Those in central Africa on November 3 will get a glimpse of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon lies between the Sun and Earth and blocks our star’s entire disk. Before totality occurs, the lineup’s path provides a partial eclipse to those in eastern North America.
Watch streaming video of the eclipse LIVE starting at 6:45 a.m. EST (11h45m UT) below thanks to SLOOH.com!
An eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Moon, and Earth align (in that order, with our satellite in the middle). If they do so while the Moon is closer than average to Earth, observers will witness a total eclipse. Sometimes, though, its location in its orbit makes the Moon farther away than normal at the time of an alignment. Its distance makes it appear smaller in the sky and prevents its shadow from covering the Sun’s whole disk. Thus, eclipse viewers will see a ring of sunlight, known as the “annulus,” in the sky during this “annular eclipse.”
The November 3 eclipse begins as an annular one. Just 15 seconds after the Moon’s shadow appears on the ground, though, Earth’s curvature moves that point of contact farther into the lunar shadow, creating a total eclipse as the path tracks eastward. The part of the eclipse that occurs near local noon — off the western African coast, in this case — lies close enough to the Moon that our satellite’s shadow completely covers the Sun and creates totality. Near the beginning of the path, though, the Moon is a little more distant and cannot block the whole Sun, leaving the annulus visible. This combination of annularity and totality is known as a “hybrid eclipse.” Just 5 percent of eclipses are hybrid, making this the rarest variety.