2000 Years of Solar Eclipses

August 28, 2007


Provided and copyright by: Ivan Gonçalves
Summary authors & editors: Ivan Gonçalves, Jim Foster

This image shows the tracks of 2,000 years worth of total solar eclipse. It was compiled using Bessel’s orbital elements over the period from 0 to 2000 A .D. Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (born in 1784,) was a German astronomer who used mathematical functions, which came to be known as Bessel functions, in his analysis of orbital motion.

The whiter or brighter the picture element (pixel), on this globe, the greater the number of total eclipses that was visible from that pixel. It's noticeable that there are more total solar eclipses in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. This is likely due to the fact that the majority of eclipses have occurred during the months from May through August (summer in the Northern Hemisphere), when the Earth is a few million miles further from the Sun, and thus the apparent diameter of the solar disk is slightly smaller. The result is that the apparent diameter of the lunar disk is just a smidgen larger than that of the solar disk and so there are more total solar eclipses but fewer annular eclipses. Annular eclipses occur where the Moon doesn't completely cover the Sun -- a ring of light remains around the rim of the lunar disk.

The area which witnessed the most total solar eclipses is located in northern Russia (Lat: 74.1°N, Lon: 120.5°E) -- 19 total solar eclipses. During the past 2,000 years, 99.4% of the Earth’s surface has experienced at least one total solar eclipse.

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