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Why Are Solar Eclipses Rare & How They Affect Solar Panels?

Tim Carter
Written by Tim Carter Last Updated: July 22, 2022

Solar eclipses always draw a sizable audience, and for good reason. Solar eclipses are mesmerizing, but they are also rare. Why are solar eclipses rare? How do they happen? Why don’t we have solar eclipses every month? And, since we know that solar power relies solely on the abundance of sunlight, the question is: how do they affect our solar panel systems’ electricity production?

Partial solar eclipses occur 2 to 5 partial times in a year. Total solar eclipses occur about every 18 months, but only 30% of total solar eclipses are visible from the land because of the tilt of Earth, Sun, and Moon. Besides, a total solar eclipse happens in a particular region once every 375 years.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon totally blocks out the sun, darkening a region of the Earth.

Solar eclipses might theoretically occur once a month, too, since it takes the moon about one month to complete one orbit of Earth.

However, there are other factors at play that make sure they don’t.

Solar eclipses come in three varieties: total, partial, and annular. A rare hybrid eclipse that combines an annular and a complete eclipse is also possible.

There are a few famous solar eclipses that are tied to specific historical events.

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How Do Solar Eclipses Occur?

So, what are solar eclipses? How do they occur?

In a partial solar eclipse, the Moon’s shadow obscures a portion of the Earth during the day by blocking the Sun.

This happens between 2 and 5 times per year. However, the fifth time is exceptional, and the next time it will happen is in 2206.

The average number of total solar eclipses in a century is 66 for our entire planet.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon totally blocks out the Sun, leaving only the pale solar corona. Approximately once every 18 months, this occurs.

The orbit of the Moon is tilted when measuring it from the equator of the Earth, so the shadow that the Moon forms when it blocks out the sun usually falls above or below the Earth.

The sun appears the same from where we’re standing, but the shadow cannot reach us until the moon crosses in front of the sun at precisely the proper point in its orbit.

When a total solar eclipse occurs, the Sun is also about 400 times bigger than the Moon, but it is also about 400 times farther away, which makes them appear the same size, giving the complete solar eclipse its ideal visual fit.

However, the moon and sun don’t always align properly.

As a result, the moon’s orbit, which is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle, causes the moon’s distance from Earth to fluctuate between a low of approximately 220,000 miles (354,000 km) and a high of around 250,000 miles (402,000 km).

The moon appears smaller when it is farther away. It appears too small completely to conceal the sun, so it only partially obstructs the sun. Although the result is still remarkable, there’s no dazzling brilliance.

Besides, the Earth’s surface is roughly 70% water, which further complicates matters because only 30% of total solar eclipses that occur may be seen from land.

The potential of cloud cover at the exact moment an eclipse is occurring is another common issue. You won’t see the solar eclipse if the sky is cloudy.

Finally, t a total solar eclipse only happens in a particular region of the earth once every 375 years.

Don’t miss it if you have the chance to witness it!

The next solar total solar eclipse in 2024 will be the last one for two decades.

You can also read about the history of solar eclipses here.

How Do Solar Eclipses Affect Solar Panels?

There’s a connection between the amount of solar energy produced and the Sun’s available light.

This gives you a glimpse of what’s going on during the solar eclipse.

The amount of electricity solar panels produce decreases as the moon’s shadow quickly blocks out the sunshine.

The shadow falling on solar panels steadily recedes as the solar eclipse ends.

As a result, energy production rises quickly.

The last total solar eclipse in the USA, which occurred on August 21, 2017, began above Salem, Oregon, and ended above Charleston, South Carolina, was the first continental eclipse in 99 years.

The output of photovoltaic (PV) power facilities across the United States significantly fell, although only lasting a couple of minutes at each site.

Natural gas-powered turbines and hydro-generated power that could ramp up before the eclipse had to make up for the lost electricity from solar generators, or to bridge the gap left by solar output.

Are Solar Eclipses Rarer than Lunar Eclipses?

Actually, there are nearly equal numbers of solar and lunar eclipses each year, with about two of each occurring on average.

There will be 12,064 lunar eclipses and 11,898 solar eclipses, for instance, between 2000 BC and 3000 AD. A solar eclipse, as opposed to a lunar one, is far less often at any one location on Earth. Geometry alone is solely responsible for this.

Wherever the Moon is above the horizon, which is over half of the Earth, a lunar eclipse can be seen as the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. The shadow that the Moon casts on Earth, however, is much smaller when it appears to move in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse. When projected onto Earth’s surface, it is only approximately 480 km (300 miles) wide.

It is challenging to reach a spot to view a solar eclipse because they are only viewable from inside a constrained path over the Earth. They are less frequently visible from any particular position because of this.

How Far Apart Are the Sun, Moon, and Earth During Eclipses?

The type of eclipse tells us how far are the Sun, Moon, and Earth.

When the Sun is completely covered by the Moon during a total eclipse, the Sun must be approximately 400 times further from the Moon than it is from the Earth.

Otherwise, the Moon won’t entirely cover the Sun but we will be able to see an annular eclipse that creates a ring of light around the Sun.

When Are the Next Total Solar Eclipses?

The Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14, 2023, and the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024, will be the next solar eclipses in the United States.

In the next 10 years, there will be three total solar eclipses visible from different parts of Europe and the Americas.

  1. 2024, April 8, visible in the West in Europe, North America, North in South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic
  2. 2026, August 12, visible in Europe, North/East Asia, North/West Africa, and much of North America, Pacific, Atlantic, and the Arctic.
  3. 2027, August 2, visible in South/West Europe, South/West Asia, Much of Africa, East in North America, Atlantic, Indian Ocean

Besides these three, the fourth total solar eclipse will occur in 2031, on November 14. It will be visible in parts of North America, North/West South America, the Pacific, and the Atlantic.

Check out all the eclipses that will occur in the next decade.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, solar and lunar eclipses are not as rare as we might think.

Yet, when a solar eclipse occurs, it significantly reduces the efficiency of solar panels while it lasts. As soon as it passes, there’s a surge in electricity production.

However, we cannot see them because of the position of the Sun, Earth, and Moon relative to our own geographical location.

So, as a total solar eclipse happens in a particular region once every 375 years, make sure not to miss it if you have the chance to witness it.


Tim Carter
Tim Carter

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