A unique total solar eclipse will occur in early December 2021, the last one this year. Unfortunately, few people around the globe will get a chance to see the phenomenon.
A solar eclipse is an astronomical phenomenon during which the Moon completely or partially obscures the Sun. A solar eclipse is possible only on a new moon when the side of the Moon facing the Earth is not illuminated, and the Moon itself is not visible.
Here is a curious fact – the reason that we get to see this phenomenon is pure coincidence. Did you know that the Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon in diameter? Even better, did you know that the Moon orbits Earth 400 times closer than our Sun? What are the odds, really, but this is the reason why total solar eclipses exist – they occur when the orbital paths of both objects align.
Who can observe the total solar eclipse?
The total solar eclipse will occur on Saturday, December 4th. The full phase of the eclipse will last 1 minute 54 seconds but few people around the world will get the chance to see it.
Unfortunately, the path of the shadow will pass through a particularly desolate area of the globe and will be visible only in Antarctica. The total eclipse phase will begin in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean east of the Falkland Islands. From there, the moon’s shadow will pass southeast and then southerly across the Weddell Sea to Antarctica.
This is a particularly special eclipse due to its path. In most cases, these astronomical phenomena pass from west to east. As explained above, the course of this eclipse will be quite the opposite and this change is possible only in the polar regions.
People in certain areas around the globe will get a chance to observe a partial solar eclipse. This includes anyone who lives in the southernmost regions of South Africa, Australia, and South America, as well as in the southern parts of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.
How to safely observe a total solar eclipse
Particular phases of an eclipse should be observed only through a special solar filter: in no case should you look at the Sun through optical instruments that are not protected by a filter. That means you should not observe with a naked eye either. The well-known “artisanal” methods of observation – through a CD disk, a floppy disk, smoked glass, a few sunglasses – do not provide sufficient eye protection.
However, if you do not have a telescope with a full-aperture (covering the entire lens) filter or h-alpha filter, you can use the camera obscura method: take a cardboard box, put a white sheet of paper on the bottom, make a small hole 3-4 mm in diameter in the lid, and in the sidewall, a hole through which you can see.
By directing the sunbeam into the small hole, you can observe the projection image of the Sun’s disk at the bottom of the box: when the Moon begins to cover it, it will be noticeable.
Another safe way to watch partial phases of a solar eclipse is to connect to one of the online broadcasts. Of course, you can purchase a pair of special eclipse glasses that have been around for years but why would you invest in such when there are a couple of eclipses yearly?
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• Carter, J. (2021, November 30). 7 things you didn’t know about this week’s unique ‘reverse polar solar’ total eclipse in Antarctica. Forbes.
• Espenak, F. (2021, December 3). Total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021. EarthSky.
• Hill, T. (2021, December 2). Total solar eclipse will bring 2 minutes of darkness to Antarctica’s months of endless daylight. The Conversation.
• Howell, E. (2021, December 2). Total solar eclipse 2021: When, where and how to see it on Dec. 4. Space.com.