total solar eclipse is a spectacular coincidence. When viewed from earth,
it suggests a celestial eye gazing back at you from the sky, a jet black
pupil surrounded by an iris of white fire - the Sun's corona. Three solar
eclipses occur somewhere on the planet every couple of years. Eclipses
belonging to the same "saros" cycle repeat every 18 years. After three
of these intervals, an eclipse in the cycle returns to the same part of
the earth's surface. Eclipses in different saros cycles sometimes cross
paths or occur in neighboring regions at much shorter intervals. The path
of totality is long but narrow, and the moon's elliptical dense central
shadow travels fast, making its passing brief in duration, no more than
7 minutes. A chance encounter with the darkened sunmoon eye is extremely
unlikely. With foreknowledge and planning, an expedition to observe this
rare display sometime during one's lifetime is within the means of many.
Partial solar eclipses cannot safely be viewed with the naked eye.