Universal Time over the North Pacific Ocean, transitioning back to an annular eclipse, but only for a couple of minutes before the shadow slides completely off the Earth’s surface. The partial eclipse, caused by the far vaster penumbra that surrounds the umbra, begins an hour before and ends an hour after the central (annular-total) eclipse. It can also be seen in varying extents over parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans, all of Australia and Indonesia, a slice of Southeast Asia, the north half of New Zealand, and a portion of Antarctica.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ECLIPSE
Times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.
|Partial Eclipse Begins: 9:34 p.m. (April 19)
|Central Eclipse Begins: 10:37 p.m.
|Greatest Eclipse: 12:16 a.m. (April 20)
|Central Eclipse Ends: 1:56 a.m.
|Partial Eclipse Ends: 2:59 a.m.
|Maximum Duration of Totality: 1 minute 16.1 seconds
2) May 5 – Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon
The Moon almost drops completely below the Earth’s shadow, in the process touching only the shadow’s outer part, the penumbra, which is not only pale, but grades to paler edges. This eclipse favors the Eastern Hemisphere, most notably an eastern slice of Africa and adjacent Madagascar, much of central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, Australia, and southern New Zealand. Conversely, the Americas see none of it, as this event will occur during the daytime when the Moon is below the horizon. The darkest part of the shadow – the umbra – lies to the north of the Moon’s path.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ECLIPSE
Times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.
|Moon Enters Penumbra: 11:14 a.m.
|Mid-Eclipse: 1:22 p.m.
|Moon Leaves Penumbra: 3:31 p.m.
|Magnitude of the Eclipse: 0.964
3) October 14 – “Ring Of Fire” Annular Solar Eclipse
In some ways, this eclipse might be considered a dress rehearsal for the Great North American Total Eclipse, coming in April 2024. The Moon will be 4.6 days past apogee, the point in its orbit farthest from Earth. As a consequence, the tip of the dark umbral shadow fails to make contact with the Earth by some 13,000 miles. So unlike in April, this eclipse will be annular throughout: Like a penny placed atop a nickel, the disk of the Moon appears too small to completely cover the Sun. The magnitude, or fraction of the Sun’s width that the Moon covers, means that 4.8 percent of that width shows all around.
From the moment the eclipse path begins over the North Pacific Ocean, it slides on a southeast trajectory, arriving at the coast of Oregon at 9:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. For the next 46 minutes, the annular phase will be visible from parts of nine states, running from Oregon to Texas, with the width of the shadow path averaging 127 miles. The duration of annularity along the center of the eclipse path will steadily increase from 4 minutes 34 seconds at the Oregon coast to 5 minutes 2 seconds at the Texas Gulf Coast. Cities that will experience the “ring of fire” effect include Eugene, OR, Winnemucca, NV, Albuquerque, NM, and San Antonio and Corpus Christi, TX.
Amazingly, about 10 miles north of Utopia, which is west of San Antonio, the center of the path of the upcoming total eclipse of April 8, 2024, will cross the center of the path of this eclipse!
After it leaves Texas, the eclipse path will pass across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, then slide through Central America, then on into south-central Colombia and northern Brazil, before finally coming to an end over the open ocean waters of the south Atlantic.
An annular eclipse is not like totality. The sky gets no darker than in a deep partial eclipse; the Sun’s glorious corona and the chromosphere and “edge effects,” such as shadow bands, cannot appear. Yet, it is still a spectacular sight, and enthusiasts will go to whatever section of the eclipse track that is most easily accessible for them.
Virtually all of North and South America will be able to partake in viewing the associated partial eclipse. In the eastern US, roughly 20 to 60% coverage takes place; for the central US, 60 to 80%; for the western US, 80% or more.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ECLIPSE
Times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.
|Partial Eclipse Begins: 10:03 a.m.
|Annular Eclipse Begins: 12:09 p.m.
|Greatest Eclipse: 1:59 p.m.
|Annular Eclipse Ends: 3:48 p.m.
|Partial Eclipse Ends: 4:55 p.m.
|Maximum Duration of Annularity: 5 min. 17.2 sec.
4) October 28 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
This will be almost like the lunar eclipse in May, though the Moon passes not quite so wide of the center of the Earth’s shadow and manages to give the Earth’s dark umbra a glancing blow. The umbra, in fact, covers at most only about 1/20 of the area of the Moon’s circle. In contrast with the vague gray penumbra, the umbra is much darker and quite sharp-rimmed. At mid-eclipse, the umbra’s edge falls just shy of touching the brilliant-rayed crater, Tycho. The Earth’s Eastern Hemisphere faces the Moon when this eclipse takes place. However, the Earth’s rotation will bring the Canadian Maritime provinces into position to see the last of the umbra slip off the Moon as it rises, and sharp-eyed New Englanders will be able to perceive the faint shading of the penumbra as the Moon appears above their horizon. The rest of North America will see nothing as this shady little drama will have ended before moonrise.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ECLIPSE
Times listed are Eastern Time.
|Moon Enters Penumbra: 2:01 p.m.
|Moon Enters Umbra: 3:35 p.m.
|Mid-Eclipse: 4:15 p.m.
|Moon Leaves Umbra: 4:52 p.m.
|Moon Leaves Penumbra: 6:26 p.m.
|Magnitude of the Eclipse: 0.122
Timely Tips for Solar Eclipse Watching
DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY TOWARD THE SUN. Here are some alternatives and things to keep in mind:
- Projecting the image through a pinhole or through a telescope onto a sheet of white cardboard.
- Looking through No. 14 welders’ glass (or No. 12 if more than 80% of the Sun is covered).
- Do NOT use smoked glass, cross polarizing filters, or colored water. They may seem to dim the Sun, but infrared rays get through.
- Do NOT look through binoculars or a telescope unless you really know what you are doing. Any filter should be placed in the front of the objective lens or mirror, NOT attached to the eyepiece.
- If the Sun is dimmed by clouds, take only BRIEF (2-3 seconds) naked-eye looks. Retinal damage can still happen without hurting your eyes.
What Is A Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse, or an “eclipse of the Sun,” occurs when the Moon is directly between Earth and the Sun, and the Moon casts a shadow over Earth. A solar eclipse can only take place when the Moon is in its “new” phase.
What Is A Lunar Eclipse?
A lunar eclipse, or an “eclipse of the Moon,” happens when Earth is directly between the Sun and Moon, blocking the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow completely covers the Moon, turning it a coppery shade of red, sometimes known as a “Blood Moon.”
A lunar eclipse can only take place when the Moon is in the full phase.
What’s more, you’ll be able to watch any lunar eclipse with the naked eye—no special glasses or filters are needed!
Why Aren’t There Eclipses Every Month?
If solar and lunar eclipses occur when the Sun, Moon, and Earth form a straight line, why don’t we have solar or lunar eclipses every month? After all, they line up every time we have a full Moon a new Moon phase.
And why do solar and lunar eclipses always seem to happen so close together? If you look back through the last several years of Farmers’ Almanac astronomy calendars, you’ll notice that solar and lunar eclipses always seem to fall within a couple of weeks of one another.
It’s All About the Angle of the Orbit
It turns out that the answer to both of those questions, above, is connected to the angle of the Moon’s orbit, which is inclined about 5° from the ecliptic, another name for the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. For eclipses to happen with every full or new Moon, the Moon and Earth would have to orbit at the exact same angle (astronomers know when such events are going to happen, which is why you get alerted ahead of time to watch).
It takes the Moon a little less than a month (29.53 days) to orbit the Earth. In that time, it crosses the ecliptic plane twice. Each of these crossings is called a node. If the Moon is new or full at the time it crosses, a perfect alignment of Sun, Moon, and Earth, called a syzygy (from the Greek word for “bound together”), occurs, resulting in an eclipse.
This is also why solar and lunar eclipses tend to fall within about two weeks of one another. If the Moon approaches close enough to the ecliptic during a full Moon for a lunar eclipse to occur, it will once again approach the ecliptic about two weeks later, when it’s new, causing a solar eclipse, and vice versa.
Hello, Eclipse Season!
The times when the Sun appears, from the Earth, to be close enough to the Moon to allow for an eclipse to occur, is called an eclipse season. There are two roughly 34-day-long eclipse seasons each year, falling about 25 weeks apart.
At least two, and sometimes three, eclipses occur every eclipse season. If the first eclipse in the season falls at the very beginning of that season, there will be enough time for two more eclipses.
Can You Have 3 Eclipses In One Month?
It’s possible, though very rare, to have 3 eclipses in one calendar month. The last time that happened was in 2000, but it won’t happen again until 2206!
Because the space between eclipse seasons is about a week shy of half a year, eclipse seasons migrate backward through our calendar, coming slightly earlier each year.
How Many Eclipses Do We Have Each Year?
Most years have four or five eclipses, but it’s possible to have a year with six, or even seven. For seven eclipses to be possible, a single eclipse season must fall during December and carry over into the new calendar year. The last time we saw a year with seven eclipses was 1982. If you don’t remember that, you may still be around to see the next one in 2038.
When Will We See The Next Total Solar Eclipse In North America?
If you were lucky enough to see and experience The Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017 (which was a total eclipse of the Sun), most likely the very first words out of your mouth were, “when can I see another one?” Or if you missed it, you only have to wait another 8 years.
Prior to 2017, there had only been three total solar eclipses visible from the contiguous U.S. dating back to 1960. In contrast, today’s young generation of Americans will see five total solar eclipses over the USA in the next 35 years. This will be a defining feature of their lifetimes.
- April 8, 2024: this path will stretch from central Texas to northern New England. The duration of totality will average just under 4 minutes (4 minutes 27 seconds in Texas). Interestingly, the path of totality will again encompass Carbondale, Illinois, who played host to this year’s spectacle – their second total eclipse in less than 7 years!
- March 30, 2033: We should also note that a swath of our vast 49th state of Alaska will be darkened by the Moon’s shadow on this date. The northern and western part of the “Great Land State” will be inside the totality path. Nome will see 2 minutes 30 seconds of total eclipse. Alaska also played host to the total eclipses of 1963 and 1972, both occurring in the month of July.
- August 23, 2044: this solar eclipse will envelop much of northeastern Montana and a slice of westernmost North Dakota near local sunset. Totality will last only around 100 seconds, but the width of the shadow path is immense: in excess of 300 miles.
- August 12, 2045: A truly great eclipse will visit the United States, stretching east-southeast along a broad arc from northern California, through Kansas/Oklahoma and then down into Florida. Totality will last unusually long, ranging from 4 minutes 22 seconds along the Pacific coast to 6 minutes 06 seconds at Port St. Lucie, Florida.
- March 30, 2052: will see the Moon’s shadow clip the southern tip of southern Texas (Brownsville will see 1 minute 48 seconds of totality). The shadow then continues northeast across the Gulf of Mexico, grazing the Louisiana Parishes that border Barataria Bay, the Mississippi Delta and Breton Sound, before streaking across the Florida Panhandle, clipping the southeast corner of Alabama, rolling through the lower third of Georgia before heading out to sea at the South Carolina coast. And yes, as was the case in 2017, Charleston, South Carolina will be in the totality path!
- May 1st, 2079, nine minutes after sunrise, the Moon will totally eclipse the Sun for just over 2 minutes as seen from the Tri-State Area; New York’s first total solar eclipse since 1925.
Solar Eclipse Myths And Superstitions
In our technological age, relatively rare occurrences like total solar eclipses are well understood by scientists, and thanks to the news and internet, we know eclipses are coming well in advance; information about what they are and what to expect are readily available, and so we look forward to them. But in the days when life was harder and accurate information scarcer, eclipses were often seen as a mysterious and unwelcome disruption of the natural order.
Counting on the Sun and Moon
Man has always looked to the heavens, particularly to the Sun and Moon, to mark the passage of time, and provide social stability; daily and seasonal cycles have always been very important to agriculture-based societies. So what happens when the regular, predictable pattern of day and night, and light and dark that we all depend on, is unexpectedly disrupted?
Imagine yourself as a simple farmer in ancient times, out working in the fields, and suddenly, without warning, it begins to grow eerily dark, with the Sun still high in the sky. You glance upward to see what looks like a “bite” being taken out of the Sun. Sometimes the “bite” becomes larger and larger until the Sun seems to disappear altogether, leaving only a ghostly halo. It grows so dark that you begin to see the stars twinkling in the sky as if it were night. Pretty frightening, right?
It’s understandable, then, that solar eclipses were met with anxiety and dread. And it’s no surprise that folklore, myths, and legends about our most prominent celestial neighbors abound in many cultures around the globe.
Taking A Bite Out Of The Sun?
Most cultures viewed a solar eclipse as some mythic creature devouring the daytime Sun. In ancient China, it was a celestial dragon, and in southeast Asia, they imagined it to be a giant turtle, frog, or toad.
In Korea, it was thought that fire dogs were trying to steal the Sun or Moon, and when they bit it, an eclipse resulted. For the Vikings it was a hungry wolf named Sköll (whose name means “Treachery”) that raced across the sky, hunting down and eating the Sun. Even to cultures like Greece and Rome, which had enough mathematical and observational knowledge to be able to predict eclipses, they were often viewed as bad omens, portents of evil, and astrological events to be feared.
In Hindu mythology, it was believed that the demon Rahu stole an elixir of immortality, called amrita, but was beheaded by the god Vishnu before he could fully swallow it. Consequently, the demon’s severed head, forever alive, floats around and occasionally devours the Sun. To this day, in India, people make noise by banging pots and pans and setting off fireworks during a solar eclipse to scare Rahu away and make him cough up the Sun.
A northwestern Native American tribe has a legend that a solar eclipse is the result of a quarrel between a great bear and the Sun, ending with the bear taking a huge bite out of it. In fact, the tribe’s name for a solar eclipse translates to Sun got bit by a bear.
Emperors, Kings, and rulers throughout history have been particularly nervous about eclipses. Their court astrologers interpreted them as bad omens that the monarch’s power was in danger. In ancient Babylon, there was the practice of hiring “stand-in” kings to sit on the throne during an eclipse, so any harm would come to them rather than the real king.
In 1133 King Henry I died shortly after a solar eclipse, and some in his court had, in fact, assumed that it was tied to the astronomical event.
Lunar Eclipse Superstitions
Here’s a look at some of the stories, beliefs, myths, and superstitions about lunar eclipses from around the world:
Changes Are Coming: American Indian tribes say lunar eclipses are a sign of transformation (based on the belief that the Moon controls and regulates the Earth)..
Time To Forgive: According to South African mythology, the Sun and Moon fight during an eclipse. It was thought that the people must come together to encourage the celestial bodies to resolve their feud.
Pay It Forward: Tibetan Buddhists believe the effect of good deeds (and bad) are multiplied tenfold during a lunar eclipse.
Relax, Moms: In several cultures, expectant mothers are advised to stay indoors when the Moon turns dark for fear it may curse their unborn child. They should also avoid doing housework, since using a knife or other sharp object during these times is believed to cause birthmarks.
Make Some Noise: Incan civilizations believed that lunar eclipses occurred when a mythological jaguar attacked and ate the Moon. To drive it away, people would shake spears at the night sky and make their dogs bark.
Today, many eclipse watchers give a nod to this ritual with noisemakers in hand to “scare off” whatever is swallowing the Moon.
Whether you believe lunar eclipses are spooky or spectacular, you can’t deny they’re fascinating sights to see!
Eclipses May Be Good Omens Too!
Not all of the tales associated with eclipses are negative!
- Herodotus, an ancient Greek scholar, and a battle in the 6th Century B.C. between the Medes and the Lydians, which was raging until a solar eclipse began. It is said the soldiers threw down their arms and stopped fighting, believing that the gods disapproved of the war.
- And in Italy, it is believed that if you plant flowers during a total eclipse, they will bloom with more vibrant colors than those planted at any other time.
Modern-Day Eclipse Beliefs
To this day, superstitions persist about eclipses. Many cultures still believe that eclipses are evil omens that bring death and destruction. One of the most pervasive is that eclipses are dangerous to young children and pregnant women. Many people, even in our modern times, won’t venture outside during a solar eclipse because of the belief that they will be harmed (be sure to wear protective eclipse viewing eyewear)!
Fortunately, most of us know that solar eclipses are nothing to fear, and we will enjoy them for what they are—a rare and beautiful celestial event!
Join The Discussion
Do you believe that eclipses are good or bad luck?
Share thoughts with your community in the comments below!