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Rare Solar Eclipse to Meet the Dawn

November 2, 2013

UPDATE: The solar eclipse of November 3, 2013, has ended. If you caught it (we saw the last few minutes with a makeshift pin-hole camera), or if you missed it altogether, you can see some stunning images here, many of which are from North Carolina.

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There are two reasons to celebrate tomorrow’s dawn (Sunday, November 3, 2013) in the Eastern US. First, we get an extra hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings (which pleases this writer immensely); second (and perhaps more interestingly), a rare solar eclipse will be visible at sunrise (~ 6:39 AM EST), lasting for about 30 to 45 minutes, given clear skies. Viewing will be low in the sky, roughly 8 degrees from the East-Southeast horizon. (SEE THE WARNING AT THE END OF THIS POST ABOUT VIEWING THE SUN SAFELY).

North Carolinians are in luck: with weather forecasts predicted to be clear at dawn, the Southeastern US should have the best viewing in this part of the world.

North American viewing path for solar eclipse, November 3, 2013 (Source: AccuWeather.com)

North American viewing path for solar eclipse, November 3, 2013 (Source: AccuWeather.com)

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun such that the Moon’s shadow blocks some portion of the solar disk along our line of sight from Earth. Usually solar eclipses are either partial (meaning only a portion of the Sun will be obscured) or total, from all parts of the world at the same moment in time.

Tomorrow’s event is highly unusual in that it will be a hybrid solar eclipse; that is, it will be partial in some parts of the world (the Eastern US and Canada), while total in others (Africa). The partial portion will be for the first several seconds, followed by the total eclipse in Africa for the remaining passage. Maximum eclipse will reach Uganda at 5:23 PM local time.

To watch the total eclipse from Africa, the Slooh Community Observatory in the Canary Islands will be hosting a live feed.

This will be the last solar eclipse of 2013.

Animation of the path of the November 3rd hybrid solar eclipse (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center).

Animation of the path of the November 3rd hybrid solar eclipse (Credit: NASA/Goddard /Space Flight Center).

This will be your final chance to witness a hybrid eclipse, too. Of the nearly 12,000 solar eclipses listed between 1999 BCE and 3000 ACE, only 4.8% are hybrids. The last one was on November 20, 1854, and the next won’t be until October 17, 2172.

The unusual path of this eclipse occurs due to the Moon’s umbra — the innermost and darkest part of its shadow —  piercing the Earth at some locations while missing it entirely in others. The path’s geometry is due to the curvature of the Earth’s surface bringing some geographical locations into total shadow, while others in the path of partial shadow.

What does a solar eclipse look like from space? See below for gorgeous footage of the August 6, 2013 solar eclipse, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which images the Sun from an altitude above Earth of about 36,000 km.

This compilation is from helioviewer, a NASA/ESA solar viewing website.

WARNING! VIEWING THE SUN DIRECTLY, EVEN DURING AN ECLIPSE, CAN CAUSE SERIOUS EYE DAMAGE. CLICK HERE FOR SAFE VIEWING TIPS.

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