What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun and blocks out the direct light of the sun. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks out the sun completely, forming a shadow on the earth. For this to occur, the sun, the earth and the moon come in a straight line in their orbits and it will seem like the moon has covered the sun.
In a total solar eclipse you will be able to see “The Baily Beads”, which is where light from the sun breaks through the uneven surface of the moon. The diamond ring effect marks the beginning and end of totality as a bright flash of light and is one of the most amazing features of the eclipse.
As the shadow of the moon starts to move across the sun, it will look like a small bite which gradually increases in size. Watch for Baily’s Beads where the sun shines through the rugged surface of the moon, creating points of light on the edge of the moon’s disc. These can only be seen for a few seconds. Just before the sun disapears, The Diamond Ring effect is seen as the single bead of light which looks like an enormous sparkling diamond on a shiny ring.
When the shadow of the moon covers the sun entirely, the sun’s atmosphere (corona) can been seen as a faint halo. This phase is known as totality. As the moon moves away from the sun, Baily’s Beads may be seen again, before the sun eventually fully emerges.
There are five stages that are observed during a total eclipse
First contact is the beginning stage of a total eclipse. Also referred to as a partial eclipse, the moon’s shadow first becomes visible looking like a bite has been taken out of the sun.
Second contact occurs just before totality. During this phase you may be lucky enough to witness Bailys Beads, which are distinct points of light seen on the edge of the moon’s disc. This is caused by the Sun shining through the valleys on the moon’s surface. The Diamond Ring effect is also seen in this phase, when only one point of light is left. When this disappears, totality has started.
Totality occurs when the shadow of the moon is covering the entire sun, with only the faint halo of the sun (corona) being visible. The corona is only visible during an eclipse and is an amazing sight. The temperature drops sharply, the sky becomes dark and animals and birds become quiet.
The fourth stage of a total eclipse is much like the second. The moon is moving away from the sun, Baily Beads and the Diamond ring may be observed.
The final stage of a total eclipse occurs when the partial eclipse of the sun ends and light is restored back to normal.