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Press Release

The Last Eclipse of the 2nd Millennium!

Partial Solar Eclipse of December 25, 2000

Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC

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The final eclipse of the Second Millennium1 occurs on Christmas Day, December 25, 2000. The event is a partial eclipse of the Sun which will be visible for observers throughout most of North America.

1The Second Millennium ends on December 31, 2000 NOT 1999 as was erroneously reported by the media last year. Our modern calendar dating system was devised in the sixth-century by the monk Dionysius Exiguous. This calendar begins on January 1 of the year 1 A.D., not year 0 A.D.. A little 3rd grade arithmetic will tell you that the First Century ended on December 31, 100 A.D., and not 99 A.D.. Similarly, the First Millennium ended on December 31, 1000 A.D.. For more information on the subject see:

But I digress...

An eclipse of the Sun can only take place at New Moon, and only if the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth. Under these conditions, the Moon's shadow sweeps across a portion of Earth's surface and an eclipse of the Sun is seen from that region. For more information on the what, why, how, when and where of solar eclipses, see the special web site solar eclipses for beginners.

The Christmas eclipse will be visible from United States (except Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. A global map of Earth shows the region of eclipse visibility. During the maximum phase (17:23 GMT) about 72% of the Sun's diameter will be covered by the Moon. Unfortunately, this takes place from Baffin Island in northern Canada. More populated locations further south in North America will see a smaller fraction of the Sun's face covered by the Moon. The eclipse magnitude varies across the USA from over 60% in the northeastern to under 20% in the far southwest. Eclipse magnitude is simply the percent of the Sun's diameter covered by the Moon. A more detailed map of North America shows the region of eclipse visibility and plots eclipse magnitude curves for different geographic locations. Times of Maximum Eclipse on the map are in Universal Time (UT) which is equal to Greenwich Mean Time. A unique eclipse animation shows the motion of the Moon's shadow across Earth's surface during the eclipse (courtesy of Dr. Andrew Sinclair).

Extreme care must be taken when watching the solar eclipse. You should visit a web site which discusses a number of ways to Safely View the Eclipse. The eclipse itself is no more dangerous to view than the Sun is on any other day. The only difference is that human curiosity impels some people to stare directly at the Sun during an eclipse and this is can cause permanent damage to your eyesight. Never look directly at the Sun with the naked eye or through any optical device (e.g. - camera, binoculars or telescope). There are a several types of Solar Filters designed specifically for Sun viewing which are available from a number of filter manufacturers and distributors. You can also use the pinhole projection method to safely watch the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse from Washington DC

The diagram above shows what the 2000 Dec 25 solar eclipse will look like from Washington DC.
The times of the start, maximum and end of the eclipse are given for Eastern Standard Time.
Eclipse times and diagrams for many other cities are found in the links below.

What will the eclipse look like and when does it begin and end? That all depends on your city or geographic location. You can see a graphic preview for a number of cities by visiting one of several special web pages and graphics prepared for the Christmas Eclipse 2000. Just got to the table for your country of geographic area, find your city in the table and click on it to see an eclipse diagram:

Partial Eclipse From the USA!

Partial Eclipse From the Canada!

Partial Eclipse From Mexico, Central America & Caribbean!

Each of the above links takes you to a table of cities listed in alphabetical order (by state in the USA). The table gives a brief summary of the eclipse circumstances as seen at each city and includes the times of start, maximum and end of the eclipse, the magnitude, the altitude of the Sun and the duration of the eclipse. As you click on the name of each city, you will see a figure illustrating the eclipse's appearance at maximum eclipse. A brief table lists the the eclipse times as well as other details about the eclipse.

An eclipse of the Sun presents a tempting target to photograph. Fortunately, solar eclipse photography is easy provided that you have the right equipment and use it correctly. Please remembr that you should never look directly at the Sun without practicing Safe Eclipse Viewing Techniques and/or use an approved solar filter!

The NASA Six Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses lists the date and circumstances for every eclipse from 2,000 BC through 3,000 AD. Searching the catalog reveals that there are 31 solar eclipses which occur on December 25. Most are partial, some are annular, and there are a few total or hybrid (total in one small area and annular elsewhere). A partial eclipse means only part of the Sun is covered by the Moon. A total eclipse finds the Moon covering the entire disk of the Sun along a narrow path across the Earth. During an annular eclipse, the Moon is too far away to completely cover the Sun. A thin ring of the Sun's disk is then seen to surround the Moon.

The last solar eclipse on December 25 was in 1954. It was an annular eclipse seen in the southern hemisphere over Africa. The next solar eclipse on December 25th occurs in 2307. It will be a partial eclipse visible off the western coast of Africa. There are two more December 25 eclipses in the twenty-fourth century: 2326 and 2383. The 2383 event will be seen from the northern hemisphere. The last total eclipse of the Sun on December 25 was in the year 1666 over South America. The next total eclipse of the Sun on Dec. 25 will be in 2755 in Europe. (Special thanks to Jack Dunn - Mueller Planetarium - Un. of Nebr. State Museum for researching the topic of December 25 eclipses using the NASA 5,000 Solar Eclipse Catalog.)

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Eclipse Frequency and Future Eclipses

The NASA Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses lists the date and circumstances for every eclipse from 2,000 BC through 3,000 AD. During this period, there are 11,897 eclipses of the Sun (including partial, annular and total). Slightly more than one third of these are partial eclipses, on third are annular eclipses and just over one quarter are total eclipses.

There are at least two solar eclipses every year although they may both be partial eclipses. On exrtremely rare occassions, there can be as many as five solar eclipses in one calendar year (e.g. - 1936 and 2207).

The table below lists every solar eclipse from 2000 through 2002. Click on the eclipse Date to see a map of an eclipse. Click on the Region of Eclipse Visibility to see a detailed description of an eclipse.

The Eclipse Magnitude is the fraction on the Sun's diameter obscurred at maximum eclipse. For values greater than 1.0, it is a total eclipse. For values less than 1.0, it is either a partial or annular eclipse. The Center Duration is the duration of either the total or annular phase (if any).

Geographic Region of
Eclipse Visibility
2000 Feb 5 Partial 0.579 - Antarctica
2000 Jul 01 Partial 0.477 - S Pacific Ocean, s South America
2000 Jul 31 Partial 0.603 - n Asia, nw North America
2000 Dec 25 Partial 0.723 - North & Central America
2001 Jun 21 Total 1.050 04m57s e S. America, Africa
[Total: s Atlantic, s Africa, Madagascar]
2001 Dec 14 Annular 0.968 03m53s N. & C. America, nw S. America
[Annular: c Pacific, Costa Rica]
2002 Jun 10 Annular 0.996 00m23s e Asia, Australia, w N. America
[Annular: n Pacific, w Mexico]
2002 Dec 04 Total 1.024 02m04s s Africa, Antarctica, Indonesia, Australia
[Total: s Africa, s Indian, s Australia]

Geographic abreviations: n = north, s = south, e = east, w = west, c = central

Live Web Coverage of the Eclipse

We will list links for live web coverage of the eclipse as they become available.

Web Resources


All eclipse calculations are by Fred Espenak, and he assumes full responsibility for their accuracy. Some of the information presented in this catalog is based on data originally published in Fifty Year Canon of Solar Eclipses: 1986 - 2035.

Permission is freely granted to reproduce this data when accompanied by the following acknowledgment:

"Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC"

Special thanks to Summer Intern Megan O'Grady for her valuable assistance in preparing this web page.

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Last revised: 2004 Nov 09 - F. Espenak