April 20 hybrid solar eclipse: An observer’s guide

This month will see the first of two solar eclipses in this year of 2023. But this upcoming eclipse will be a rather special kind of eclipse. 

When speaking of eclipses of the sun, there are three basic types. First are partial eclipses, when only the moon’s outer shadow, called the penumbra, interacts with Earth. From within the penumbra, only a part of the sun is seen to be covered by the disk of the moon. Next are total eclipses, where from only from within the dark shadow cone of the moon, called the umbra, can a total eclipse be seen. And then there are annular eclipses or “ring of fire” eclipses, so called because the moon is too far away and hence too small to cover the sun, so a ring of sunlight remains visible around the edge of the moon at maximum. In order for the umbra to reach the Earth during this type of eclipse, the moon must be closer than its average distance.

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