See the Solar Eclipse


Lucky skywatchers in Southeast Asia get a rare front-row seat to a total eclipse, and Pacific islanders will see a still-dazzling partial eclipse. But the rest of the world doesn’t have to miss out: You can watch it live online, right here. (Nat Geo News)

In the South Pacific? Use our resources to build a solar eclipse viewer!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including NASA’s awesome visualization of the eclipse path.

In this picture of a solar eclipse, the moon is beginning to move in front of the sun. Photograph by NASA
In this picture of a solar eclipse, the moon is beginning to move in front of the sun.
Photograph by NASA

Discussion Ideas

Illustration by Tim Gunther, National Geographic
Illustration by Tim Gunther, National Geographic
  • Parts of Southeast Asia will experience a total solar eclipse this week. What is a total solar eclipse? Read through our activity for some help.
    • A total solar eclipse happens when the sun, the moon, and the Earth are perfectly aligned—when the moon is directly between the sun and the Earth, and blocks out the solar surface. Solar eclipses can only happen during new moons, the first phase of the lunar cycle when the moon is invisible from Earth.


  • If the moon totally blocks the solar surface, what are we looking at in photos like the one at the top of this page?
    • We’re looking at the moon’s umbra and the sun’s corona.
      • The umbra is the moon’s shadow, which blocks the photosphere, or bright surface of the sun.
      • The sun’s corona is the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere. The corona is usually only visible during a solar eclipse like this one.
    • A new NASA experiment is actually going to be looking pretty closely at this week’s eclipse, tracking the gases in the corona, as well as the velocity of the solar wind. Watch this video for insight to this awesome experiment.


  • Are there other types of solar eclipses?
    • Yes.
      • A partial eclipse occurs when the sun and moon aren’t quite in exact conjunction, and the dark new moon only covers part of the solar disc. Here’s a lovely sequence of a partial eclipse.
      • An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is at its apogee, or furthest point in its elliptical orbit from Earth. The moon appears smaller at apogee, and fails to eclipse the entire solar disc. The photo at the top of this entry is an annular eclipse, and here’s a complete sequence.
      • A hybrid eclipse is the rarest type of solar eclipse. During a hybrid eclipse, parts of the Earth view a total eclipse and some view an annular eclipse. Here’s a beautiful example.


  • Why is Earth the only planet in the solar system that experiences total solar eclipses?
    • The moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, but about 400 times closer to Earth. So, the sun and moon appear to be the same size in the sky. This creates a perfect situation for the moon to completely block out the solar surface.



Map by NASA
Map by NASA
  • Take a look at NASA’s nice map of all solar eclipses of the first two decades of the 21st century. When is the next total solar eclipse visible in the Northern Hemisphere?


Get your geek on with this great NASA graphic. Illustration by NASA
Get your geek on with this great NASA graphic.
Illustration by NASA


Nat Geo: How to See the Total Solar Eclipse, No Matter Where You Are

Nat Geo: Build a Solar Eclipse Viewer activity

NASA: March 2016 Solar Eclipse Path article and videos

NASA: Solar Eclipse Page

Wikipedia Featured Article: What is a solar eclipse?

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