Solar Eclipse A solar eclipse is a type of eclipse that occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and when the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. Solar eclipses can only occur during a New Moon.

There are 3 kinds of solar eclipses: total, partial, and annular. There is also a rare hybrid that is a combination of an annular and a total eclipse.In a total eclipse,the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses, only part of the Sun is obscured. A hybrid solar eclipse is a rare form of solar eclipse, which changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse, and vice versa, along its path.

If the Moon were in a perfectly circular orbit, a little closer to the Earth, and in the same orbital plane, there would be total solar eclipses every month. However, since the Moon’s orbit is tilted at more than 5 degrees to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, its shadow usually misses Earth. The Moon’s orbit must cross Earth’s ecliptic plane in order for an eclipse (both solar as well as lunar) to occur. In addition, the Moon’s actual orbit is elliptical, often taking it far enough away from Earth that its apparent size is not large enough to block the Sun entirely. The orbital planes cross each other at a line of nodes resulting in at least two, and up to five, solar eclipses occurring each year; no more than two of which can be total eclipses. However, total solar eclipses are rare at any particular location because totality exists only along a narrow path on the Earth’s surface traced by the Moon’s shadow or umbra.

An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. However, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses were attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the Sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes.

Since looking directly at the Sun can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness, special solar eclipse glasses are used when viewing a solar eclipse. It is technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection; however, this is a dangerous practice, as most people are not trained to recognize the phases of an eclipse, which can span over two hours while the total phase can only last a maximum of 7.5 minutes for any one location.

Below will be described a few ancient events with solar eclipses occurring on those events.

One of the earliest recorded solar eclipses occurred in 1223 BC, in a region of modern day Syria then known as Uragit. The Uragit Eclipse was recorded on a clay tablet discovered in 1948. The tablet described an eclipse that caused total darkness for over two minutes and said that the sun had been ‘put to shame’ when the new moon forced it to set during the daytime.  Another solar eclipse that was associated with an important historical event occurred sometime in 763 B.C. when the Assyrian Empire dominated a large part of the Mideast. The Assyrian Empire included what is now the country of Iraq, where a total solar eclipse darkened the skies for approximately five minutes. King Henry I died in England not long after a solar eclipse that occurred on August 2, 1133. This unfortunate coincidence contributed greatly to the spread of the belief that solar eclipses were harbingers of death for rulers and ruling dynasties.