Astronomy EssentialsSun

Total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021

Line of suns, partly eclipsed, with total eclipse in middle, above snowy landscape with silhouetted people watching.
If you substituted penguins for the humans in this photo, the December 4, 2021, total solar eclipse over Antarctica might look something like this. This image was the Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 20, 2015: a total solar eclipse over Norway. The image is via Thanakrit Santikunaporn. Used with permission. Thank you, Thanakrit!

Total solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse sweeps across Antarctica on December 4, 2021. The instant of greatest eclipse takes place at 07:33 UTC, which is 1:33 a.m. on the morning of December 4 for people in North America (CST). So North Americans will not see the eclipse. People located at the southernmost tips of South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand will experience the partial phases. The path of the moon’s umbral shadow begins in the Southern Ocean about 300 miles (500 km) southeast of the Falkland Islands, crosses the Antarctic continent, and ends at sunset in the Southern Ocean. Viewers within the much broader path of the moon’s penumbral shadow, which includes the Southern Ocean, southern Africa and the southeastern corner of Australia and Tasmania, will see a partial eclipse.

The eastern edge of the eclipse path passes within 225 miles (360 km) of South Georgia Island. This island is renowned for its whaling stations during the first half of the 20th century, and as the starting and ending point of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s remarkable attempt to cross the Antarctic continent (1914-1917).

The South Orkney Islands are the only land in the path prior to reaching Antarctica. However, they straddle the western edge of the path with the Coronation Islands bisected by the path edge. Apart from the personnel at several research stations, there are no permanent inhabitants on the islands. From the eastern coast of easternmost Laurie Island, the duration of totality is 1 minute 8 seconds with the sun 8 degrees above the horizon.

The path continues south across the Weddell Sea, where the instant of greatest eclipse occurs at 07:33:27 UT1. The duration is 1 minute 54 seconds, the sun’s altitude is 17 degrees, and the path width is 260 miles (419 km).

Traversing the Ronne Ice Shelf, the path quickly crosses Antarctica and reaches the coast of the Amundsen Sea at 08:01 UT1. The central duration has dropped to 1 minute 38 seconds and the sun is 7 degrees above the horizon. Now heading north, the umbral path ends three minutes later as the shadow lifts off of Earth in the Southern Ocean at 08:04 UT1.

Find maps and eclipse timings below. Remember to convert UTC to your time. Note the different between UTC and UT1. You can visit to get an exact timing of the eclipse from your location. The number one rule for solar eclipse observing is to make sure you protect your eyes by using an appropriate filter.

EarthSky 2022 lunar calendars now available!  They make great gifts. Order now. Going fast!

Globe of Earth with concentric, curved lines over Antarctica and south Indian Ocean.
A map for the total solar eclipse on December 4, 2021. The path of totality cuts across Antarctica, within the dark blue arced lines at the bottom of this map. The light blue lines indicate who will see the partial solar eclipse. The percentage of the sun covered by the moon decreases as you go north. You must protect your eyes to watch the partial phases of any solar eclipse. Key to Solar Eclipse Maps here. Image via Fred Espenak.

Moon will be nearby

Greatest eclipse takes place 0.1 days before the moon reaches perigee, its closest point to Earth for the month. So it’s a relatively large-sized moon that covers the sun during this eclipse. Thus, in the day or two after the eclipse, people who live along a coastline can expect higher-than-usual tides.

Some call these sorts of tides perigean spring tides.

But in recent years, these close new or full moons have come to be called supermoons, some are also calling them supermoon tides. And we’ve also heard the term king tides.

Read more: Tides and the pull of the sun and moon

Saros and eclipse season

During the eclipse, the sun is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus.

The eclipse belongs to Saros 152 and is number 13 of 70 eclipses in the series. All eclipses in this series occur at the moon’s descending node. The moon moves northward with respect to the node with each succeeding eclipse in the series.

The total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021, is preceded two weeks earlier by a partial lunar eclipse on November 19, 2021.

These eclipses all take place during a single eclipse season.

Maps and data for the total solar eclipse

Orthographic Map: total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021. Detailed map of eclipse visibility

Animated Map: total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021. Animated map of the moon’s shadows across Earth

Google Map: total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021. Interactive map of the eclipse path

Path Table: total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021. Coordinates of the central line and path limits

Circumstances Calculator: December 4, 2021 total solar eclipse. Eclipse times for hundreds of cities

Saros 152 Table: data for all eclipses in the Saros series

Additional tables and data for this event

Ad showing 3 of Fred Espenak's eclipse publications.
Thank you, Fred Espenak, for granting permission to reprint this article. For the best in eclipse info – from a world’s expert – visit Fred’s publications page.

Bottom line: A total solar eclipse will occur on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The path of totality sweeps across Antarctica. But people in southernmost South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand have a shot at the partial phases.

Planet-observing is easy: Top tips here

See photos of the November 2021 lunar eclipse

EarthSky’s monthly planet guide: Visible planets and more

December 2, 2021
Astronomy Essentials

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