Get your glasses ready, because in the wee hours of March 8th, the moon is set to pass in front of the sun, causing a total solar eclipse. Sadly, if you’re not located in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, or the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you’re going to miss out on the full effect. Bu other areas of Southeast and East Asia will still be treated to a partial eclipse, along with some parts of Australia and even Hawaii. If you’re located elsewhere in the world, not to worry – the Exploratorium will be live-streaming the eclipse on their website.
The eclipse is happening between 11:19 p.m. GMT on March 8 and 1:59 a.m. GMT on March 9. In regions where the total eclipse is visible, the totality (the moment where the Moon completely covers the sun) will last for about four minutes. Check out Space.com’s timeline to find out when the eclipse will be visible in your nearest major city. But don’t expect the sky to go completely dark — NASA scientist Sarah Jaeggli explains, “You notice something off about the sunlight as you reach totality. Your surroundings take on a twilight cast, even though it’s daytime and the sky is still blue.”
Eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, and casts its shadow down on the Earth. While the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, it can appear to completely cover the star due to some very precise cosmic geometry — the sun also happens to be about 400 times farther from Earth than the moon, making the two objects appear to be the same size in the sky.
If you do live in an area where the eclipse is visible, be sure to take precautions to view it safely — just because most of the sun isn’t visible doesn’t mean that the remaining light isn’t harmful to your eyes. Instead of viewing it directly, try using a solar-filtered telescope, eclipse glasses, or a pinhole projector.
This September, those in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula will have a chance to see an annular eclipse — an event which occurs when the moon is further out in its orbit and does not appear to completely cover the sun. If you’re in the US and feeling down about missing this rare event, don’t despair. A total solar eclipse is due to pass directly across much of the country in August of 2017. Just over 500 days to go.