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Eclipses During 2003

by Fred Espenak

Observer's Handbook 2003, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

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During the year 2003, there will be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses:

2003 May 16: Total Lunar Eclipse

2003 May 31: Annular Solar Eclipse

2003 Nov 09: Total Lunar Eclipse

2003 Nov 23: Total Solar Eclipse

Predictions for the eclipses are summarized in figures 1 through 6. World maps show the regions of visibility for each eclipse. The lunar eclipse diagrams also include the path of the Moon through Earth's shadows. Contact times for each principal phase are tabulated along with the magnitudes and geocentric coordinates of the Sun and Moon at greatest eclipse.

All times and dates used in this publication are in Universal Time or UT. This astronomically derived time system is colloquially referred to as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. To learn more about UT and how to convert UT to your own local time, see Time Zones and Universal Time.

Total Lunar Eclipse of May 16

                                     Penumbral Eclipse Begins:  01:05:16 UT
                                       Partial Eclipse Begins:  02:02:42 UT
                                         Total Eclipse Begins:  03:13:40 UT
                                             Greatest Eclipse:  03:40:01 UT
                                           Total Eclipse Ends:  04:06:22 UT
                                         Partial Eclipse Ends:  05:17:20 UT
                                       Penumbral Eclipse Ends:  06:14:47 UT

The first eclipse of the year is a total lunar eclipse which is well placed for Western Hemisphere observers. The eclipse occurs just half a day after perigee so the Moon will appear quite large (33.4 arc-minutes). During this event, the Moon is low on the ecliptic in Libra approximately fifteen degrees west of the first magnitude star Alpha Scorpii (Antares).

The Moon's path takes it through the northern part of Earth's umbral shadow. Although the eclipse is not central, the total phase still lasts nearly 53 minutes. The eclipse begins at 01:05 UT with first penumbral contact. An hour later, the partial eclipse commences with first umbral contact at 02:03 UT. The total umbral eclipse begins at 03:14 UT and ends at 04:07 UT. The partial phase ends at 05:17 UT and the Moon leaves the penumbral shadow at 06:15 UT. The Moon's path through Earth's shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event is shown in Figure 1.

At the instant of greatest eclipse (03:40 UT), the Moon will lie in the zenith for observers in southern Brazil near its western border with Bolivia and Paraguay. At this time, the umbral magnitude1 peaks at 1.134 as the Moon's southern limb passes 8.6 arc-minutes north of the shadow's axis. In contrast, the Moon's northern limb will lie 4.5 arc-minutes from the northern edge of the umbra and 25.3 arc-minutes from the shadow centre. Thus, the northern sections of the Moon will appear much brighter than the southern part which will lie deeper in the shadow. Since the Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during totality, its appearance will likely change dramatically with time. However, it's impossible to predict the exact brightness distribution in the umbra so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality (see section: Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness). Note that it may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (i.e. - north vs. south).

During totality, the spring constellations will be well placed for viewing. Spica (mv = +0.98) lies 32° west of the eclipsed Moon, while Arcturus (mv = -0.05) is 43° to the northwest. Jupiter will appear low in the west in Cancer.

The eclipse will be widely visible from the Americas, Europe, and Africa. The eastern half of North America will witness the entire event, while the partial phases will already be in progress at moonrise from the western portions of the continent. Similarly, the Moon sets in Europe during various stages of the eclipse. Observers in Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces and eastern U. S. will see all phases of the eclipse. Farther to the west, the eclipse begins before moonrise but totality will still be visible from the region except from Yukon and Alaska.

Table 1 lists predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for twenty well-defined lunar craters. The timing of craters is useful in determining the atmospheric enlargement of Earth's shadow (see: Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses).

Annular Solar Eclipse of May 31

The first solar eclipse of 2003 is a very unusual annular eclipse which takes place in the Northern Hemisphere (Figure 2). The axis of the Moon's shadow passes to the far north where it barely grazes Earth's surface. In fact, the northern edge of the antumbra2 actually misses our planet so that one path limit is defined by the day/night terminator rather by the shadow's upper edge. As a result, the track of annularity has a peculiar "D" shape which is nearly 1200 kilometres wide. Since the eclipse occurs just three weeks prior to the northern summer solstice, Earth's northern axis is pointed sunwards by 21.8°. As seen from the Sun, the antumbral shadow actually passes between the North Pole and the terminator. As a consequence of this extraordinary geometry, the path of annularity runs from east to west instead of visa versa. As a member of Saros 1473, this is the first central eclipse of the series.

The event transpires near the Moon's ascending node in central Taurus five degrees north of Aldebaran. Since apogee occurs three days earlier (May 28 at 13 UT), the Moon's apparent diameter (29.6 arc-minutes) is still too small to completely cover the Sun (31.6 arc-minutes) resulting in an annular eclipse.

The Moon's antumbral shadow first touches down on Earth at 03:45 UT in northern Scotland about 100 kilometres north of Glasgow (Figure 3). The antumbra quickly extends northward as it travels on a northwestern trajectory. In Scotland, the Northwest Highlands, Loch Ness, the Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides), Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands all lie in the annular track where maximum eclipse occurs at or shortly after sunrise. Several minutes later, the shadow's edge reaches the Faeroe Islands (03:51 UT) where annularity lasts 03 minutes 08 seconds with the Sun 4° above the northeastern horizon.

By 03:59 UT, the leading edge of the antumbra arrives along the southeastern coast of Iceland. Traveling with a ground velocity between 1.9 and 1.1 kilometres per second (from southwest to northwest Iceland), the shadow sweeps across the entire North Atlantic nation in eight minutes. The shadow is so broad, that the duration of the three and a half minute annular phase varies by less than 5 seconds across all of Iceland.

After traversing the Denmark Strait, the highly elliptical antumbra bisects Greenland where over a third of the enormous island lies within the track. Crossing the ill-named land mass, the path width rapidly shrinks as the grazing antumbra begins its return to space. Just before reaching Baffin Island, the shadow leaves Earth in the Davis Strait (04:31 UT). From start to finish, the antumbra sweeps over its entire path in a little under 47 minutes.

The central line of the eclipse forms a short C-shaped curve which begins south of Iceland and crosses the country near Reykjavik. Greatest eclipse4 occurs at 04:08:18 UT about 200 kilometres northwest of the Scandinavian island nation. At that point, the duration of the annular phase lasts 3 minutes 37 seconds with the Sun 2.9° above the northeastern horizon. The central line ends near Greenland after running its complete course in twelve minutes

Coordinates of the annular path and central line circumstances are presented in Table 2. Partial phases of the eclipse are visible from much of Europe (except Spain and Portugal) and the Middle East where the event occurs at sunrise, as well as from central and northern Asia (excluding most of China, South East Asia and Japan). In the Western Hemisphere, the partial eclipse is visible from northern Canada and Alaska during the afternoon of May 30. Local circumstances for a number of cities are listed in Table 3. All times are given in Universal Time. The Sun's altitude and azimuth, the eclipse magnitude5 and obscuration6 are all given at the instant of maximum eclipse.

A detailed report on this eclipse is available from NASA's Technical Publication series (see: NASA Solar Eclipse Bulletins). Additional information is also available at the 2003 annular solar eclipse web site:

Total Lunar Eclipse of November 09

                                   Penumbral Eclipse Begins:  22:15:00 UT
                                     Partial Eclipse Begins:  23:32:21 UT
                                       Total Eclipse Begins:  01:06:07 UT
                                           Greatest Eclipse:  01:18:23 UT
                                         Total Eclipse Ends:  01:30:38 UT
                                       Partial Eclipse Ends:  03:04:24 UT
                                     Penumbral Eclipse Ends:  04:21:48 UT

The second lunar eclipse of the year occurs six lunations after the first. It takes place at the ascending node of Luna's orbit in Aries. This time, the Moon is 1.4 days shy of apogee and appears 12% smaller (= 29.4 arc-minutes) than it was during May's eclipse. The Moon's trajectory takes it well to the south of the umbral shadow's central axis resulting in a total eclipse which lasts just 25 minutes. At mid-totality, the Moon's southern limb is a scant 0.6 arc-minutes from the umbra's edge. Even the northern limb is 23.4 arc-minutes from the centre of the shadow. Assuming that the transparency of Earth's atmosphere remains relatively unchanged, the November eclipse will be dramatically brighter than the May event because of the shallow umbral depth. Since different parts of the Moon will probe radically different portions of Earth's umbral shadow, a large variation in shadow brightness can be expected. The totally eclipsed Moon will appear to have a bright rim along its southern edge. Observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at mid-totality (see section: Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness).

The near grazing geometry of this event suggests that it is a transition eclipse in its Saros series. Indeed, it is the very last total eclipse of Saros 126. This series produced thirteen total lunar eclipses during the past 234 years. The next nineteen eclipses in the family will all be partial eclipses of decreasing duration and magnitude.

The penumbral phase of November's eclipse begins at 22:15 UT (on Nov 08), but most observers will not be able to visually detect the shadow until about 23:00 UT. The partial eclipse commences with first umbral contact at 23:33 UT. Totality begins at 01:06 UT and lasts until 01:31 UT. The partial and penumbral phases end at 03:05 UT and 04:22 UT, respectively.

At the instant of mid-totality (01:19 UT), the Moon will stand at the zenith for observers near the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic. At that time, the umbral eclipse magnitude will be 1.022. The entire eclipse will be visible from Europe and most of Africa as well as the eastern Americas. Various stages of the eclipse are in progress at moonset for observers throughout Asia. In the Western Hemisphere, the ingressing partial phases will already be in progress at moonrise for observers in western Canada and the U. S.. The Moon's path through Earth's shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event is shown in Figure 4. Note that no eclipse is visible from easternmost Asia, Japan, Indonesia or Australia. Table 4 lists predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for twenty well-defined lunar craters. The timing of craters is useful in determining the atmospheric enlargement of Earth's shadow (see: Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses).

Total Solar Eclipse of November 23

The final event of 2003 is a total solar eclipse visible from the Southern Hemisphere Figure 5. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins at 22:19 UT in the southern Indian Ocean about 1100 kilometres southeast of Kerguelen Island (Figure 6). Curving south, the 500 kilometre wide umbral path reaches the coast of Antarctica at 22:35 UT. The Shackleton Ice Shelf and Russia's Mirnyy research station lie in the path where the central line duration is 1 minute 55 seconds and the Sun stands 13° above the frozen landscape. Quickly moving inland, the elongated shadow sweeps over the desolate interior of the continent encountering no permanently staffed research stations for the next half hour.

Greatest eclipse occurs in Wilkes Land at 22:49:17 UT. At this point, the duration of totality reaches its maximum of 1 minute 55 seconds at solar altitude of 15°. The duration and altitude slowly drop as the umbra's path curves from southwest to northwest. Just like May's annular eclipse, the November event features a lunar shadow moving in the "wrong" direction. Once again, the explanation lies in the deep southern track of the umbra coupled with the close proximity of the eclipse with winter solstice. As viewed from the Sun's direction, the shadow passes around the "back" side of the pole between Earth's axis of rotation and the terminator.

The umbra reaches the Antarctic coast in Queen Maud Land and several more research stations (Asuka, Novolazarevskaya, Maitri) before the path ends and the shadow leaves Earth's surface (23:19 UT) one hour after it began.

The rest of Antarctica will see a partial eclipse as well as New Zealand, most of Australia, and southern Argentina and Chile (Figure 5). Coordinates for the path of totality and central line circumstances are presented in Table 5. Local circumstances for a selection of cities throughout the path are given in Table 6 . All times are given in Universal Time. The Sun's altitude and azimuth, the eclipse magnitude and obscuration are all given at the instant of maximum eclipse.

A detailed report on this eclipse is available from NASA's Technical Publication series (see: NASA Solar Eclipse Bulletins). Additional information is also available at the 2003 total solar eclipse web site:


1 Umbral magnitude of a lunar eclipse is defined as the fraction of the Moon's diameter covered by the umbral shadow. The magnitude is less than 1.0 for partial eclipses, and 1.0 for total eclipses.
2 The antumbra begins at the vertex of the umbral shadow and extends out into space away from the Sun. During a solar eclipse, an observer within the antumbra will see an annular eclipse.
3 Saros - a period of 223 lunations or synodic months (6585.3216 days or 18.03 years). Eclipses separated by one saros share nearly identical characteristics. This occurs because 223 synodic months is almost equal to 242 draconic months (6585.3572 days) and 239 anomalistic months (6585.5375 days). Since the periods are not perfect, the eclipses in a Saros series slowly evolve. Each Saros series lasts about 12 centuries.
4 The instant of greatest eclipse occurs when the distance between the Moon's shadow axis and Earth's geocentre reaches a minimum. Although greatest eclipse differs slightly from the instants of greatest magnitude and greatest duration (for total eclipses), the differences are quite small.
5 Eclipse magnitude is defined as the fraction of the Sun's diameter occulted by the Moon
6 Eclipse obscuration is defined as the fraction of the Sun's surface area occulted by the Moon.

Key to Solar Eclipse Maps

Key to Lunar Eclipse Maps

Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness

Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses

Eclipse Altitudes and Azimuths

The altitude a and azimuth A of the Sun or Moon during an eclipse depends on the time and the observer's geographic coordinates. They are calculated as follows:
             h  = 15 (GST + UT - ra ) + l
             a  =  ArcSin  [ Sin d Sin f + Cos d Cos h Cos f ]
             A  =  ArcTan  [ - (Cos d Sin h) / (Sin d Cos f -  Cos d Cos h Sin f) ]

             h  =  Hour Angle of Sun or Moon
             a  =  Altitude
             A  =  Azimuth
           GST  =  Greenwich Sidereal Time at 0:00 UT
            UT  =  Universal Time
            ra  =  Right Ascension of Sun or Moon
             d  =  Declination of Sun or Moon
             l  =  Observer's Longitude (East +, West -)
             f  =  Observer's Latitude (North +, South -)
During the eclipses of 2003, the values for GST and the geocentric Right Ascension and Declination of the Sun or the Moon (at greatest eclipse) are as follows:
                Eclipse               Date           GST         ra         d

               Total Lunar         2003 May 16     15.563     15.512    -18.592
               Annular Solar       2003 May 31     16.550      4.509     21.849
               Total Lunar         2003 Nov 09      3.188      2.927     16.330
               Total Solar         2003 Nov 23      4.166     15.940    -20.406

Eclipses During 2004

In 2004, there will be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses:

2004 Apr 19: Partial Solar Eclipse

2004 May 04: Total Lunar Eclipse

2004 Oct 14: Partial Solar Eclipse

2004 Oct 28: Total Lunar Eclipse

A full report Eclipses During 2004 will be published in the Observer's Handbook 2004.

NASA Solar Eclipse Bulletins

Special bulletins containing detailed predictions and meteorological data for future solar eclipses of interest are prepared by F. Espenak and J. Anderson, and are published through NASA's Publication series. The bulletins are provided as a public service to both the professional and lay communities, including educators and the media. A list of currently available bulletins and an order form can be found at:

Single copies of the eclipse bulletins are available at no cost by sending a 9 by 12 inch self-addressed envelope stamped with postage for 11 ounces (310 grams). Please print the eclipse year on the envelope's lower left corner. Use stamps only, since cash or checks cannot be accepted. Requests from outside the U. S. and Canada may send ten international postal coupons. Mail requests to: Fred Espenak, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 693, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA. The NASA eclipse bulletins are also available over the Internet, including out-of-print bulletins. Using a Web browser, they can be read or downloaded via the World-Wide Web from the GSFC/SDAC (Solar Data Analysis Center) eclipse page:


The original Microsoft Word text files and PICT figures (Macintosh format) are also available via anonymous ftp. They are stored as BinHex-encoded, StuffIt-compressed Mac folders with .hqx suffixes. For PC's, the text is available in a zip-compressed format in files with the .zip suffix. There are three sub directories for figures (GIF format), maps (JPEG format), and tables.

Eclipse Web Site

A special solar and lunar eclipse web site is available via the Internet at:

The site features predictions and maps for all solar and lunar eclipses well into the 21st century. Special emphasis is placed on eclipses occurring during the next two years with detailed path maps, tables, graphs and meteorological data. Additional catalogs list every solar and lunar eclipse over a 5000 year period.

Detailed information on solar and lunar eclipse photography, tips on eclipse observing and eye safety may be found at:


All eclipse predictions were generated on an Apple iMac G4 using algorithms developed from the Explanatory Supplement [1974] with additional algorithms from Meeus, Grosjean, and Vanderleen [1966]. The solar and lunar ephemerides were generated from Newcomb and the Improved Lunar Ephemeris. For lunar eclipses, the diameter of the umbral shadow was enlarged by 2% to compensate for Earth's atmosphere and the effects of oblateness have been included. Text and table composition was done on a Macintosh using Microsoft Word. Additional figure annotation was performed with Claris MacDraw Pro.

All calculations, diagrams, tables and opinions presented in this paper are those of the author and he assumes full responsibility for their accuracy.

A special thanks goes to summer intern Holly Schurter (National Space Club) for transferring this document to the web.


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Last revised: 2007 Jun 18 - F. Espenak