This diagram shows the positions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth during a solar eclipse.
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Windows to the Universe original image
Solar Eclipse on May 31, 2003
News story originally written on June 6, 2003
A solar eclipse could be seen from a small area on Earth on May 31, 2003. Parts of Scotland, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland were within the part of the Moon's shadow that caused the eclipse.
A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. The Moon's shadow darkens a narrow area on our planet. Viewers within the shadow see the Sun disappear behind the Moon for a short while. This eclipse was an unusual "annular eclipse". Because the orbit of the Moon is an oval, not a perfect circle, sometimes the Moon is a little further from Earth. If the Moon is at a far point in its orbit when a solar eclipse happens, the Moon appears a little smaller than usual. When the Moon looks smaller, it is not large enough to completely cover the Sun during the eclipse. During such an annular eclipse, a thin ring of sunlight shines around the edges of the Moon.
If you missed this eclipse, you will have another chance later in 2003. The next solar eclipse will occur on November 23rd. It will be a total solar eclipse, lasting about two minutes. But you may not be in the right place to see it, unless you really like penguins. The eclipse will be visible from Antarctica!
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