What Is a Solar Eclipse?

Time lapse of the total solar eclipse of November 14, 2012, as seen from the South Pacific near New Caledonia. This sequence of phases runs from lower right to upper left.

Learn how total solar eclipses occur

Seeing a total solar eclipse from where you live is a rare experience.

Check out our video below to learn what causes eclipses and find out why everyone’s view of each eclipse is different.

What is a solar eclipse?

Credit: Ontario Science Centre

The Moon cycles through phases as it orbits the Earth. When the Sun, Earth and Moon align, the Moon blocks the Sun, which casts a large shadow on Earth. This is known as an eclipse.

Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich

Your position on Earth determines what you see during an eclipse. If the Sun’s light appears entirely blocked by the Moon, you are standing in the path of totality.

Credit: National Geographic

Earth’s distance from the Sun, the Moon’s distance from Earth and the position of each (Sun, Moon and Earth) in its rotation all affect where the path of totality falls.

Credit: California Academy of Sciences

Explore more space science

Check out our exciting line-up of pre-eclipse events, IMAX® films and more when planning your next visit to the Science Centre!

Plus, learn how you can safely view solar eclipses from wherever you are in the world and watch our other videos to explore more eclipse science!

Top image photo credit: Rick Fienberg/TravelQuest International/Wilderness Travel