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A total solar eclipse is visible from only a small region of Earth. During a solar eclipse, the complete shadow of the Moon that falls on Earth is only about 160 km (about 100 mi) wide. As Earth, the Sun, and the Moon move, however, the Moon’s shadow sweeps out a path up to 16,000 km (10,000 mi) long. The total eclipse can only be seen from within this path. A total solar eclipse occurs about every 18 months. Off to the sides of the path of a total eclipse, a partial eclipse, in which the Sun is only partly covered, is visible. Partial eclipses are much less dramatic than total eclipses. The Moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical, or egg-shaped. The distance between Earth and the Moon varies slightly as the Moon orbits Earth. When the Moon is farther from Earth than usual, it appears smaller and may not cover the entire Sun during an eclipse. A ring, or annulus, of sunlight remains visible, making an annular eclipse. An annular solar eclipse also occurs about every 18 months. Additional partial solar eclipses are also visible from Earth in between.

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