January 3, 2011

First Solar Eclipse Of 2011 Comes To Europe Tuesday

Ancient Norse mythology tells the tale of a pair of giant wolves that roam the skies chasing the Sun and Moon and becoming the bringers of an eclipse if they do indeed catch their prey.

As northern Europe braces for the first solar eclipse of 2011, the ancient Viking legend recounts that a giant wolf named Skoll chases the Moon, and its brother Hati pursues the Sun. According to the legend, if either sinks their teeth into one and holds it back, it will cause an eclipse.

But in reality, eclipses occur when the Moon swings between the Sun and Earth.

The AFP news agency reports that the upcoming event on January 4 will only be a partial eclipsem which occurs when a fraction of the Moon obscures the Sun, and to those in its shadow, a "bite" seems to have been taken out of the face of the Sun.

NASA's eclipse specialist Fred Espenak says Western Europe will get a grand view of the even at sunrise, weather permitting that is.

The lunar shadow will fall in the Algerian Sahara at 0640 GMT before darting northeastwards. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the Sun will be darkened at the peak of the eclipse for viewers in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

Scandinavia will have the best show, especially in northern Sweden where, at 0850 GMT, nearly 80 percent of the Sun will be darkened by the Moon.

In the Middle East, the Sun will only be half-obscured when seen from Beirut, Jerusalem and Amman. Turkey will see a Sun about three-fifths blotted out.

As the lunar shadow moves east, a smaller eclipse will be visible at sunset from central Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northwest China before the Sun's face is fully restored a few seconds after 1100 GMT.

The entire event will last about two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on the location.

The next partial solar eclipse will occur on June 1, and will be visible in eastern Siberia, northern China, Alaska and northern Canada.

A total solar eclipse only when the Sun, Moon and Earth are all perfectly in line.

The last total solar eclipse was on July 11, 2010 and the next will be on November 13, 2012, crossing parts of Australia, New Zealand and South America, Espenak told AFP.

In a mathematical twist of fate, the Sun is 400 times wider than the Moon, but the Moon is also 400 times farther away, which in simple symmetry means the lunar shadow, is just wide enough to cover the face of the sun during a total solar eclipse.


On the Net: