The First Total Solar Eclipse in Two Years Is Coming in July

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you saved your protective glasses from 2017's solar eclipse, now's the time to dig them out of storage. A total solar eclipse, the first one visible from Earth in nearly two years, will occur over parts of South America and the South Pacific on July 2, 2019.

What is a solar eclipse?

There are several different types of eclipses, including lunar (when the Moon passes beneath our planet's shadow) and annular (when the Sun's edges are visible as a ring around the Moon). A total eclipse is the best-known and most anticipated of such phenomena: When the Moon is in the right position in the sky, it perfectly aligns with the Earth and the Sun, appearing to totally block out the Sun from certain vantage points. While partial solar eclipses, in which the Moon only covers part of the Sun, can happen a few times a year, total solar eclipses are much rarer.

Where to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse of 2019

Unlike the last total solar eclipse in 2017, this next one doesn't fall over the United States. Most of it will be obscured above the Pacific Ocean, but a small section of the path of totality will be visible from South America. On Tuesday, July 2 around sunset, people in parts of Chile and Argentina can look to the horizon and see the Moon cross the Sun. The event may be worth the trip for eclipse chasers: the Andean region where the eclipse will take place is known for its low humidity and clear skies at high altitudes.

This particular total eclipse is also notable for its duration. At its peak, totality will last four minutes and 33 seconds—which exceeds the peak totality of the total solar eclipse in 2017. But to see the Moon block the Sun for that long, sky-gazers will need to take a boat into the middle of the South Pacific.

Save Up to 93 Percent on 8 Gaming Accessories and Enter to Win a Free Nintendo Switch Bundle

Stackcommerce
Stackcommerce

The Nintendo Switch is one of the hottest video game consoles of the past few decades, with worldwide sales topping 55 million (that's more than the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, and it's only a few million behind the original NES). The problem with a console being so popular is that it's not always easy to spot one on store shelves. If you haven't had luck finding one in recent months, you can enter this contest to win your very own Nintendo Switch, along with a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a pair of Switch-compatible Logitech wireless headphones, and a $300 Nintendo gift card. Head here for more details.

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Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.



A Rare Blue Moon Will Light Up the Night Sky This Halloween

Halloween will be even spookier this year.
Halloween will be even spookier this year.
VladGans/iStock via Getty Images

Wolves, werewolves, and people dressed as werewolves will have a bona fide full moon to howl at this Halloween. And it’s not just any full moon—it’s a blue moon.

What Is a Blue Moon?

Since a complete lunar cycle is 29.5 days long, this usually works out to one full moon per calendar month. If a full moon occurs on the first or second day of the month, however, there could technically be another one within the same month. When that happens—about once every 2.5 to 3 years, according to the Farmers’ Almanac—the second full moon is called a “blue moon.”

But up until the mid-20th century, blue moons had a different definition. The Maine Farmers’ Almanac and similar publications used to count full moons by season, so a year with 13 full moons meant that one season would have four (not three) full moons. To avoid messing with full moon nicknames that were tied to certain times of year (e.g. the “moon before Yule”), the third full moon in a season of four was named a “blue moon.”

In a 1943 column for Sky & Telescope, Laurence J. Lafleur mentioned that blue moons occur when a year has 13 full moons, but he didn’t go into detail about how the Maine Farmers’ Almanac determined which moon was, in fact, the blue one. Three years later, another Sky & Telescope author, James Hugh Pruett, wrote an article in which he incorrectly assumed that the blue moon was the second full moon in a month with two. The magazine repeated Pruett’s rule in future stories, and it eventually caught on with the general public.

Why Is It Called a “Blue Moon”?

Just like a pink moon isn’t pink and a worm moon isn’t crawling with worms, a blue moon isn’t actually blue. One theory holds that the name is derived from the Old English word belewe, or “to betray”—perhaps since blue moons betray the normal schedule of full moons. This lunar rarity is also said to be the origin of the phrase once in a blue moon.

The moon actually has appeared blue in the past. After a massive volcanic eruption, the ash in the sky can sometimes block red light particles, giving the moon a bluish tint. According to NASA, this happened after Indonesia’s Krakatoa erupted in 1883, and again when Mexico’s El Chichón spewed its molten guts a century later.

When Can I See October’s Blue Moon?

October's first full moon, the harvest moon, is coming on Thursday, October 1. The second one, the blue moon, will peak on Saturday, October 31, at 10:49 a.m. EST, so you’ll be able to see it before the sun rises or after it sets. Since a full moon on Halloween only happens once every 19 years or so, cross your fingers for clear skies that night.