Is Our Solar Eclipse Unique in the Universe?

Is Our Solar Eclipse Unique in the Universe?

Here is an interesting factoid:

The sun is 400 times bigger than the moon and 400 times further away making a perfect solar eclipse. A chance so small it could be unique in the Universe.

Solar eclipse total.jpg


A total solar eclipse is a natural beauty to behold. As the Sun is covered by the moon passing in front of it, the world takes on an eerie darkness in the middle of the day. The moon appears to be exactly the same size as the Sun in the sky and so, it covers the Sun perfectly. It is this total occlusion that really makes the eclipse special, as partial eclipses just don’t have the same effect. In a partial eclipse, when the moon doesn’t quite fully cover the whole Sun there is a dimming of the light but not the kind of darkness experienced in a total eclipse.


Has this natural and incredibly rare phenomenon always been like this? 


The answer is no, we are living in a perfect solar eclipse time window.  In the past the moon was much closer to the Earth and would have appeared larger. We can measure how fast the moon is leaving us due to the mirrors that were placed on the Moon’s surface by the Apollo astronauts. By firing lasers at the mirrors and timing how long the reflected light takes to reach us back on Earth we can accurately measure the distance to the Moon. Using this measurement the Moon has been calculated to be leaving us at a rate of 3.8 centimetres per year.


So what are the implications of the Moon leaving us? 


Well the Moon is very important in stabilising the tilt of the Earth. Without it the Earth’s tilt could wobble around erratically. This could cause the Poles to suddenly end up at the equator, melting the ice rapidly. An unstable axial tilt would mean that we would cease to have stable seasons and the stability of the seasons are one of the reasons life managed to catch hold on Earth. Don’t worry though the Moon isn’t going anywhere fast. At 3.8 cm a year it’ll take a very long time for it’s effect on stabilising the Earth’s tilt to fail.

So try to make sure you observe a total eclipse at least once in your lifetime and if you can take a picture of it for future generations when the eclipse isn’t so spectacular.

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