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december 26 2019 solar eclipse, surya grahan: all you need to know
the december 26 solar eclipse will have the sun appearing as a ring of fire (photo: colleen pinski/nasa)

highlights

  • a solar eclipse will take place on the morning of december 26
  • the solar eclipse will begin at 8 am and end at 1:30 pm
  • the solar eclipse will be visible most prominently from south india

there is one last grand celestial event to go before we bid this year -- and the second decade of the 21st century -- goodbye: a solar eclipse that will be visible in most of india and that will light up the sky with a bright 'ring of fire' thursday morning. the december 26 solar eclipse will be the last solar eclipse of the year. the solar eclipse will begin at around 8 am and will last for around six hours, ending shortly after 1:30 pm.

the december 26 solar eclipse will be visible most prominently from south india. cities such as kannur, kochi, kozhikode, thiruvananthapuram (trivandrum) in kerala; coimbatore, madurai, ooty, trichy and chennai in tamil nadu; mangaluru and bengaluru in karnataka; and puducherry are among the places in south india that will be able to fully witness the solar eclipse on thursday. other parts of india too will witness the solar eclipse in varying intensity.

the december 26 solar eclipse is what is known as an 'annular eclipse'. basically, this means that the sun and the moon will be positioned in a way to form the 'ring of fire' (we'll explain more later) -- the moon won't be able to completely cover the sun and so, the sun's edges will be illuminated.

want to know more? read on.

what is a solar eclipse?

the earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the earth. what this means is that there are times when the earth, sun and the moon are in a straight line. this leads to one of two celestial phenomena -- a lunar eclipse or a solar eclipse.

a lunar eclipse occurs when the earth comes in between the sun and the moon. this causes earth's shadow to fall on the moon. depending on the angle of the earth, sun and the moon, a lunar eclipse can range from a dark circular shadow being visible on the lunar surface to the moon being coloured in shades of red.

types of lunar eclipse

the opposite of this phenomenon is the solar eclipse. this takes place when the moon comes in between the sun and the earth. the moon obscures the sun either partly or completely.

how often do solar eclipses take place?

according to the respected website timeanddate.com, two to five solar eclipses take place ever year. five solar eclipses taking place in one year is extremely rare, the website reports citing us space agency nasa's research.

according to the website, the last time five solar eclipses took place in the same year was in 1935 and the next time it will happen is in 2206.

the solar eclipse of december 26 is the third one to take place in 2019. according to calculations made by timeanddate.com, we will witness two solar eclipses every year until 2028.

is december 26 solar eclipse a total eclipse?

short answer: no. the december 26 solar eclipse is what is known as an 'annular solar eclipse'. in simpler terms, on thursday the moon will not be able to completely cover the sun. even when the whole of moon covers the sun, the edges of the star will be left uncovered. this will lead to the 'ring of fire' phenomenon where the sun appears as a disc with its edges illuminated in an angry reddish yellow hue.

why does this happen? well, the earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit. and the moon in turn revolves around the earth in an elliptical orbit. what this means is that at different times the moon and the sun are located at different distances in space from the earth.

the earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit and the moon revolves around the earth in an elliptical orbit (graphic courtesy: nasa/jpl/caltech)

so, when the sun is relatively closer to earth, it appears larger from our planet and when it's farther, it appears smaller. the same logic applies to the moon's apparent size as well.

now, for a total solar eclipse (when the moon completely covers the sun) to take place, the sun and the moon have to be positioned in such a manner that from earth, the sun appears smaller than the moon.

an annular solar eclipse (l) and a total solar eclipse (r)

during the december 26 solar eclipse, that will not take place. the sun's apparent size will be larger than that of the moon and so, our satellite will not be able to fully cover the star.

what time will the december 26 solar eclipse take place?

according to the india meteorological department's kolkata-based positional astronomy centre, the december 26 solar eclipse will begin at 8 am on thursday. the solar eclipse will slowly increase intensity before peaking at two hours later.

the december 26 solar eclipse will be at its maximum intensity at 10:47 am. the solar eclipse will remain at the maximum intensity for a little under four minutes before it begins losing intensity. the solar eclipse will end at 1:35 pm.

where can i watch the december 26 solar eclipse?

like we mentioned earlier, the december 26 solar eclipse will be visible most prominently in south india. apart from india, the solar eclipse will be visible in the middle east, north eastern africa, asia (except north), eastern russia, north and western australia and solomon island.

in india, the solar eclipse will be most prominently visible in the south indian states of kerala, tamil nadu and karnataka and the union territory of puducherry. according to the imd, the following cities and the regions around them will be able to witness the solar eclipse in all its glory:

kerala: kannur, kochi, kozhikode thiruvananthapuram (trivandrum)
tamil nadu: coimbatore, madurai, ooty, trichy and chennai
karnataka: mangaluru and bengaluru

the ring of fire seen during a solar eclipse

while these regions will be witness the solar eclipse fully, other parts of india too will be able to see the december 26 solar eclipse. however, the intensity could vary and some regions will only witness a partial solar eclipse.

how can i watch the december 26 solar eclipse?

if you have protective glasses (see the next section for more), you can simply step out and look up at the sky. also, if your city has a planetarium, check with them and find out if they have organised a special viewing event; most planetariums usually do.

you can also watch the solar eclipse from within the confines of your home. usually, the website timeandate.com's youtube channel runs a livestream capturing the various stages of any eclipse (solar or lunar).

slooh, an online network that streams visuals from telescopes around the world, will also be running a livestream of the december 26 solar eclipse. you can watch the livestream of the december 26 solar eclipse on their youtube:

how do i protect my eyes during a solar eclipse?

first of all, the sun does not emit any mysterious radiation that will damage your eyes. the only reason you should not watch a solar eclipse with a naked eye is because you anyway should not be staring at the sun with naked eyes.

gazing at the sun -- eclipse or no eclipse -- can damage your eye. and so, you must use special purpose glasses or solar filters that meet the international organization for standardisation's iso 12312-2 certification.

you will need special purpose eyewear to watch a solar eclipse

the iso 12312-2 certification is specifically for sunglasses and filters meant to aid direct observations of the sun. remember that any eyewear that does not meet the iso 12312-2 certification should not be used to watch a solar eclipse.

will cooked food go bad during a solar eclipse?

straight, unequivocal answer: no! and while we're at it, pregnant women have nothing to fear from a solar eclipse, nothing is going to happen to you if you step outdoors during a solar eclipse and there's no need to avoid eating food or drinking water during the duration of the event.

all these are plain myths that have absolutely no backing science. so, if you have the glasses, step out on thursday, look up at the sky and take in one of nature's most alluring phenomena: a beautiful solar eclipse.