The end of this week sees three different natural phenomenons all within days of each other. Friday will see a solar eclipse which will see the UK plunged into darkness, while two less rare spectacular celestial events will also happen too: a Supermoon and the Spring equinox.The solar eclipse is a phenomenon where the sun and moon line up, so that the latter obscures the former. An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. Nevertheless, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses have been attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the Sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes. Eclipses can only happen at new moon, when the moon appears is entirely in shadow.If the Moon were in a perfectly circular orbit, a little closer to the Earth, and in the same orbital plane, there would be total solar eclipses every single month. However, the Moon’s orbit is inclined (tilted) at more than 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (see ecliptic) so its shadow at new moon usually misses Earth.
A Supermoon, or perigee moon, happens when the full /new moon does its closest fly-by of the Earth, making it look bigger than it normally does. Most of the time, there are between three and six Supermoons a year. There is set to be six in 2015, two of which have already happened. The next will take place on March 20, the day of the eclipse, and the others will come in August, September and October.
The spring equinox refers to the time of the year when the day and night are of equal duration, mid-way between the longest and shortest days. The equinox will also happen on March 20. While it won’t have any discernable, impact on how the solar eclipse looks, it will contribute to a rare collision of three unusual celestial events. On March 20, the Earth’s axis will be perpendicular to the sun’s ray — which only happens twice a year, at the two equinoxes.
After that, it will start tipping over, making the days longer in the northern hemisphere. As such, the equinox has long been celebrated as a time of beginning and renewal, by a number of historic cultures, and is linked to Easter and Passover.Its deeper spiritual significance reveals the mysteries of spiritual resurrection. In Christianity, the spring equinox is the time of the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Likewise in ancient Egypt, it is the time of the resurrection of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris; and the resurrection of the Mayan Maize God Hun Hunahpu.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, in Egypt, symbol of resurrection, gazes precisely at the rising of the spring equinox sun. The temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia aligns to the spring equinox, and depicts the scene of the “churning of the milky ocean”—the struggle between the forces of light and darkness. At the temple of the feathered serpent in Mexico at Chichen Itza, the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl ascends the nine terraces of the pyramid on the spring equinox. The equinox will happen at the same time as a solar eclipse in 2053 and 2072, though it doesn’t always appear as close together as that.