Each year brings about interesting astronomical phenomena, and 2023 is no different. This year, we have two solar eclipses: the first is a rare, once-in-a-decade hybrid eclipse in April, and the second is the more traditional annular solar eclipse later in mid-October.
The hybrid solar eclipse — a beautiful combination of total and annular eclipses — will be seen from western Australia and parts of Indonesia. While viewers in these regions will get to witness total solar eclipse, the beginning and end of this eclipse (annular) will be at sea and hard to spot.
The annular solar eclipse is visible for viewers in North America, as well as those in Central and South America. We expect that all of North America with the exception of some parts of Alaska will get to experience a partial eclipse at a minimum. The same goes for much of South America, with the exception of Chile and Argentina, especially the southern parts (sorry, folks!).
This article is your one stop guide to understanding the beauty of these phenomena, why it covers only a part of Earth’s surface and what you can expect while planning to view these events in 2023.
Click to see this year’s lunar eclipses.
Solar Eclipses 2023
2023 is going to be an interesting year. The previous hybrid solar eclipse occurred in 2013 and is happening after 10 years this April. The next one will be in 2031!
The annular solar eclipse is covering broad swaths of the Americas region, so hopefully the weather complies in it being accessible to many.
Hybrid Solar Eclipse | April 20, 2023
- Total solar eclipse: Parts of western Australia, including Barrow Island and North West Cape peninsula, Damar Island and the Indonesian island Papua.
- Annual solar eclipse: Parts of Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
- Greatest eclipse occurs at 04:16:45 UT
Hybrid eclipses are fascinating because viewers in different parts of the world, as long as they are in the eclipse’s path, will view the phenomena differently. They also make up just 5% of all solar eclipses.
The first solar eclipse of this year will begin in the Indian Ocean and end in the Pacific Ocean. At both marks, it will be seen as an annular eclipse, during which the Moon will cover the Sun’s center as seen from Earth.
However, it is not large enough to completely obscure it, so viewers can spot the famous ring of fire just before and after totality. This is when the topographic features on the Moon, like its craters and valleys, let sunlight stream through and between them, forming a beautiful sunlit ring around the Moon.
Hybrid eclipses are also the amalgamation of two types of solar eclipses: total and annular. This is because unlike other eclipses, all three types of Moon’s shadows (umbra, penumbra and antumbra) are present during a hybrid event, resulting in two types of eclipses across the duration of the event.
The part of Earth where the darkest of Moon’s shadows, the umbra, is present, viewers will witness a total solar eclipse. On Thursday, April 20 this year, the totality will be on a narrow path of just 30 miles across (most of it in western Australia and Papua), and will be seen for a short duration of just 76 seconds before returning to an annular eclipse.
If you’re interested to know the eclipse times in your local area, Sky & Telescope has a helpful guide for some places in North America.
Two weeks after the hybrid eclipse, there will be a penumbral lunar eclipse on May 05, 2023. Check out our guide to lunar eclipses for more details.
April 20, 2023 – Hybrid Solar Eclipse Timings
- Partial Eclipse Starts: 01:34 UT
- Maximum Eclipse: 04:16 UT
- Partial Eclipse Ends: 06:59 UT
Annular Solar Eclipse | October 14, 2023
- Partial eclipse visible from: Americas: North, Central and South.
- Annular eclipse visible from: Central America, Colombia and Brazil, as well as parts of western United States.
- Greatest eclipse occurs at: 17:59:29 UT
The annular eclipse on October 14, 2023 will begin in Reedsport, Oregon at 9:13 am local time (PST) and end in Texas at 12:03 local time (CDT). The entire event will last for 2 ½ hours, during which the eclipse will make its way across the Caribbean Sea, and into the Yucatan Peninsula before coming to an end in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great American Eclipse website is a useful resource for those interested in diving further. According to the website, this eclipse is expected to be visible from many national parks across the U.S., including the National Bridges National Monument in Utah and the Bryce Canyon National Park, both in Utah. Additionally, this NASA guide has more information on eclipse timings for local U.S. time zones.
October 14, 2023 – Annular Solar Eclipse Timings
- Partial Eclipse Starts: 15:03:50 UT
- Maximum Eclipse: 17:59:32 UT
- Last Place to See Partial Eclipse End: 20:55:16 UT
Two weeks later, keep your eyes peeled for a partial lunar eclipse that will occur on October 28, 2023.
A note of caution to our readers: The Sun is still partially visible during annular solar eclipses. So, please be careful if you are planning to witness the event. It is never safe to look at the Sun directly without the aid of eye protection that includes solar filters. Lack of proper eclipse glasses can cause retinal burns more commonly known as eclipse blindness. This guide has more information for those interested.
What is a Solar Eclipse?
Solar eclipses are proof that daytime astronomical events can be as beautiful as the night ones. They occur when the Moon’s orbit places it precisely between Earth and the Sun, an alignment called syzygy (pronounced SIZ-eh-gee).
In doing so, the Moon blocks the sunlight, casting a shadow on Earth. If you’re standing in that shadow, you’ll see the Sun obscured to a greater or lesser extent.
Solar eclipses, where the Moon completely covers the Sun, happen due to a perfect coincidence of size and distance.
The Moon is 400x smaller than the Sun but is also 400x closer to Earth. This serendipity makes the lunar disc exactly the same size as the solar one from our perspective.
A solar eclipse begins when the moon makes its first contact, touching a limb of the sun and seeming to take a bite out of the perfect solar circle of light.
When the Sun is not totally covered, the eclipse is a partial one. As the partial eclipse progresses, the bite taken out of the Sun by the Moon grows gradually until the Sun is only a narrow crescent in the sky.
Ten-to-fifteen minutes before totality occurs is when the environment around you begins to change dramatically. There is a noticeable drop in brightness, the shadows grow sharper on the ground, and the sunlight will look strangely different, almost like you’re wearing shades.
A few seconds before the moment of totality, the last vestiges of sunlight peep through valleys between mountains on the Moon, causing the light to break into a thin string of beads, called Baily’s beads.
When totality hits, we instantly see our first glimpse of Sun’s corona, leading to the famous diamond ring effect. This is the stage where darkness takes hold too, making the brighter stars and planets visible in the daytime.
While the entire eclipse, from first to the last contact, lasts anywhere between one to three hours, totality itself lasts only for 2-5 minutes.
All too soon Baily’s beads and the diamond ring will be visible once again as the moon begins to uncover the sun and the total solar eclipse reverts to a partial solar eclipse.
The disc of the Sun fattens once more as the Moon moves past and the eclipse comes to an end as the Moon’s limb touches the Sun’s in the final act of a solar eclipse, known as last contact.
Why is a Solar Eclipse Not Visible Across the Whole Planet?
The Moon’s shadow is only a few hundred miles across, which is nowhere near large enough to cover the entire Earth. This underlines the fact that you are very fortunate to observe a total Solar eclipse because the strip of Earth they can be seen from is so small.
Furthermore, the fact that only a tiny part of the Earth’s surface experiences an eclipse makes it extremely rare the same place will see a second eclipse within a human lifetime.
The Sun, Moon, and Earth are in constant motion in slightly elliptical orbits. Earth rotates around its axis while the Moon orbits the Earth, and their geometry changes with every eclipse, making it very rare for the same point on the surface of our planet to see consecutive solar eclipses.
What’s The Difference Between The Umbra and Penumbra?
In every eclipse that occurs, there are two shadows cast by the Moon, the inner, darker umbra, and the outer, lighter, penumbra.
It’s easiest to think of the umbra as the shadow we see when the whole Sun is covered, while the penumbra is the shadow caused by a partial covering of the Sun.
As you might imagine, the penumbra has different darkness levels. The part of the penumbra closest to the umbra, where the Sun’s surface might be >90% obscured, is much darker than at its far edge where the Sun is less than 10% covered.
If you stand inside the path of the umbra – also known as the path of totality – the Sun will be entirely blocked by the Moon and you’ll observe a total eclipse.
However, if you stand inside the penumbra during an eclipse, you will only observe it as a partial eclipse.
Of course, some solar eclipses are only partial. When this happens, there is no umbral shadow hitting the Earth’s surface.
Future Solar Eclipses
This table shows all the upcoming total and partial solar eclipses for the rest of the decade. We will, of course, bring much more detail on each one nearer the time.
|8 Apr 2024||Western UK, North America, northern South America||Total|
|2 Oct 2024||Southern South America||Annular|
|29 Mar 2025||Northwest Europe, Greenland and northeast Canada, northwest Africa||Partial|
|21 Sep 2025||New Zealand and southeastern Australia, Antarctica||Partial|
|17 Feb 2026||Southeast Africa, southern tip of South America, Antarctica||Annular|
|12 Aug 2026||Much of Europe, north USA and Canada, northeast Asia, northwest Africa||Total|
|6 Feb 2027||South America and western Africa||Annular|
|2 Aug 2027||Southwest Europe, southwest Asia, northern Africa, eastern Canada||Total|
|26 Jan 2028||North and South America, western Europe, and western Africa||Annular|
|22 Jul 2028||Australia, New Zealand, southern Asia||Total|
|14 Jan 2029||North America||Partial|
|12 Jun 2029||Northern Asia and northern Canada||Partial|
|11 Jul 2029||Southern South America||Partial|
|5 Dec 2029||Southern South America and Antarctica||Partial|
|1 Jun 2030||North Africa, Europe, Asia||Annular|
|25 Nov 2030||Southern Africa, Australia, southern Asia||Total|
While this post is meant to equip you with knowledge of when the eclipses occur, you cannot completely prepare for the splendor of these cosmic coincidences.
Eclipses give you a chance to watch the solar system at work right in front of your eyes; of the Moon around Earth and Earth around the Sun.
Irrespective of how many times you have seen it, the awe when an eclipse begins, the regret when it ends all too soon, and the ecstasy of witnessing it all cannot be jammed into strings of words. You can only experience it and store the bittersweet memory till the next one comes rolling in.