You may find that the time given for an eclipse varies slightly from one information source to another. Here's why.

You may find that the time given for an eclipse varies slightly from one information source to another. Here's why.

There are two ways to measure the peak moment of an eclipse. One, used mostly by astrologers, is to find the moment when the Sun and Moon reach the same precise degree. The other is to use the moment when the Sun and Moon are at maximum alignment in real space, which is used by astronomers.

So, for example, there is a Total Solar Eclipse on December 14, 2020 at 23:08 Sagittarius. The Sun and Moon reach that precise zodiacal degree and minute at 4:16:26 PM UT. However, if you're watching the eclipse (with proper eye protection!) you would find that the moment of maximum coverage of the Sun by the Moon is actually at 4:13:00 PM.

The difference of almost 3½ minutes is because of declination. The zodiacal position is measured along a one-dimensional line -- the ecliptic -- but declination measures the up-and-down dimension above or below the ecliptic. So, the Sun and Moon happen to be aligned in both dimensions 3½ minutes sooner than their alignment along the ecliptic.

The important take-away point here is that if you want to see if an eclipse is aspecting your chart, look for the zodiacal conjunction (Solar) or opposition (Lunar). If you want to watch the eclipse at the physical peak moment, then look for the maximum eclipse time. Astrology sites (including Evolving Door Astrology) usually report the zodiacal time (precise conjunction or opposition), while news media and astronomy websites typically report the maximum eclipse time. To find watching information about any eclipse for your location, TimeAndDate.com is a great go-to information source.

 

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