A hybrid solar eclipse is a very rare and strange astronomical event – and one is coming soon on April 20, 2023.
Talk to most eclipse hunters and they will tell you that there are three types of eclipses solar eclipse. The first is a partial solar eclipse, the most common and least impressive because the moon blocks only part of the Sun Sending a shadow – the penumbra – over a part of the earth. The second is an annular eclipse, in which the moon obscures the center of the sun but leaves a circle of light from the sun visible within a shadow called antumbra. It is often referred to as the “ring of fire”. The third is a total solar eclipse, during which the entire solar disk is obscured by the moon, revealing the spectacular view of the solar corona, which can be viewed with the naked eye from the moon’s dark shadow, the umbra.
However, there is an intriguing fourth type of eclipse – a hybrid eclipse – that occurs only a few times per century. It’s a combination of the other three species, but it’s also impossible to experience in all its glory. As luck would have it, the next solar eclipse to occur Earth will be a hybrid eclipse. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming hybrid solar eclipse – the rarest, most fascinating, and arguably the world’s most spectacular and interesting type of solar eclipse in existence.
Related: Solar eclipses 2023: when, where and how to see them
WHAT IS A HYBRID ECLIPSE?
A hybrid eclipse combines an annular and total eclipse, with the former becoming the latter and then usually returning. Therefore, observers can experience different phenomena at different points of the eclipse path. For example, if you watch a hybrid solar eclipse at sunrise or sunset, you might see a brief “ring of fire.” If you watch it at noon—that is, halfway through the path of the eclipse across the surface of the earth—you experience totality. It is therefore impossible to experience both an annular and total solar eclipse during a hybrid event – you have to choose.
Remember to NEVER look at the sun without proper protection. Our how to watch the sun safely learn everything you need to know about safe solar viewing. The guide also tells you what sun targets to look out for and what gear you need to do them.
If you want to get everything ready to see an eclipse, we have guides to the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography. Our guide to photographing a solar eclipse will also help you plan your next solar observing adventure.
WHY DO HYBRID ECLIPSES OCCUR?
Hybrid eclipses occur when the Moon’s distance is close to its limit for the umbra to reach Earth and because The earth is curved (opens in new tab). The Moon is just the right distance from Earth for the tip of its conical shadow to be slightly above Earth’s surface at the beginning and end of the eclipse path, causing the Moon’s antumbral shadow to move across Earth and cause an annular eclipse. In the middle of the eclipse path, however, the tip of the moon’s umbra meets the surface of the earth because that part of the planet is slightly closer to the moon.
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This diagram of a hybrid eclipse shows how the Moon’s distance from Earth determines the shadow projected on the Earth’s surface, from the faint penumbra of a partial eclipse to the deep, dark umbra of totality and the antumbra—a type of antumbra penumbra — circularity.
WHEN IS THE NEXT HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSE?
The next hybrid solar eclipse will take place on April 20, 2023 in the southern hemisphere. It will transition from annular to total and back again at two specific points, but both are in remote locations at sea.
So in all respects this will only be seen as a total solar eclipse from the Exmouth Peninsula in Western Australia (up to 1 minute), Timor Leste (1 minute 14 seconds) and West Papua (1 minute 9 seconds). Just before and just after totality, a large display of Baily’s Pearls will be visible.
If you want to see the path of the eclipse along with the eclipse times for each location, check out this interactive one Eclipse map by Xavier Jubier (opens in new tab). It’s one of two solar eclipses in 2023.
WHAT ARE BAILY’S BEADS?
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Named after the English astronomer Francis Baily, who observed them in the early 18th century, Baily’s pearls are the last rays of the sun streaming through the valleys of the moon just before totality. They can also be seen as totality ends. During a hybrid eclipse, displays from Baily’s beads are longer because the moon is almost exactly the same apparent size as the sun.
HOW OFTEN DOES A HYBRID ECLIPSE OCCUR?
There are between two and five solar eclipses each year, albeit in the 21st century only 3.1% (opens in new tab) (7 of 224) of the eclipses are hybrid eclipses. Between 2000 B.C. to 3000 AD only 4.8% (opens in new tab) of solar eclipses are hybrid events.
The last hybrid solar eclipse occurred on November 3, 2013. It was visible as a total solar eclipse in central Africa, including northern Kenya and Uganda, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mid-Atlantic cruise ships also experienced totality for up to a minute.
WHAT IS ANOTHER NAME FOR A HYBRID ECLIPSE?
Hybrid eclipses are often referred to as annular total eclipses, “pearlized” eclipses, or “refracted” annular eclipses, the latter two because they feature particularly long displays of Baily’s pearls.
Since the moon appears to pass directly in front of the sun, hybrid eclipses are classified as “central” eclipses – as are total and annular eclipses – to distinguish them from partial eclipses.
Editor’s note: If you take an amazing photo of the eclipse and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamie Carter is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab)
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Explore the different types of solar eclipses in detail with this information NASA article (opens in new tab). Texas State University (opens in new tab) has a useful list of several videos explaining the different types of eclipses.
Bikos, K. (2022, November 13). What is a hybrid solar eclipse? Retrieved November 13, 2022 from https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/hybrid-solar-eclipse.html (opens in new tab)
Espenak, F. (2007, February 13). Five-millennium catalog of hybrid solar eclipses. Retrieved November 13, 2022 from https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SEhybrid5.html (opens in new tab)
Jubier, X. (2022, November 13). Five Millennium (-1999 to +3000) Canon of Solar Eclipses Database. Retrieved November 13, 2022 from http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/solar_eclipses/5MCSE/xSE_Five_Millennium_Canon.html (opens in new tab)
Nemiroff, R. and Bonnell, J. (November 3, 2013). Astronomical picture of the day. Retrieved November 13, 2022 from https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap131103.html (opens in new tab)