The year 2020 is packed with spectacular cosmic activity, and June will play host to two notable celestial events: a partial penumbral lunar eclipse will darken the night sky on June 5 and 6, while an annular solar eclipse is set to occur on June 21.
According to Time and Date, penumbral lunar eclipses can be hard to differentiate from regular full moons; however, avid stargazers in much of Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America should be able to catch a glimpse of this fascinating alignment of the Sun, Earth, and the Moon.
The penumbral lunar eclipse will begin at 12:45 a.m. EST on June 5 and will peak at 2:24 p.m. on the same day.
The annular (ring-shaped) solar eclipse on June 21, where the Moon will pass directly in front of the Sun leaving a visible “ring of fire,” will be seen from Earth’s Eastern Hemisphere only, across Africa, southeastern Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.
The very best views, advises Space.com, will be afforded to people residing on the latitudinal line running from central Africa to northern India, China, and Taiwan. The first sighting will occur at 11:47 p.m. EST.
An eclipse occurs when the light from one celestial body is blocked by another; from the point of observation, in this case Earth, the obstructing body casts a shadow upon that position of viewing.
Here on Earth, we may experience two different types of eclipse: one, where the light of the Sun is obstructed by the Moon, which is known as a solar eclipse; and the other, where Earth is aligned between the Sun and the Moon, and Earth’s shadow is cast upon the Moon, which is called a lunar eclipse.
According to Universe Today, a penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon lies in the penumbra—partially in shadow—of Earth. As such, the effect is less dramatic than during a total eclipse. A lunar eclipse may only occur in conjunction with a full moon.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s diameter appears visibly smaller than the Sun’s from Earth; passing between Earth and the Sun, the Moon partially obstructs the Sun’s light, leaving a “ring of fire,” the annulus of our solar system’s bright star, visible.
An annular eclipse, according to Space.com, occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun during a lunar apogee, when the Moon is farthest from Earth on its elliptical orbit.
A solar eclipse can only be observed from a relatively narrow geographic position, while a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere the Moon is visible from.
According to EarthSky, the annular eclipse of the Sun on June 21 will last only 1 minute, 22 seconds at the beginning of the eclipse’s path and 1 minute, 17 seconds near the end. At its peak, the eclipse will last for just 38 seconds.
While the annular eclipse will, sadly, be long over by the time the Sun rises over the Americas, on June 21, a small consolation for American astronomy fans lies in the opportunity to see the young moon—the start of a new moon—after sunset on the same day.
A warning to stargazers everywhere: do exercise caution by not staring directly at the Sun neither before nor during an eclipse, which could cause damage to the eyes. Glasses with fit-for-purpose solar filters can be used, but regular sunglasses will not provide safe ocular protection.
Keen observers can also protect their eyes using a homemade pinhole camera. Lunar eclipses, on the other hand, are safe to view directly without eye protection.
According to NASA, the year 2020 is set to welcome a total of six eclipses: four lunar, and two solar. Perhaps the biggest eclipse event of 2020 will be a total solar eclipse over South America on Dec. 14.
This total eclipse will cause an eerie 2 minutes and 10 seconds of obscured daylight and will be most visible from Chile and Argentina; a partial solar eclipse will be visible from much of South America and parts of southwest Africa.