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Total Solar Eclipse: March 20, 2015

Geographic Region: Iceland, Europe, northern Africa, northern Asia
[Total: northern Atlantic Ocean, Faroe Islands, Svalbard]

The first eclipse of the year occurs in Pisces at the Moon's descending node just 0.6 days after the Moon reaches perigee.  Such a close Moon during a total eclipse usually produces a long duration of totality.  But the March 20 event has a large value for gamma of 0.9454.  This means that the trajectory of the Moon's umbral shadow takes it to high northern latitudes where Earth's rotation makes a smaller contribution in keeping up with the umbra compared to eclipses near the equator.  The end result is that the duration of totality has a maximum value of 2 3/4 minutes, which is about average.  Another effect of a large gamma eclipse is that the umbra sweeps across Earth's surface at a steep angle, producing a wide path of totality.  In the case of the March 20 eclipse, the path width ranges from 406 to 487 kilometers.

The total eclipse is visible from within a wide corridor that traverses the North Atlantic.  A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes Europe, North Africa and western Asia.  The central path begins in the North Atlantic about 700 kilometers south of Greenland at 09:13 UT.  As the shadow travels east, it curves to the north and misses eastern Iceland by less than 70 kilometers.  First landfall of the umbra occurs in the Faroe Islands, a small archipelago of 18 islands situated northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway.  In the capital city of Torshavn, totality begins at approximately 09:41 UT and lasts 2 minutes with the Sun 19° above the southeastern horizon.  Greatest eclipse occurs at 09:46:47 UT, about 260 kilometers north of the Faroe Islands.  The central duration of totality is 2 minutes 47 seconds, the Sun's altitude is 19°, and the path width is 463 kilometers.

Continuing to curve north, the umbra engulfs Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago situated midway between continental Norway and the North Pole.  The capital city of Longyearbyen is located on Spitsbergen, the largest island of Svalbard.  The total eclipse begins here at about 10:11 UT and lasts 2 minutes 27 seconds with the Sun at an altitude of 11°.  In the remaining few minutes, the shadow path turns due north.  The path ends at the North Pole at 10:18 UT as the lunar shadow lifts off Earth and returns to space.  During the course of its 1.1-hour trajectory, the umbra's track is approximately 5,800 kilometers long and covers 0.51% of Earth's surface area.

Partial phases of the eclipse are visible primarily from Iceland, Greenland, Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, the Pacific and East Asia.

This is the 61st eclipse of Saros 120.  The family began with a series of 7 partial eclipses starting on 0933 May 27.  The first central eclipse was annular and took place on 1059 Aug 11.  After 24 more annular and 4 hybrid eclipses, the series changed to total on 1582 Jun 20.  Subsequent members of Saros 120 were all total eclipses with maximum durations hovering around 2 minutes.  The 2015 Mar 20 eclipse is the 25th total eclipse in the series and actually has one of the longest durations (2 minutes 47 seconds).  The next member of the series on 2033 Mar 30 is the last total eclipse of Saros 120.  The following 9 eclipses are all partial terminating with the final eclipse of the series on 2195 Jul 07. 

 

Eclipse map and predictions courtesy of Fred Espenak - NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
For more information on solar and lunar eclipses, see Fred Espenak's Eclipse Home Page:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

 

 

 

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