Find out what you need to know.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely obscures the sun for a brief period of time. And although total solar eclipses occur about once every eighteen months, the path rarely occurs over such a large portion of the continental US, which makes this year's eclipse even more memorable.
But did you know that a total solar eclipse is only one type of eclipse? There are actually four different kinds of eclipses. An easy way to remember all four is the word P.A.T.H., which stands for: partial, annular, total, and hybrid. Affecting different parts of the world and obscuring varying amounts of the sun, each of these beautiful eclipses produces unique light and darkness experiences that are thrilling to watch!
- Partial Solar Eclipse: Occurs during the new moon, but with this type of eclipse, the Earth, Moon, and Sun do not form a straight line, and only part of the sun becomes eclipsed by the moon.
- Annular Solar Eclipse: During this type of eclipse, the moon only obscures the Sun’s center, leaving the outer edges visible, which appear as a fiery ring around the sun.
- Total Solar Eclipse: Occurs during the new moon when the Earth, Sun, and Moon form a straight (or nearly straight) line, obscuring our view of the sun from Earth for a brief period of time.
- Hybrid Solar Eclipse: A very rare type of eclipse where the moon transitions from an annular to a total solar eclipse while the eclipse is happening!
Path also refers to something else during an eclipse: the ‘path’ of the eclipse is the moon’s shadow as totally eclipses the sun. For this year’s eclipse, the path will travel over 3,000 miles from the west coast of Oregon to the east coast of South Carolina.