As the name suggests, these eclipses are only partial. The sun is not completely blocked out by the moon at any point during the eclipse. But some of the effects may still occur (you might still get to see Baily's Beads). Partial eclipses vary in magnitude depending on how close to or far away from the umbra you are. The closer to it you are, the fuller the eclipse will look. Remember, a partial eclipse can only be seen by someone in the penumbra.

This diagram shows the locations of partial eclipses for 1999 worldwide. Source http://www.eclipse.org.uk


Are they called 'ANNULAR' because they happen once a year? NO, of course not, don't be stupid! The word 'annular' comes from the word 'annulus', meaning 'ring' (no, not as in telephone!) They are called annular eclipses because the moon leaves a small ring of the sun left visible to us because it now looks smaller than the sun. "But you said that the moon was both 400 times smaller and closer to us than the sun! Why has the moon shrunk?!" you ask astonished.

3 different phases of the annular eclipse of Feb 26, 1998. Taken from http://www.demon.co.uk

Well, as you probably are aware, the planets don't orbit the sun in perfect circles. They go round in a shape called an ELLIPSE (not to be confused with eclipse), which is a roundish shape. They can be almost circular at one end of the scale, right through to being very long and thin at the other. The moon orbits earth in an ellipse shape, but it is not as circular as the planets' orbits. This should tell you that sometimes the moon goes further away from us than usual. This should also tell you that at this point the difference in distance between the moon and sun from earth is less than 400 times. The scales of size and distance are different, and this causes the moon to appear to shrink (it doesn't really shrink; it's just an optical illusion).This is what happens: during an annular eclipse, the moon is at it's farthest point out in it's orbit. This causes it to appear that little bit smaller to us, a little bit too small to cover the sun completely.

An annular eclipse partly blocked out by clouds. Taken from http://www.eclipse.org.uk

The rules for seeing these are the same as for total eclipses. Although the umbra doesn't reach the earth's surface this time, you would have to be under where it would be to see an annular eclipse (If you own an aeroplane and can fly high enough under the umbra, there is a small chance of seeing a total eclipse). Again, those in the penumbra would observe a regular partial eclipse.


OK, this is the final type of solar eclipse, and I should add it's the most bizarre! First, you need to know what the word HYBRID means. It basically means MIXTURE. So a hybrid eclipse is a mixture of eclipses. The eclipse changes it's status as the day progresses. This is what might happen: Someone in the west sees an annular eclipse, and later in the day further east, someone will see a total eclipses (Those in the penumbra still only see a regular partial eclipse! Obviously the penumbra is not the best place to be if you're after variety!)

"EH?! How can an eclipse change status?!" You say perplexed. You could think of it like this:-



Take heed of that warning! It's probably the most serious thing you'll read in this entire section on eclipses!

A man is standing in front of a large metal ball and is holding a pistol with two bullets loaded. The bullets can travel 10 m and the man is 10 m away from the centre of the ball when directly in front of the centre. He is directly in front of the side of the ball and he fires. The bullet falls short and doesn't reach the ball. He then moves sideways to the direct front of the ball and fires at the centre of it. This time the bullet hits the ball! This is how they behave! The moon's shadow (represented by the bullet) travels towards the earth (the big metal ball). The shadow isn't long enough to reach the earth (represented by the bullet falling short) and an annular eclipse is visible from that side of the planet. As the moon moves along (portrayed when the man side stepped) the shadow has less distance to travel due to the earth's curve . The shadow now hits the earth (as you saw when the bullet hit the ball) and a total eclipse can be seen from this point (YET AGAIN, those in the penumbra will only see a REGULAR partial eclipse!).