A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between Earth and the Sun. The moon has “phases” as it travels in a wobbly orbit around Earth. The “light of the Moon” is really just sunlight reflecting off the lunar surface. Depending where the Moon is in relation to the Sun, this light appears to us as new moon, crescent moon, quarter moon, half moon, full moon and so on – the moon orbits Earth once every 29 1/2 days, hence our lunar cycle.
A “new Moon” can’t actually be seen from Earth because the illuminated side points away from us. A solar eclipse can only happen during the new moon phase, and only when the wobbly moon orbit lines up between Earth and the Sun, as to caste a shadow – this is a solar eclipse. Because the Moon’s orbit is tilted 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun, the “shadow” usually misses Earth. A couple of times a year the shadow falls on our planet, depending on the angle of orbit and global location, this translates to varying degrees of eclipse.
On October 23, a partial eclipse will dazzle those inclined to notice – if you reside in the “red zone”, click on the link below the graphic for optimum viewing times and duration.