2010's total eclipse of the Sun
Although viewers may have to go a little out of their way to see it, the total solar eclipse on July 11 promises fascinating and exotic sights.
July 1, 2010
July 1, 2010
The Sun will disappear during daylight July 11, when the Moon passes in front and blocks the bright disk from view for observers in the right spot. At maximum, the Sun will be gone for more than 5 minutes.
Photo by Babak Tafreshi
Editor update: Michael Bakich is getting intermittent access to Twitter and Facebook to post updates. Be sure to check them out.
A one-of-a-kind light show will appear in the skies above a wide swath of the South Pacific and southern Argentina and Chile on Sunday, July 11, when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth to produce a rare total solar eclipse. Despite being millions of miles apart, when the Sun and Moon perfectly cross paths in the sky, the Moon (being closer) blocks the Sun's light and casts its shadow over a small area of Earth's surface.
The July 11 eclipse begins at sunrise about 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of the South Pacific island of Tonga, with the Moon's shadow moving toward the northeast before ending at sunset in South America. Most of the eclipse track falls on empty water, though a few scattered islands will also see the show. The site of greatest eclipse, where totality reaches its maximum of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, lies in open water, at longitude 121º53' west and latitude 9º45' south.
Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott and several lucky readers will observe more than 4 minutes of totality while cruising along the Marquesas Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago. Meanwhile, about 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometers) away, Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich will witness the eclipse with another group at Easter Island, home of the famous Moai sculptures. Both editors will try to send regular updates and images from their trips, but Internet access in their areas will be unpredictable. Still, follow Astronomy on Twitter and Facebook for Bakich's updates from his phone.
The path of totality July 11 covers a narrow strip of the South Pacific, passing near Tahiti and over Easter Island before ending in southern South America.
Photo by Astronomy: Roen Kelly
If you're lucky enough to be joining them, or to be going on your own trip, try to arrive at your observation site at least an hour before first contact (when the Moon just touches the Sun's disk). And if this is your first total eclipse, keep it simple. Don't try to photograph or study the event with anything more complicated than your naked eyes. Remember, though, that sunlight can quickly damage the eye's retina. For a direct view of the Sun, use only an approved solar filter or a #14 welder's glass, which most eclipse expeditions will supply. And, lastly, if you do to photograph the eclipse, make sure to upload your favorite shots to Astronomy.com's Online Reader Gallery.