You must have ‘lived behind the moon’ not to have been swooped up this month’s news about a total solar eclipse. This particular one happened on the 20th March 2015 and was mainly visible in the Northern parts of Europe, particularly Scotland, Norway and Iceland.
As you can see on this picture, the moon passes between sun and the earth. As the visible moon is larger than the visible sun, the sun is eclipsed by the moon and no direct sunlight is visible to us. This event does not last long, in fact this year the longest solar eclipse was visible in Scotland and its total time was 2 minutes and 47 seconds, so not an eternity.
Total eclipses are vary rare astronomical events. The last one was in 1999 and the next one will occur again on August 12th 2026.
So considering how rare these events are and how short a time they take, it is remarkably how they capture our imagination. In the past solar eclipses often were markers of important historical events. There aparantly was a solar eclipse when Jesus died and Mohammed was born and in more recent times the solar eclipse in 1919, when the sun light was blocked by the moon for a full 6 minutes and 51 seconds, scientists measured the bending of the light from the stars. These finding were instrumental in the explanation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.