Eclipses in 2015
There are four eclipses in 2015, two each of the Sun and moon. Four is the minimum number of eclipses there can be in a year.
Both the solar eclipses are polar events, the first in March is total, with the path mostly in the Arctic. The second in September is annular, but only partial on the Earth's surface, mostly over the Antarctic continent. In both cases part of the eclipse is off the Earth's surface. This is particularly true in the case of the second solar eclipse where the path of annularity misses the Earth's surface altogether. No part of either eclipse is visible from New Zealand or Australia.
By contrast the two lunar eclipses on April 4 and September 28 are both total. The first is entirely visible from New Zealand, although the duration of totality is only just over 7 minutes. The second is visible from the other side of the Earth with totality much longer, lasting 72 minutes. The two lunar eclipses are the last of four successive total eclipse of the moon, known as a tetrad. The other two were in 2014.
More information on eclipses can be obtained at the NASA eclipse pages: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/.
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 2015 March 20
This total eclipse of the Sun is a northern hemisphere event. The band of totality starts in the northern Atlantic to the south of Greenland. It moves to the east to pass between Iceland and Scotland with the Faeroe Islands on its southern edge. A swing to the northeast takes it across most of the islands of Spitzbergen after which it continues north to move off the surface of the Earth from the Arctic.
A partial eclipse is visible from Europe and on into western parts of Asian Russia as far east as Lake Baikal where the Suns sets during the eclipse. The deepest partial eclipse is visible from northwest Europe and Iceland. From Glasgow, Scotland 94% of the Sun's disk will be covered by the moon, 90% at Oslo, Norway and 87% from London. For these places the eclipse is at a maximum a little after 9:30 UT. A less deep partial eclipse is also visible from northern and northwest Africa.
No part of the eclipse is visible from anywhere in the southern hemisphere, nor in the Americas apart from the end of a partial eclipse in Newfoundland as the Sun rises. South and east Asia also sees no part of the eclipse.
Total eclipse of the Moon 2015 April 4/5
The total phase of this lunar eclipse is very brief, lasting just over 7 minutes. The entire event lasts close to 6 hours, while part of the moon is in the dark Earth's shadow for three and a half hours. The entire event is visible from New Zealand, Pacific Ocean Islands and eastern Australia. The total part of the eclipse is visible from all of Australia and Indonesia as well as eastern Asia. On the other side of the Pacific western parts of Canada and the USA will also see much of the eclipse.
Times or the eclipse are shown in the diagram, which also shows the parts of the Earth the various stages are visible from. Note that on the diagram showing the passage of the moon through the Earth's shadow the three stages of start, mid and end of totality are so close that the positions of the moon almost completely overlap.
As can be seen from the diagrams, the moon will move through the northern edge of the Earth's shadow with the edge of the moon close to the edge of the shadow. As a result the northern edge of the moon is likely to remain comparatively bright due to refraction of sunlight through the Earth's atmosphere. The southern parts of the moon will be deeper in the shadow and so are likely to be darker. From New Zealand, the moon's south will be at the top.
As seen from New Zealand, the moon enters the Earth's dark shadow at 11:15:30 pm, NZDT (10:15:30 UT), totality starts at 12:56:55 am on the morning of the 5 and ends at 1:04:16 am. The moon finally leaves the dark shadow at 2:46:16 am while it finally leaves the partial, penumbral shadow 3:59:29 am, NZDT. However no effects of the eclipse will be detectable by eye during most of the penumbral stages.
In New Zealand NZDT ends on the night of the eclipse, resulting in the last part of the eclipse occurring after the clocks should be set back an hour.
Partial eclipse of the Sun 2015 September 13
This eclipse is nominally annular, with the moon appearing too small to completely cover the Sun's disk. In general an annular eclipse is only visible as such along a fairly narrow path, similar to the case for a total solar eclipse. Outside the path a partial eclipse may be visible. In the case of the September 13 eclipse, the path of annularity passes south of the Earth so is not visible, only a partial eclipse occurs in some southern regions.
The area of visibility for the September 13 eclipse is in the main the southern Indian Ocean and the Antarctic continent to its south. Apart from the Antarctic, the only major land area the eclipse is visible from is southern Africa up to about latitude 15°S. The Sun rises in partial eclipse as seen from the west coast of South Africa and Namibia. The partial eclipse is also visible from southern part of the Malagasy Republic. After that the northern edge of the eclipse swings to the southeast, ending at sunset well south of Australia where the Sun sets while eclipsed.
Total eclipse of the Moon 2015 September 28
This eclipse is visible from the opposite side of the Earth to the April lunar eclipse with countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean well placed for seeing the event. South America is particularly well placed. The eclipse is not visible from Asia, the Pacific, Australia or New Zealand.
At this eclipse the moon will be deeper into the Earth's shadow than at the April eclipse,. As a result the totality last much longer, some 70 minutes and the entire moon is likely to be dark.