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When can we see the next solar or lunar eclipse from the United States?

While residents of the United States have been privy to two lunar eclipses, they haven’t seen a solar eclipse since 2017. That is going to change in 2023.

Upcoming eclipses in the United States
Hindustan TimesGetty

The dance of the planets around the Sun create many spectacular celestial events for sky gazers throughout the year. Perhaps none more spectacular than eclipses, either lunar or solar.

While the United States has been deprived of catching a view of a solar eclipse for several years, that dry streak is about to come to an end. Although it won’t be a total eclipse, those in the right place and with relatively clear skies will get to see an annular eclipse in the fall of 2023.

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When will there be a solar eclipse in the United States?

An average year will see two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses with a maximum of five occurring in one year, but that won’t happen until 2206. The two celestial events happen within two weeks of each other given the orbit of the Moon around the Earth which takes 28 days to complete. The position of the Earth, Moon and Sun decides exactly what kind of eclipse will be visible to people on the ground.

In 2023 there will be one total eclipse and one annular eclipse. While those living in the Southern Hemisphere will get the former, residents of the United States will be privy to the latter occurring on 14 October.

The annular eclipse will be visible to those who find themselves in an arc from the Northwest down to the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas, it will continue through Central America and across the northern portions of the Amazon. The partial blockage of the Sun’s light will be visible just about everywhere in North, Central and South America.

The total eclipse, which is going to happen on 20 April, will be harder to catch sight of with the Path of Totality mainly occurring over the Indian Ocean crossing over parts of the Indonesian Archipelago before going over the Pacific Ocean. But partial blockage of the Sun’s light will be visible over large swaths of Western Australia, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Oceania.

What causes a solar eclipse?

When the Moon moves directly between the Earth and the Sun on the same plane, it casts a shadow across the Earth. While not visible to the entire planet the spectacle from the blotting of at least some of the Sun’s light covers vast swaths of the Earth’s surface.

Depending on the proximity and alignment of our natural satellite to the Earth it can completely block out the Sun’s light over a narrow band across the Earth’s surface in what is known as the Path of Totality. Those fortunate few who find themselves along that path will get to witness the Sun’s corona which is normally too faint to see, not to mention you should never look directly into the Sun’s Light.

For all other solar eclipses viewers should take precautions to protect their eyes from our star’s powerful rays which can cause serious damage including blindness.

What causes a lunar eclipse?

People living in the United States were fortunate in 2022, having the opportunity to view two Blood Moons, visible once to those in the Eastern part of the nation and the other to those in the West. That won’t be the case in 2023, with neither of the two set to occur next year visible in the vast majority of North America. Neither the one on 5 May nor 28 October will be Blood Moons either, but how do they occur?

In the case of a lunar eclipse the same rule applies as a solar eclipse, but the Earth is casting the shadow on the Moon. When our natural satellite moves through the Earth’s Umbra, the fully shaded inner region of a shadow, it blackens the surface of the Moon. Should the whole of the Moon enter the umbra some of the sun’s light still reaches the Moon but only the red spectrum.

This is due to it being bent through the Earth’s atmosphere in a prismatic effect called Rayleigh scattering. The more dust or clouds in the atmosphere, the darker the color red the Moon’s surface will reflect back to us on the ground.


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