Yesterday, the celestial heavens treated millions of Americans to a once in a lifetime occurrence – a total solar eclipse. Now that the international excitement has died down, many South Africans are asking, “When do I get to see a solar eclipse?”
It’s a day that will be remembered by Americans for a long time: citizens on both coasts looked up to the sky using special, eye-protecting glasses to watch in astonishment as the sky went dark and the moon lined up perfectly between the Earth and the Sun to create this rare phenomenon. The next total solar eclipse will occur over South America in 2019. South Africans were last treated to this incredible occurrence 15 years ago, on the 4th of December 2002.
But when will South Africa get an eclipse?
Unfortunately for us living on the Southern tip of the African continent, we won’t be seeing another total solar eclipse for years – November 25, 2030, to be exact. After that, the next one occur in the year 2046: one for to watch with the kids and grandkids, maybe. In 2055, South Africa will have the honour of be the only country that gets to see that year’s total solar eclipse. Who knows, maybe by then we’ll be able to watch the eclipses from a comfy space armchair?
It’s not all doom and gloom though.
Luckily, South Africans who are jonesing for some celestial action can look forward to a few other fascinating astronomical occurrences. According to the Astronomical Association of South Africa ,the country will experience a total lunar eclipse – which occurs when the Sun, Moon and Earth align and the Moon passes behind the Earth – next year, on the night of July 27.
Can’t wait that long?
Then turn your eyes to the sky later this year for some spectacular meteor showers. Meteors, better known as falling stars, are bits of cosmic debris that enter the Earth’s atmosphere and break up on impact, causing bright flashes to light up the night sky.
The Orionid meteor shower takes place between the 20th and 22nd of October this year, and the meteors themselves come from the tail of Halley’s Comet. They travel at almost 240 000 km/h, and onlookers will be able to see between 50 and 70 meteors per hour. Later in the year, the Geminids Meteor Shower takes place on December 14, with about 120 meteors whizzing by per hour.
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