What is a Solar Eclipse

Our ignorance about basic solar eclipse facts is quite surprising, considering that most of us have had it as a part of our elementary school curriculum. The fact that as many as five solar eclipses can take place in a single calendar year is bound to come as a surprise for many, but that's absolutely true. In fact, year 2011 in itself has as many as four solar eclipses lined up - the first of which occurred on 4th January, while the rest of the three are lined up for 1st June, 1st July and 25th November respectively. There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that solar eclipse schedule for 2011 is quite promising in itself, but you need to brush up your knowledge about this celestial occurrence if you are to make sure that you make the most of these opportunities coming your way in 2011.
What is a Solar Eclipse and How Does it Occur?
In astronomy, solar eclipse is a celestial event wherein the moon - while orbiting the Earth, comes in between the Sun and the Earth in such manner that it blocks the view of the solar body when seen from a particular location on the planet. As moon lies between the Sun and the Earth, its shadow falls on the planet. If you happen to reside in the particular area where the shadow falls, you will not be able to see the Sun - and hence it is referred to as the eclipse of the Sun. Solar eclipses can be divided into three different types:
* Total solar eclipse - wherein the Sun appears to be totally covered by the moon. A total solar eclipse only lasts for 3 minutes on an average. (Last occurred: 11th July, 2010. Next occurrence: 13th November, 2012.
* Partial solar eclipse - wherein a part of the Sun appears to be covered by the moon. All the four solar eclipses scheduled for 2011 are partial solar eclipses. (Last occurred 4th January, 2011. Next occurrence: 1st June, 2011.)
* Annular solar eclipse - wherein the moon is placed in such a manner that the Sun appears like a diamond ring. In this case, the moon is located at the farthest point in its orbit. (Last occurred: 15th January, 2010. Next occurrence: 20th May, 2012.)

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