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The Other Day I Was In Albuquerque And...
Jon Burch Photography
Photograph - Digital Capture
How long does an eclipse last? There are two different kinds of eclipses, lunar and solar. A lunar eclipse occurs at new moon phase only when the Earth, Moon and Sun are in a straight line with the Earth in the middle and the Sun and Moon opposite each other. A lunar eclipse can last up to six hours from start to finish with totality lasting at most, an hour and forty minutes. It can be seen from anywhere in the nighttime hemisphere.
In contrast, a solar eclipse is very short and when viewed from the same location, very infrequent. While lunar eclipses occur on the average of once every two or three years, a solar eclipse viewed from the same location can be expected only once every 300 years or so.
To view a solar eclipse, you have to be in the right place at the right time. They occur only at 'Full Moon' phase and if you happen to be in the umbra or darkest part of the moon's shadow when it passes between the Earth and the Sun, you will see a total eclipse in which the entire face of the Sun is blocked by the disc of the Moon. If the eclipse happens to be a long one, you can expect totality to last at most, about seven minutes. If you are in the penumbra, the light part of the lunar shadow on the Earth, you will see a partial eclipse. And, if you are in neither the umbra nor the penumbra, you won't know anything is happening at all.
An annular eclipse occurs if the Moon when it is in its New phase is at its extreme most location in its orbit with regard to the Earth. (Apogee). When this happens, the Moon's shadow is not long enough to reach the Earth and even if you are directly in line with the Moon and Sun, you will see an 'annulus' or ring around the Moon where the Sun's limb is visible.
Therefore, an annular eclipse which you see in the accompanying photograph occurs only when the New Moon is at apogee and further most away from the Earth in its orbit. At that distance, the diameter of the Moon is smaller than the diameter of the Sun and an 'annulus' or ring around the Moon can be seen highlighting the limb of the Sun. This photograph of this annular eclipse was made right at sunset in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 20, 2012.
Photograph copyright Jon Burch Photography
May 29th, 2012
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