Eclipses in 2016

There are four eclipses in 2016, two each of the Sun and moon. Four is the minimum number of eclipses there can be in a year.

The first solar eclipse is on March 9, it is total with a path starting in the eastern Indian Ocean. It crosses parts of Indonesia before heading off across the Pacific Ocean between the equator and latitude 30° north. The maximum duration of totality is just over 4 minutes. The second solar eclipse is on September 1, it is annular. The path of annularity starts in the Atlantic Ocean just south of the equator. The path passes through central Africa to swing south through northern Madagascar and across the south Indian Ocean to end at sunset a little short of Western Australia. No part of either solar eclipse is visible from New Zealand.

By contrast to the solar eclipses, the two lunar eclipses are very paltry affairs. Both are partial penumbral events with no part of the moon entering the full shadow of the Earth. The first lunar eclipse is on March 23, 2 weeks after the total eclipse of the Sun. At its maximum just over three-quarters of the moons diameter will be in the penumbra making it difficult to detect. In the southern hemisphere the eclipsed moon will be visible from Australia and New Zealand. The second lunar eclipse is on September 16 (UT) when the moon will move a little deeper into the penumbra than in March. At its maximum 91% of the moons diameter will be in the penumbra with the northern edge of the moon closest to the full shadow. This part of the moon is likely to be noticeably duller, but still in no way dark.

More information on eclipses can be obtained at the NASA eclipse pages:

Diagrams, maps and the tables showing times of phases of lunar eclipses have been prepared using David Herald's Occult 4 program.


Viewing Eclipses of the Sun and Transits of Planets across the Sun

Whenever the Sun is to be observed safe viewing methods must be used. Any attempt to view the Sun directly could result in instant blindness.

The safest way is to project the image of the Sun onto a suitable screen. Alternatively a suitable, specially designed, Solar filter may be placed in front of the telescope.

It is not safe to use a filter at the eyepiece as the focussed heat from the Sun could shatter it. If unsure of safe methods consult your local astronomical society about suitable ways of observing Solar events.


Total eclipse of the Sun 2016 March 9

The total eclipse of the Sun on March 9 starts in the eastern Indian Ocean to the west of Sumatra. The Sun rises totally eclipsed in a position a little south of the equator. At first its path is almost due east passing across the southern part of Sumatra and then south Borneo. The path then begins to swing to the north as it crosses Sulawesi (Celebes) and Halmahera Island in the northern Moluccas where is moves north of the equator. The total eclipse path continues across the Pacific gradually getting further north reaching a latitude north 30° when it will be north of Hawaii. The eclipsed sun sets to the northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. The maximum duration of totality will be 4 minutes, 9 seconds while it is crossing the Pacific.

To the north of the path of totality, a partial eclipse is visible at sunrise from much of India. In the early morning a partial eclipse occurs in Indochina, much of China and the Philippines. A little later in the day the partial eclipse will be visible from Korea and Japan then the Kamchatka Peninsula while the low to setting eclipsed sun will be visible from most of Alaska.

To the south the partially eclipsed Sun will be visible from Western Australia except the extreme south, the Northern Territory of Australia and South Australia except the southeast. The majority of Queensland will also get a view as well as the southern islands of Indonesia and Pacific Islands to the east of them.

No part of the eclipse is visible from Victoria, New South Wales or from New Zealand.

March 9 total eclipse


Partial Penumbral eclipse of the Moon 2016 March 23

At this eclipse of the moon a maximum of just over 75% of the moon’s diameter moves into the Earth’s penumbral shadow. That is, almost one-quarter of the moon diameter will be outside even this slight shadow.

In the penumbra there is only a partial eclipse. In this case an observer on the southern part of the moon facing the Sun would see part of the Sun covered by the dark Earth. As the observer moved to the north on the moon less of the Sun would be covered until in the far north no part of it would be hidden. That is the most northerly part of the moon will be fully sunlit.

On the Earth the entire eclipse occurs while the moon is visible as seen from New Zealand as well as eastern and central Australia. In the west of Australia, the moon rises while the eclipse is in progress. Visually there will be very little to see. Although the northern parts of the full moon’s face will be somewhat dulled, it is doubtful if it will be detectable visually.

Times of the start, maximum and end of the eclipse are shown on the diagram, which also shows the parts of the Earth the various stages are visible from. The coloured circles at the top left shows the path of the moon (outline and numbered 1, 4 and 7) through the penumbral part of the Earth’s shadow.

March 23 partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon


Annular eclipse of the Sun 2016 September 1

At an annular eclipse the moon is too small to completely cover the Sun's disk. The smaller than average size of the moon is due to its greater than average distance from the Earth. That is the eclipse occurs near to the date of the moon’s apogee (on September 6). An annular eclipse is only visible as such along a fairly narrow path, similar to the case for a total solar eclipse. At this eclipse the greatest the width of the annular path is slightly less than 100 km. With over 97% of the Sun’s diameter covered by the moon only a very thin ring of the Sun will be visible for an observer in the middle of the path. Even so some sort of eye protection would be necessary to prevent eye damage.

In this case the annular eclipse starts at sunrise in the mid Atlantic Ocean west of central Africa. The path starts to cross central Africa just south of the equator, but soon swings to the south so that it crosses northern Madagascar. It then crosses the Indian Ocean to end at sunset well to the west of the Southwest Australia. A partial eclipse is visible from the rest of Africa except the north and from southwest Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

No part of the eclipse is visible from New Zealand or Australia apart from the western coast of the latter where the eclipse starts as the Sun sets.

Annular eclipse of the Sun 2016 September 1


Partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon 2016 September 16

The start of the eclipse is visible from New Zealand, but the moon sets during the eclipse. The full eclipse is visible from countries round the Indian Ocean including most of Africa, much of Europe, most of Asia and westerly parts of Australia.

At this eclipse the moon will be deeper into the Earth's penumbral shadow than at the April eclipse. At its greatest just on 91% of the moon’s diameter will be eclipsed. Even so there will only be a little dimming of the moon. This time it is the northern part of the moon which will be deepest in the earth’s shadow with the extreme north very close to the total shadow. As a consequence it is likely that the north of the moon will be noticeably dull. But it will not be as dark as a total eclipse.

Total eclipse of the Moon 2016 September 16