2017 Solar Eclipse | Eclipse Education | Webster University

2017 Solar Eclipse | Eclipse Education

What is a solar eclipse?

Solar Eclipse graphic

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon gets between Earth and the Sun, and moon casting a shadow over Earth. In a total solar eclipse, the Sun, Moon and the Earth will align in a straight line for a brief moment and the Sun will be completely covered by the Moon during this time interval. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon’s shadow will traverse the Earth as a narrow band of complete darkness.

A total solar eclipse is a rare and spectacular celestial event. Many astronomers and skywatchers explain it as once-in-a-lifetime experience. Dr. Kate Russo, an Australian psychologist and an enthusiastic eclipse researcher described the experience of viewing a total solar eclipse in her white paper as follows.

"Even those who know what is happening can be caught off guard by a total solar eclipse. It is eerie, awe-inspiring, unsettling, beautiful, and often emotionally overwhelming. Most people find it hard to describe the totality experience. Few people that you will meet have experienced a total solar eclipse. Most people remain unaware of how incredible this natural event is. Often the total eclipse is the single largest event to occur within a region, attracting major crowds and media interest on a scale never previously experienced"


In addition to being a spectacular event of nature, a total solar eclipse has a great importance in science, specifically to astronomers who study the sun.

Due to the immense brightness of the sun, it is sometimes difficult to study the outer atmosphere of the sun using earth-based viewing instruments. This outer atmosphere, also known as the 'corona' is a highly active region where many phenomena, including solar winds and solar mass ejections, occur. In short, the corona is where the sun's 'weather' is determined.

Studying the corona is important to astronomers in understanding how the sun affects the solar system including our Earth. The behavior of the corona has effects not only on the temperature and weather of the Earth, but also on electromagnetic communication systems including satellite, radio, tv and mobile phones.

During a total solar eclipse, sun is completely covered by the moon making it dark enough that Sun's corona is visible. Therefore a total eclipse is a wonderful opportunity for scientists to study the corona.


Visit Eclipse2017.nasa.gov/ for more information »

Path of 2017 Solar Eclipse in the U.S.