The longest total solar eclipse of the year happens today

Written by By EJ Dickerson, CNN Chicago, IL

Beginning at around 1:37 a.m. (7:37 p.m. ET), the moon began to make its way around the sun, gradually getting lighter each day for another two weeks. That worked out to 62 hours and 39 minutes of its journey around the sun, which on the 21st made the moon the only celestial body in the sky that made an elliptical orbit around the sun.

That gave Thursday a name in astronomy: the longest eclipse of the year.

The total phase lasted 69 minutes, or 2:49.5 minutes per hour, meaning you would need to spend 16 hours, 9 minutes and 20 seconds in a dark room to watch the entire eclipse, according to NASA.

Because of the relative size of the moon and Earth, each passing eclipse takes longer, since the smaller moon takes its time getting around the larger one. It took only 28 minutes last year for the same duration.

For perspective, Wednesday’s complete eclipse — which was visible from Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan — was just slightly shorter: The moon traveled just 66 minutes around the sun, or about 2:37 for those in the U.S.

During the day, as the moon slowly crept across the sun, viewers in the U.S. saw a ring of fire that was entirely a coincidence. The eclipse’s glow had nothing to do with the brightness of the sun or with any direct rays hitting the moon. Instead, the glow was a natural phenomenon called a penumbral eclipse.

The light from the sun during a penumbral eclipse comes from behind the sun and appears diffuse, similar to the tint at the end of a rainbow.

If you missed the event, you can try again to see another solar eclipse, perhaps in the near future. The next time a total eclipse will appear in the U.S. will be June 8, 2024.

Editor’s note: has postponed its full eclipse coverage, including when totality and totality totality will occur, because of what is believed to be an external system affecting the streaming feed.

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