05/18/2012 12:30 pm ET

Solar Eclipse Facts: 14 Fascinating Things Skywatchers Should Know

How savvy are you about solar eclipses?

You already know that eclipses like the one that will be visible in the U.S. on Sunday occur when the moon passes briefly between the Earth and the sun. You may also know that it's unwise to look at a solar eclipse with unshielded eyes. But while those practicalities are important, they pale in comparison to the fascinating scientific underpinnings of solar eclipses.

Did you know, for instance, that solar eclipses occur on a strict schedule, with similar total, annular, or partial eclipses occurring once every 6,585.32 days? That span of time, known as a saros, is how long it takes after one eclipse for the sun, moon, and Earth to be in the same relative positions to trigger another. And this strict adherence to the so-called Saros Cycle is just one of many fascinating but little-known facts about eclipses.

Want to learn more fascinating facts about solar eclipses? In the slideshow below, adapted from materials assembled by NASA scientist Dr. Sten Odenwald, you can click through 14 more...


Solar Eclipse


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