March 20: Total Solar Eclipse And Supermoon

SE2015Mar20T_3211178aMarch 20th is the spring equinox , the first day of Spring when the day and night are nearly equal length.  On March 20th there will be a total solar eclipse and a supermoon.

Image courtesy of NASA. Click on the image to view full size.

The celestial spectacle can be observed from large parts of  North America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and South West Asia.  The area where the total eclipse can be observed lies within a wide corridor across the Northern Atlantic, North Sea and Norwegian Sea.  The only populated places where the total solar eclipse can bee seen are the Faroe Islands and the Svalbard Islands (between Norway and the North Pole).

Europe will experience Earth’s biggest solar eclipse since 1999 and it could cause some real disruption due to Europe’s reliance on solar energy.

Power supplies could drop suddenly next month when the UK is plunged into darkness with an eclipse of the sun. Energy experts warned there could be possible blackouts in the biggest solar eclipse since 1999.

Nearly 90 per cent of the sun’s rays will be blocked out in parts of Europe on March 20. In London and the South East, 85 per cent of the sun will be obscured by the moon whilst in northern Scotland, more than 95 per cent will be covered.

The National Grid has warned that solar power output in Britain will halve during the event It is unlikely to cause problems as so little electricity comes from solar power in the UK but other parts of Europe come be plunged into darkness. Telegraph 


Viewed from Earth, the supermoon of March 19, 2011 (right) compared to the average moon of December 20, 2010 (left). Click to enlarge image.

A supermoon used to be called a perigean, it is when the moon is closest to Earth.  When a new moon or a full moon closely coincides with the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit.  On March 20th, 2015 there will be a new moon with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.

About three or four times a year, the new or full moon coincides closely in time with the perigee of the moon—the point when the moon is closest to the planet. These occurrences are often called ‘perigean spring tides.’

The difference between ‘perigean spring tide’ and normal tidal ranges for all areas of the coast is small. In most cases, the difference is only a couple of inches above normal spring tides. The largest difference occurs in certain areas of the Alaska coast where the range of the tide may be increased by around six inches. But considering that these areas have an average tidal range of more than 30 feet, the increase is but a small percentage of the whole (less than a two percent increase).

Online:  What is a perigean spring tide?


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