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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Explained: Annular solar eclipse and summer solstice, witnessed on June 20-21

Sunday’s solar eclipse is a rare annular eclipse that occurs once in every one or two years, and coincides with the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Published: June 21, 2020 7:56:37 pm
Solar eclipse, partial Solar eclipse 2020, summer solstice The partial solar eclipse, as visible in Lucknow on Sunday. (Express photo: Vishal Srivastav)

Out of the two solar eclipses that will be observed this year, one took place today (June 21) and was visible in India until 3:04 pm. It was also visible in parts of Asia, Africa, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, parts of Europe and Australia.

The point of “maximum eclipse”, characterised by a perfect solar halo around the moon, was witnessed over Uttarakhand and the exact formation lasted for about 38 seconds.

Today’s solar eclipse is a rare annular eclipse that occurs once in every one or two years, and coincides with the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year, called the summer solstice. Like the solar eclipse, a second solstice happens each year in December.

What is the Summer Solstice?

June 20 or the day of the summer solstice is characterised by a greater amount of energy received from the Sun. According to NASA, the amount of incoming energy the Earth received from the Sun on this day is 30 per cent higher at the North Pole than at the Equator.

Solar eclipse, partial Solar eclipse 2020, summer solstice The partial solar eclipse, as visible from Srinagar on Sunday. (Express photo: Shuaib Masoodi)

What this means is that on the day of the solstice, the northern hemisphere received the longest stretch of daylight in a given year.

During the solstice, the Earth’s axis – around which the planet spins, completing one turn each day – is tilted in a way that the North Pole is tipped towards the Sun and the South Pole is away from it.

Typically, this imaginary axis passes right through the middle of the Earth from top to bottom and is always tilted at 23.5 degrees with respect to the Sun. Therefore, the solstice, as NASA puts it, is that instant in time when the North Pole points more directly toward the Sun that at any other time during the year. Solstice means “sun stands still” in Latin.

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What is an Annular Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse is witnessed when the moon is aligned between the Sun and Earth, blocking the light received by the Earth from the Sun. An annular solar eclipse, on the other hand, happens when the Moon is the farthest from the Earth, because of which, it looks smaller and does not block the entire view of the Sun creating a “ring of fire” effect.

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