The sun rises due east just two days a year, during the equinoxes, which fall on March 21 and September 22. It rises someplace else every other day of the year. But where and why are they? The tilt of the Earth as it revolves around the sun has the answers. During a solar eclipse, when the moon blocks out the sun's light, people living near the path that the moon takes across the face of the earth see a lunar eclipse. People living elsewhere see a partial eclipse. Only places where it's a total eclipse: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America. The rest of us will only see a partial eclipse.
Where can I see a total solar eclipse? You need to be somewhere where it's dark - so ideally an area with no street lights, or farms where there are no houses built yet. Cities are good because there are lots of people who might want to watch this amazing sight, but keep an eye out for crime rates too, since parts of cities can be very dangerous at night!
If you're in the path of the eclipse, those things should give you enough warning to get something to block out the sun during a key part of the eclipse.
Why do we have solar eclipses? Solar eclipses are when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out the sunlight from directly above the Moon's center.
East The sun rises in an easterly direction, but only twice a year does it rise exactly straight east. In truth, the exact location of the sun when it rises fluctuates throughout the year. The Sun rises in its furthest southerly position beginning on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. It reaches its highest point in the sky at noon on March 20 and returns to its lowest point in the south at sunset on September 23.
West The sun sets in a westerly direction, but only once a year does it set exactly west. On July 16, it will be due west, but for another seven months it will be somewhere between west and north-west.
North The sun is never seen directly rising or setting from north of the equator, but only because it is always under the horizon. However, due north on the Earth's surface is roughly parallel to the Earth's axis, which is tilted on its axis relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. This means that there are times of year when you can see north.
South The sun is never seen directly setting or rising south of the equator. However, there are times of year when you can see south.
Upper left The sun appears to rise over the ocean on a clear day in Ireland. Upper right The sun sets over the ocean on a clear night in Ireland.
The sun "rises in the east and sets in the west," as most people are aware. Most individuals, however, are unaware that this is a generality. Actually, the sun only rises directly east and sets due west twice a year—-on the spring and autumn equinoxes! The other 18 months it crosses the celestial meridian from north to south.
This fact has important implications for those who live at high elevations or in far northern regions where the sun does not set each night. In these places, people need to be aware that when it is sunny out they are actually experiencing light from both the east and west. During the winter months, when the sun is over the western horizon, it is dark before it gets around to rising again.
In addition, people living near the ocean should note that although it may look like the sun is rising in the east and setting in the west, this is not always the case. If you are facing east when the sun comes up, then it is still rising (even though you cannot see it), but if you are facing west when the sun goes down, it has already set.
Finally, people living under cloudy skies should know that even when it is not raining or snowing, sunlight is still passing through the clouds to reach the earth. Thus, even during cloudy days, the sun is still causing day and night cycles to occur on earth.