What is a total solar eclipse?

Total solar eclipse
Emmanuele Sordini / Online Photo Gallery

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the face of the Sun as seen from Earth. The complete coverage allows us to see the day as if it were night, and it reveals the solar corona's ghostly wisps.

The next total solar eclipse will occur on December 4, 2021, but only a small fraction of the world will see it. The eclipse path will pass largely over water, although some parts of Antarctica will also experience totality. Parts of South Africa and Namibia, as well as any visitors to parts of the South Atlantic will view a partial eclipse.

Read more about viewing the Sun safely.

When is the next solar eclipse going to happen?

The next solar eclipse will be annular, which means that the Moon does not fully cover the face of the Sun and instead creates a "ring of fire" eclipse.

The next total solar eclipse begins on December 4, 2021, at 05:29:16 Universal Time (UT), when the shadow touches down on the Atlantic Ocean, and the Moon takes its first small bite out of the Sun. The full eclipse begins at 07:00:04 UT; the longest totality will last is 1 minute and 54 seconds.

Where's the best place to watch the 2020 solar eclipse?

The best location on land to watch the total eclipse will be along the eclipse path that crosses through Antarctica; oceangoing cruise ships will have a better shot at finding clear weather. This total eclipse is on the shorter side, with a maximum duration of 1 minute and 54 seconds.

If you can't travel to the eclipse, we'll point you to ways you can view it online closer to the event.

When's the next solar eclipse?

After that the next total solar eclipse won't occur until April 20, 2023. Some parts of South and East Asia will experience totality. Find more information at NASA's eclipse site.

For a list of upcoming solar eclipses through 2024, click here.