The fascinating rhythm of the sun and the moon

Fascinating rhythm
You’ve got me on the go
Fascinating rhythm
I’m all a-quiver
Fascinating Rhythm (George & Ira Gershwin, 1924)

The motions of the sun and the moon across the sky will create a fascinating rhythm in 2019, producing five different kinds of eclipses. There will also be a rare-ish transit of Mercury.

The first new moon of the year (Sunday 6 January) will produce a partial solar eclipse across most of north-east Asia. Two weeks later, the first full moon of the year (Sunday 20/Monday 21 January) will produce a total lunar eclipse visible across North and South America, Europe and the western half of Africa. (In the US, this eclipse falls on the Sunday night of the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend, making it a prime-time event…)

Jumping forward six months — when the earth, moon and sun become aligned once again — the new moon of Monday 2 July will produce a total solar eclipse. Totality will be visible along a narrow corridor (about 150 km or 90 miles wide) that begins in the South Pacific and ends close to Buenos Aires in Argentina (map below). The following full moon on Tuesday 16/Wednesday 17 July will produce a partial lunar eclipse across every continent except North America.

2 July 2019 total solar eclipse (

Another six-month jump brings us to the year’s final eclipse: an annular solar eclipse on Thursday 26 December. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is too far from the earth to cover the sun completely: the result is an annulus, which is the shape of a ring (picture below).

Image: Juan Carlos Casado

During the new moon of 26 December, this ‘ring of fire’ will be visible along a narrow path stretching from Saudi Arabia to Guam in the North Pacific (map below).

26 December 2019 annular solar eclipse (

One more thing: over the course of five-and-a-half hours on Monday 11 November, the planet Mercury will cross the face of the sun. Transits of Mercury are rare-ish events — they happen about 13 times a century — and can only be seen with a telescope equipped with a telescope solar filter.

I’ll be part of the team at providing live coverage of the 20-21 January lunar eclipse, 2 July solar eclipse, and 11 November transit of Mercury.

IMPORTANT: NEVER look at the sun with the naked eye.

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