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Partial Solar Eclipse

May 31, 2011

The midday Sun will look a little feeble across the northern half of Alaska tomorrow -- it'll be partially covered up by the Moon. The eclipse will be visible from China to Scandinavia, but not from the Lower 48 states.

Eclipses occur because the Moon's orbit around Earth intersects the Sun's path across the sky twice during each lunar cycle. If that intersection takes place at new Moon, as it does tomorrow, then the Moon partially or fully covers the Sun, creating a solar eclipse. And if it happens at full Moon, there's a lunar eclipse.

This eclipse begins around 11:25 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time, when the Moon's shadow first touches Earth in northern China. The shadow races across the Arctic, reaching Alaska around noon. From the town of North Pole, the eclipse reaches its peak in early afternoon, when the Moon will cover a third of the Sun's disk.

The sky may look a little murky, and temperatures may drop a bit. Otherwise, though, there won't be much of a difference.

The Sun is still too bright for you to look at the eclipse itself. But you can view it through dark welder's glass. Or you can poke a pinhole in the top of a cardboard box and watch the eclipse in the beam of light cast on the bottom of the box.

The eclipse path continues across Canada and on to Scandinavia. The best views of all come from Norway, where the Moon will cover about half of the solar disk -- making the late-afternoon Sun look especially feeble.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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