What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between us and the sun, temporarily blocking out the sunlight as the moon casts a shadow onto Earth. This is so impressive as the moon appears to be the same size as the sun, despite being 400 times smaller than it. The sky becomes incredibly dark, as though it were nighttime, in an awe-inspiring experience lasting only a few minutes.
Near the beginning and end of these events, a thin slice of the sun is visible. However, this appears broken up into beads of light as the edge of the moon is jagged with mountain peaks and valleys rather than smooth as we often imagine it. When just one bead of light is visible, the effect is likened to a diamond ring.
While there are three types of solar eclipses, a total solar eclipse only happens when the sun, moon and Earth are in a direct line and the moon is a certain distance from the Earth. During partial and annular solar eclipses, the moon doesn’t block the entire view of the sun.