On the 20th of April, parts of the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions will experience a rare type of event called a hybrid solar eclipse.
Hybrid solar eclipses shift from total to annular as the moon's shadow races over Earth; in some places, the moon completely blots out the sun, whereas in others a ring of light is visible around the edge of our natural satellite. These eclipses are quite rare, occurring just a few times every century — and one will grace our planet's skies less than two weeks from now.
Some skywatchers in this region will be treated to a total solar eclipse, whereas others will see a "ring of fire" annular eclipse. Still, others will witness a partial solar eclipse, with the moon taking a bite out of a portion of the sun.
There are two points on Earth where the eclipse will transition from annular to total to annular again. However, those two spots are remote locales in the middle of the ocean, Space.com’s Jamie Carter pointed out.
Hybrid eclipses happen due to the fact that Earth is curved and the moon’s shadow has different regions, particularly a darker central region known as the umbra and a lighter outer region, the penumbra. Hybrid eclipses occur when the moon is as far away from Earth as it can be in its elliptical orbit, while still having the umbra meet the surface of our planet.
"The moon is just at the right distance from Earth for the apex of its cone-shaped shadow to be slightly above the Earth's surface at the beginning and end of the eclipse path, causing the moon's adumbral shadow to move across Earth, causing an annular solar eclipse," Carter wrote in his explainer piece. "However, in the middle of the eclipse path, the apex of the moon's umbral shadow strikes Earth's surface because that part of the planet is slightly closer to the moon."
The last eclipse of this type occurred almost 10 years ago, on 3rd of November, 2013. The next hybrid solar eclipse after this month's will occur in November 2031 and will be visible from some parts of the contiguous United States. After this, the next time skywatchers will get to see a hybrid eclipse is on the 23rd of March, 2164.
And keep thrusting Australia into the deep unknown…