The First Total Solar Eclipse in Two Years Is Coming in July

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you saved your protective glasses from 2017's solar eclipse, now's the time to dig them out of storage. A total solar eclipse, the first one visible from Earth in nearly two years, will occur over parts of South America and the South Pacific on July 2, 2019.

What is a solar eclipse?

There are several different types of eclipses, including lunar (when the Moon passes beneath our planet's shadow) and annular (when the Sun's edges are visible as a ring around the Moon). A total eclipse is the best-known and most anticipated of such phenomena: When the Moon is in the right position in the sky, it perfectly aligns with the Earth and the Sun, appearing to totally block out the Sun from certain vantage points. While partial solar eclipses, in which the Moon only covers part of the Sun, can happen a few times a year, total solar eclipses are much rarer.

Where to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse of 2019

Unlike the last total solar eclipse in 2017, this next one doesn't fall over the United States. Most of it will be obscured above the Pacific Ocean, but a small section of the path of totality will be visible from South America. On Tuesday, July 2 around sunset, people in parts of Chile and Argentina can look to the horizon and see the Moon cross the Sun. The event may be worth the trip for eclipse chasers: the Andean region where the eclipse will take place is known for its low humidity and clear skies at high altitudes.

This particular total eclipse is also notable for its duration. At its peak, totality will last four minutes and 33 seconds—which exceeds the peak totality of the total solar eclipse in 2017. But to see the Moon block the Sun for that long, sky-gazers will need to take a boat into the middle of the South Pacific.

Does the Full Moon Really Make People Act Crazy?

iStock.com/voraorn
iStock.com/voraorn

Along with Mercury in retrograde, the full moon is a pretty popular scapegoat for bad luck and bizarre behavior. Encounter someone acting strangely? Blame it on the lunar phases! It's said that crime rates increase and emergency rooms are much busier during the full moon (though a 2004 study debunked this claim). Plus, there's that whole werewolf thing. Why would this be? The reasoning is that the moon, which affects the ocean's tides, probably exerts a similar effect on us, because the human body is made mostly of water.

This belief that the moon influences behavior is so widely held—reportedly, even 80 percent of nurses and 64 percent of doctors think it's true, according to a 1987 paper published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine [PDF]—that in 2012 a team of researchers at Université Laval's School of Psychology in Canada decided to find out if mental illness and the phases of the moon are linked [PDF].

To test the theory, the researchers evaluated 771 patients who visited emergency rooms at two hospitals in Montreal between March 2005 and April 2008. The patients chosen complained of chest pains, which doctors could not determine a medical cause for the pains. Many of the patients suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts.

When the researchers compared the time of the visits to the phases of the moon, they found that there was no link between the incidence of psychological problems and the four lunar phases, with one exception: in the last lunar quarter, anxiety disorders were 32 percent less frequent. "This may be coincidental or due to factors we did not take into account," Dr. Geneviève Belleville, who directed the team of researchers, said. "But one thing is certain: we observed no full-moon or new-moon effect on psychological problems."

So rest easy (or maybe not): If people seem to act crazy during the full moon, their behavior is likely pretty similar during the rest of the lunar cycle as well.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Rare Harvest ‘Micromoon’ Will Appear on Friday the 13th

pattier/iStock via Getty Images
pattier/iStock via Getty Images

The first Friday the 13th of 2019 is coming this September, coinciding with a spooky full moon—and that unlucky event will also be a harvest micromoon, Newsweek reports. Here's everything you need to know about the lunar spectacle.

What is a harvest micromoon?

Harvest moon describes the full moon that appears in September. You may have heard that the harvest moon is larger and deeper in color than full moons that appear at different times of the year, but this isn't the case. The name harvest moon has nothing to do with its size or appearance. Many people observe the harvest moon just as it surfaces above the horizon—the time when it looks biggest due to the moon illusion, and reddish or orange-y through the filter of Earth's atmosphere. But as the moon climbs higher in the sky throughout the night, these characteristics fade away—just as they would at any other time of year.

This year, the harvest moon will actually look smaller compared to other full moons. On Friday, September 13, the celestial body reaches its apogee, or the point in its orbit where it's farthest from Earth. It has been dubbed a micromoon, which is the opposite of a supermoon.

When to see the harvest micromoon

Besides its scaled-down appearance, Friday's moon won't look any different from a regular full moon. But its rare conjunction with Friday the 13th makes it an event that anyone with a superstitious side won't want to miss. The moon will achieve maximum fullness at 12:33 a.m. the morning of Saturday, September 14 in the Eastern time zone (earlier the further west you go), but it will appear full and bright the previous and following nights. To catch the mini-moon on the 13th, look up late Friday night in a place with minimal light pollution. And if you want the full harvest moon effect, look to the horizon just after moonrise at 7:33 p.m.

[h/t Newsweek]

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