Types of Solar EclipsesIntroduction
Solar eclipses occur when the Sun, the Moon, and Earth line up, either fully or partially. Depending on how they align, eclipses provide a unique, exciting view of either the Sun or the Moon.
A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, casting a shadow on Earth that either fully or partially blocks the Sun’s light in some areas. This only happens occasionally, because the Moon doesn't orbit in the exact same plane as the Sun and Earth do. The time when they are aligned is known as eclipse season, which happens twice a year.
Except for the fleeting moments of totality during a total solar eclipse, observers should always use eclipse glasses or an alternative safe solar viewing method, such as a pinhole projector, to view the Sun. This includes when watching a partial or annular eclipse, or before or after totality for a total solar eclipse. Learn more about viewing a solar eclipse safely here.
Total Solar EclipseTotal Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. People located in the center of the Moon’s shadow when it hits Earth will experience a total eclipse. The sky will darken, as if it were dawn or dusk. Weather permitting, people in the path of a total solar eclipse can see the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere, which is otherwise usually obscured by the bright face of the Sun. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where viewers can momentarily remove their eclipse glasses (which are not the same as regular sunglasses) for the brief period of time when the Moon is completely blocking the Sun. The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be on April 8, 2024.
Annular Solar EclipseAnnular Solar Eclipse
An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, but when it is at or near its farthest point from Earth. Because the Moon is farther away from Earth, it appears smaller than the Sun and does not completely cover the Sun. As a result, the Moon appears as a dark disk on top of a larger, bright disk, creating what looks like a ring around the Moon. The next annular eclipse in the U.S. will be on Oct. 14, 2023.
Partial Solar EclipsePartial Solar Eclipse
A partial solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth but the Sun, Moon, and Earth are not perfectly lined up. Only a part of the Sun will appear to be covered, giving it a crescent shape. During a total or annular solar eclipse, people outside the area covered by the Moon’s inner shadow see a partial solar eclipse.
Hybrid Solar EclipseHybrid Solar Eclipse
Because Earth's surface is curved, sometimes an eclipse can shift between annular and total as the Moon’s shadow moves across the globe. This is called a hybrid solar eclipse.