The Forthcoming Total Solar Eclipse
I can't recall how long ago I learnt about eclipses? Perhaps it was several decades whilst still at University but I don't have to stretch far to explain how and why the forthcoming total solar eclipse in November 2013 is going a must see event.
As you know, a lunar eclipse is when the sun, the moon and the Earth are in a line (with the Earth in the middle), the moon passes directly behind the Earth and its shadow blocks the sun. A lunar eclipse can only occur on the night of a full moon and is visible from anywhere that is experiencing the hours of darkness. A lunar eclipse lasts for a few hours and is safe to view without any precautions.
A solar eclipse is much more rare and occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow upon the Earth. A solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of new moon, when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth and the shadow falls only upon certain parts of the Earth. A total solar eclipse is rare as the moon only blocks the whole of the sun from our view in a very narrow trajectory.
One word of warning though - watching a solar eclipse requires some safety measures. While it's perfectly safe to view a total solar eclipse — when no direct sunlight is reaching your eye — you should never look directly at the sun itself.