Longest Solar Eclipse Coming Wednesday -- Sneak Preview

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July 20, 2009—The total solar eclipse on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, will be the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century. Preview the eclipse via animations and more.

© 2009 National Geographic; Video courtesy NASA

Unedited Transcript

On Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009, parts of Asia will see the earths longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century. The eclipse of the sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor in Asia and into the Pacific Ocean.

The path of the eclipse begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japans Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast into the ocean.

A small portion of Japan will see the longest eclipse.

SUPER: Holly Gilbert, NASA Astrophysicist And thats where the longest, the maximum duration of totality will occur, which is about six minutes and 39 seconds. That is an incredibly long duration of totality, compared to other solar eclipses. In fact, that will be the longest one we will have in the 21st century.

SUPER: Holly Gilbert, NASA Astrophysicist During a total solar eclipse, the moon comes between the sun and the earth and it casts a shadow on the earth. And for those people that happen to be in that small area where the shadow is, theyre going to experience what we call a total solar eclipse. And basically the moon exactly blocks out the solar disc, which is a good thing for those of us that study the outer atmosphere, because in blocking out the very, very bright solar disc, we are then able to view the outer atmosphere called the corona, which is much less brightits about a million times less bright than the disc. So, the solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity to view the outer atmosphere, and the moon just happens to be at the exact perfect distance away from the earth that it completely blocks out just the disc of the sun.

SUPER: Holly Gilbert, NASA Astrophysicist You have to be right in the exact place where that shadow is crossing in order to experience the total solar eclipse. A larger area is covered by the penumbra, and that will provide a partial solar eclipse. But total solar eclipses are only viewed from a very small area of the earth.

Scientists warn not to view the sun with the naked eye or through binoculars or telescopes. They say failure to use filtration can result in permanent eye damage or even blindness.

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