Astronomy: March Supermoon to Stage Total Eclipse of Equinox Sun

The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a total solar eclipse in Scotland. Photo: Crash MacDuff University

The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a total solar eclipse in Scotland.
Photo: Crash MacDuff University

On March 20 – same date as the 2015 March equinox – the moon turns new only 14 hours after reaching lunar perigee – moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit.

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This moon is a supermoon – at the new phase – not visible in our sky, but having a larger-than-average effect on Earth’s oceans. Plus this new supermoon swings right in front of the equinox sun on March 20, so that the moon’s shadow falls on parts of Earth.

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Who will see the March 20 eclipse? Note on the worldwide map above that the path of totality (in red) passes mainly over the frigid waters of North Atlantic Ocean. In other words, only those along that path – at high northern latitudes, near Greenland and Iceland – will see the total eclipse. The path of totality starts at sunrise to the south of Greenland, circles to the east of Greenland and Iceland at midday, and ends to the north of Greenland at sunset. The best spots to watch this total solar eclipse from land are the Faroe Islands and the Svalbard archipelago, which reside right on the semi-circle path of totality.

A much larger swath of the world gets to see varying degrees of a partial solar eclipse (Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and northwestern Asia).

March 20, 2015 total eclipse times from land

Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Partial solar eclipse begins: 8:39 a.m. Western European Time (WET)
Total solar eclipse begins: 9:41 a.m. WET
Maximum eclipse: 9:42 a.m. WET
Total solar eclipse ends: 9:43 a.m. WET
Partial solar eclipse ends: 10:48 a.m. WET

Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Partial solar eclipse begins: 10:12 a.m. Central European Time (CET)
Total solar eclipse begins: 11:11 a.m. CET
Maximum eclipse: 11:12 a.m. CET
Total solar eclipse ends: 11:13 a.m. CET
Partial solar eclipse ends: 12:12 a.m. CET

March 20, 2015 partial eclipse times

Reykjavik, Iceland
Solar eclipse begins: 8:38 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Greatest eclipse: 9:37 a.m. GMT
Solar eclipse ends: 10:39 a.m. GMT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 98%

London, England
Solar eclipse begins: 8:25 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Greatest eclipse: 9:31 a.m. GMT
Solar eclipse ends: 10:41 a.m. GMT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 84%

Algiers, Algeria
Solar eclipse begins: 9:06 a.m. Central European Time (CET)
Greatest eclipse: 10:11 a.m. CET
Solar eclipse ends: 11:20 a.m. CET
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 53%

Istanbul, Turkey
Solar eclipse begins: 10:53 a.m. Eastern European Time (EET)
Greatest eclipse: 11:57 a.m. EET
Solar eclipse ends: 1:02 p.m. EET
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 32%

Moscow, Russia
Solar eclipse begins: 12:13 p.m. Moscow Standard Time (MST)
Greatest eclipse: 1:20 p.m. MST
Solar eclipse ends: 2:27 p.m. MST
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 58%

You can obtain specific information on the March 20 eclipse in your part of the world at the sites listed below. Be sure to watch whether the times are given in Universal Time, meaning you must convert Universal Time into your local time.

afely watching a solar eclipse via the projection method. Photo by Flickr user David.

Safely watching a solar eclipse via the projection method. Photo by Flickr user David.

How to watch an eclipse safely. Remember to use proper eye protection if you want to observe this eclipse! The photo above shows one method for safely watching the partial phases of a solar eclipse: the projection method. You can also view an eclipse safely through special eclipse glasses.

Partial eclipses are very beautiful, too. During the May 2012 eclipse, as the moon nearly blotted out the sun, many saw dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun’s image onto cars and buildings. This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.

Partial eclipses are very beautiful, too. During the May 2012 eclipse, as the moon nearly blotted out the sun, many saw dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun’s image onto cars and buildings. This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.

On the Web:

Watch the 2015 Total Solar Eclipse from the Faroe Islands – starting at 4:30am EDT/1:30am PDT/08:30 UTC.

TimeandDate.com – gives eclipse times in local time

HM Nautical Almanac – eclipse animations for 534 localities

Interactive Google map – information is just a click away

Solar eclipse computer – courtesy of the US Naval observatory

Happy viewing!

Crash

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