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A very rare supermoon eclipse of the sun is happening this week that won't take place again until 2034

solar eclipse
solar eclipse

(davidfntau on Flickr)

This Friday, March 20, marks this year's first and only total eclipse of the sun, when the moon passes directly between Earth and the sun.

Not only that, this is an extremely rare type of solar eclipse because it takes place on the first day of spring and when the moon is at its closest distance to Earth, known as a supermoon.

(The supermoon, however, is a new moon, and will therefore be invisible to Earth.)

This is the first time since the turn of the century that a total solar eclipse has fallen on the same day as the start of spring, known as the vernal equinox. We won't see an event like this again until the year 2034. And after that, the only other two such events will be in 2053 and 2072.

Although no one in the US will get a chance to see the total solar eclipse, many parts of Northern Africa and all of Europe will get a glimpse.

The most stunning part of the eclipse, when the moon is directly in front of the sun, will take place at approximately 9:46 am UT.

Check out the map below to see where in the world the eclipse will be visible:

solar eclipse 2015
solar eclipse 2015

(Time and Date)

If you're not in the right spot to see it in person, you can watch it online. The Slooh Community Observatory will host a live, two-and-a-half-hour broadcast of the event starting at 4:30 pm ET. The livestream is provided below:

What's happening

Vernal is Latin for "spring" and equinox is Latin for "equal night." Every March, Earth is angled exactly perpendicular to the sun's rays, shown in the diagram below, which means that we get about the same number of hours of daylight as we get of night. And on this year's vernal equinox, the moon will pass directly between the sun and Earth.

march equinox illustration
march equinox illustration

(Time and Date)

Each time a solar eclipse occurs, only a small part of the world gets to see it. As the moon passes between our planet and the sun, it casts a shadow onto Earth's surface, but this shadow is relatively small and only covers a small part of the globe each time. Therefore, only a limited amount of prime observing spots exist for each solar eclipse.

This time around it's Europe's turn.

total solar eclipse
total solar eclipse

(James Jordan)This is not quite a total solar eclipse, but it's pretty close. If you're in one of the prime observing spots, then you can check to see when the eclipse will happen in your city at timeanddate.com.

Remember that no one should look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse without proper equipment, as it can damage the eyes.

The next time the US will get a chance to see a total solar eclipse will be on August 21, 2017. And that's a date to mark your calendars for because it will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the entire US since 1979!

There is only one other eclipse of the sun taking place this year on September 13, but it will only be visible by a small number of observers in South Africa and Antarctica.

If you get any shots of the partial solar eclipse, send them with a description, your name, and location to our science team at science@businessinsider.com and we might feature them on our site.

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