On Monday, August 21, 2017, North America experienced a total solar eclipse. Most of it was witness in the United States of America. However, persons in nearby territories like the Caribbean and Jamaica were also able to experience this rare astrological phenomenon. The eclipse was projected to be seen at maximum impact in Jamaica around 2:18pm.
Below, we explain what an eclipse is and remember two times Jamaica experienced a total solar eclipse:
In astronomy, the word ‘eclipse’ is used to describe two different things: an eclipse of the moon, and an eclipse of the sun. An eclipse of the sun is called a solar eclipse. It occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun. As seen from various points on the earth, the moon blocks out the sun. An eclipse of the moon is called a lunar eclipse. It occurs when the moon passes behind the earth into the earth’s shadow. Within the shadow, the moon is no longer directly lighted by the sun.
When the whole moon or the whole sun is eclipsed, it is called a total eclipse. When only part of the moon or the sun is eclipsed, we call it a partial eclipse. A total eclipse occurs only when the moon, earth and sun are in a straight line. A solar eclipse happens only about twice a year.
Every year, there must be at least two eclipses of the sun. And there may be as many as five. At any one place on the Earth’s surface, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible only once in about 360 years. This is why astronomers have to travel great distances to ‘catch’ a total eclipse of the sun.
The February 1998 eclipse
On February 26, 1998, Caribbean people had the opportunity to experience a total eclipse of the sun when the moon moved slowly between the Earth and the Sun, completely covering the sun for a period. The narrow band of the moon’s shadow fell areas of the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, allowing them to experience complete darkness around midday for a few minutes. Nearby places saw only a partial eclipse, and those further away saw no eclipse at all. Jamaica observed about 80% of the eclipse. The total eclipse started in the Eastern Pacific, crossing into Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and the entering the Caribbean Sea at Aruba, enabling Montserrat, Guadeloupe and Antigua to observe a total eclipse.
The 1991 Mauna Keas Eclipse
On Thursday, July 11, 1991, a total solar eclipse occurred along a swath stretching from the island of Hawaii to the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, central and southern Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Brazil. It was described as a chance to see the solar system in action, and many persons were eager to see even a partial eclipse in areas surrounding, including Jamaica.
To prevent damage to the eyes, the eclipse should never be viewed directly with the naked eyes, or even through a telescope.
Did you know …
When the 1970 solar eclipse was widely visible along the East Coast in the United States, 40% of 145 reported eye injuries were among people who thought they were using safe viewing methods. The others looked directly at the eclipse.
Sources: The Gleaner Newspaper Archives
The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, November 5, 1969
The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, October 9, 1990
‘The Sun Shall Be Darkened’ – The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, February 10, 1998