Longest Eclipse of the Century

21 07 2009

Solar eclipses aren’t rare, but they are rare if you’re waiting for one to happen over you.  This Wednesday, July 22, marks a very special event for a lot of people half-a-world away.  The sun’s shadow will pass directly over millions of residents in India, China, and Japan.  With totallity occuring directly over such cities as Surat, Bhopal, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Shanghai, folks are predicting that this will be the most witnessed eclipse in human history.

And what’s more is that this total eclipse will last longer than any other until 2132!  This eclipse will last an astounding 6min 39 sec. — almost the theoretical maximum length of 7.5 min.  Since it’s occuring near the time when the Earth is farthest from the sun, the sun is smaller in the sky now than it will be in, say, December.  This time of the month also happens to be when the moon is nearest to us in it’s orbit, too; making it appear large.  That combination gives us more time to spend in the shadow.

It’s been many years since we’ve had a total eclipse here in the southern U.S., and the next one is still several years away.  But there are two very nice ones coming.  On Aug. 21, 2017, the moon’s shadow will move across the entire U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina.   The best view will be near the KY/TN border.  On April 8, 2024, the shadow will cross from Mexico through Texas all the way up through Maine.  Should be awesome!  There will be several partial eclipses visible from here as well during these years, inlcuding a very nice one in October, 2023, leading up to the spectacular total eclipse of 2024.

You can find tons more useful information at Fred Espenak’s (MrEclipse) page here.  And also here.

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