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Solar Eclipse over Southeast Asia
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Solar Eclipse over Southeast Asia

July 28, 2009
Solar eclipses are relatively rare events. They occur when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, making the Sun appear as if it were being covered by the Moon. Because the Moon and the Sun have very similar apparent sizes when viewed from Earth, the Moon can appear to either fully or partially obscure the Sun. Solar eclipses can only happen during a new moon, which is when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction (or in line) with each other (as seen from Earth).

As if solar eclipses weren't rare enough, seeing a total solar eclipse is so rare that many people travel thousands of miles to view one! This is because to see a total solar eclipse, one must be viewing it from within the narrow track of the Moon's umbra (or shadow) along the surface of the Earth. If you are are in the Moon's penumbra, you would only see a partial eclipse. There is also something called an annular eclipse, which is when the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun, so during the eclipse, a ring of the Sun is visible around the moon.

During the solar eclipse that happened on July 22, 2009, the path of totality crossed southeast Asia. This image, captured by the MODIS on the Terra satellite on the same day, shows this region (Japan, Korea, and eastern China) during the eclipse at 2:10 UTC. Judging from the time this image was taken, along with the chart showing the path and times of totality, the black spot in the lower right-hand corner is probably the Moon's umbra. As such, anyone in it would be viewing a total eclipse. This eclipse was also exceptionally long. The greatest time of totality was 6 minutes and 39 seconds, which occurred over the Pacific Ocean, about 100 km south of the Bonin Islands southeast of Japan, at 02:35 UTC.


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