An eclipse of the sun is an awe-inspiring sight. It always begins on the suns western side and ends on it’s eastern side. At a total eclipse, the beautiful corona, or circle of light, around the sun becomes visible. Men once thought eclipses were miracles. But modern astronomers thoroughly understand eclipses and can predict the times of their occurrence with great precision.
Solar eclipses occur in cycles of time, called the Saros, which equal 18 years and 11 ½ days. The ancient Chaldeans discovered the Saros. The term means repetition. A total eclipse can be seen only in certain parts of the world, because the path of a total eclipse is never wider than 167 miles. The shadow of the moon, as it comes between the Earth and the sun, sweeps across the Earth at speeds ranging from 1,100 to 5,000 miles an hour, depending on the part of the Earth touched by the shadow.
The solar eclipse may last as long as 7 minutes and 40 seconds. The longest total eclipse of modern times took place in June 1955. It lasted 7 minutes and 7.8 seconds. Eclipses visible near the equator have the longest duration.