small portion of the earth,
a lunar eclipse is visible to
the entire hemisphere that
is experiencing night-time.
Also, solar eclipses can only
happen during a new moon.
Lunar eclipses can only
happen during a full moon.
A unique view
Even though the sun is 400
times larger than the moon,
they appear the same size
when viewed from Earth
because the sun is also 400
times further away. That is
what makes a solar eclipse
an amazing sight. If the moon or sun
were only a little smaller or larger, or
only a little closer or further away, the
precise ratios that allow us to see the sun
completely and perfectly blocked by the
moon—but showing its chromosphere
and corona—would not exist. The earth
is the only planet from which one can
view a perfect, total solar eclipse. 5
This makes it rather unlikely that the
earth and moon are billions of years old.
The moon is slowly receding from earth
at a rate of about 4 cm (1.6 in) per year.
That in itself is an argument against the
4. 6 billion-year alleged age of the earth-
moon system; 6 but if this recession had
been happening for billions of years,
for most of Earth’s history there would
have been no annular eclipses, and in
the distant future, all eclipses would be
annular only. In a billions-of-years-old
solar system, our epoch would therefore
be the only time when the moon and
sun were approximately the same size
in the sky, which would be a rather
Scientific importance of eclipses
Eclipses have enabled some important
scientific discoveries. In 1868, Pierre
Jules César Janssen looked at the sun’s
corona with a spectroscope during an
eclipse and saw a bright yellow line
that did not belong to any then-known
element. Later, this element would be
named helium, from the Greek word for
sun (ἥλιος, hēlios). 7 During an eclipse,
it is also possible to see stars that are
supposed to be behind the sun. The sun’s
gravity bends the light from those stars
as the light passes close to the sun. This
allows us to see just a little bit ‘behind’
the sun. This was a major confirmation
of Einstein’s general theory
Eclipses first made us
aware of the sun’s ‘
atmosphere’, including the chromosphere and corona. One
mystery is how and why the
corona is 1– 3 million °C, far
hotter than the sun’s surface
temperature of 5,500°C. The
solution seems to involve the
sun’s powerful magnetic field.
Historical eclipses are also
important. When an ancient
document mentions an eclipse
in a specific area, it is possible
to know the exact time of the
event to which the document
refers. This helps us to reconstruct
ancient history with greater accuracy.
For instance, a solar eclipse in 585 BC,
seen as an omen, caused the Lydians and
Medes to make peace and end the war
they had been waging. 8
The heavens declare
the glory of God
A total eclipse is a spectacular sight that
draws people from hundreds (or even
thousands) of miles away, for a phenomenon that lasts only a few minutes. David
wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of
God, and the sky above proclaims his
handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Even in the
modern day when many people reject
Scripture’s truth, a total eclipse is a
powerful display of God’s glory.
References and notes
1. Solar eclipses worldwide, timeanddate.com.
2. McClure, B., When’s the next U.S. total
eclipse? earthsky.org, 22 August 2017.
3. Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? and
How? eclipse2017/ nasa.gov.
4. What is an annular solar eclipse?
timeanddate.com. One of my colleagues
vividly remembers seeing the annular
eclipse of 15 January 1991 through his
spectroscopic filters in New Zealand’s
5. Carter, J., 9 things you should know about
solar eclipses, thegospelcoalition.org, 21
6. Henry, J., The moon’s recession and age,
J. Creation 20( 2):65–70, 2006; creation.com/
7. Guglielmi, G., Three times scientists learned
something from solar eclipses—and three
times they were tricked, sciencemag.org,
17 August 2017.
8. Solar eclipses in history, timeanddate.com.
Path of the 2017 total solar eclipse across the USA.
NOT TO SCALE