Picture of the Day: Basketball Eclipse of the Sun
Reddit user MDPPatrick took this perfectly timed photo of his brother shooting a basketball and creating an eclipse of the sun at the same time. For those curious, the photo was taken on a Galaxy S4 using the ‘Sports’ mode which takes pictures of fast movement.
The actual phenomena this photo mirrors is known as a solar eclipse. As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks (“occults”) the Sun. This can happen only at new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth in an alignment referred to as syzygy. [source]
If the Moon were in a perfectly circular orbit, a little closer to the Earth, and in the same orbital plane, there would be total solar eclipses every single month. However, the Moon’s orbit is inclined (tilted) at more than 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (see ecliptic) so its shadow at new moon usually misses Earth. [source]
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