Tomorrow, Wednesday March 29th, 2006 is a total solar eclipse. The peak of the eclipse is at 10:16am GMT and occurs at 14 degrees Pisces. According to NASA, "a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor which traverses half the Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in Brazil (at 8:36 am GMT) and extends across the Atlantic, northern Africa, and central Asia where it ends at sunset in western Mongolia. A partial eclipse will be seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes the northern two thirds of Africa, Europe, and central Asia."
Solar eclipses occur on the new Moon (amavasya) when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. They are of three types:total, partial and annular. A total solar eclipse is when the Moon's dark shadow called the "umbra" falls on the Earth's surface. From that region of the earth the Sun will appear to be completely eclipsed by the Moon for a short period of a few minutes. The shadow will move across a portion of the earth in a narrow band called the path of totality. It is about 10,000 miles long but only 100 miles or so wide. In order to see the Sun totally eclipsed by the Moon, you must be standing in the path of totality.
When only the Moon's faint shadow called the "penumbra" strikes the Earth, we see a partial eclipse of the Sun from that region. An annular solar eclipse is when the Moon is too small to cover the entire disk of the Sun. This can happen because the Moon's orbit around the earth is not round but oval and varies by about 13% in proximity to the earth. When the Moon is closest to the earth and crosses the plane of the earth's orbit around the Sun then a total solar eclipse occurs. When the Moon is farthest from the earth and crosses the plane of the earth's orbit then annular eclipse occurs. If you are in this path, you will see a ring or 'annulus' of bright sunlight surrounding the Moon at the maximum phase of the eclipse.
The point in space where the plane of the earth's orbit and the plane of the Moon's orbit cross is called the eclipse point, or Rahu and Ketu in Vedic astrology. Only about 2-4 times per year does the Moon and Sun's paths cross the eclipse point. Astrologically speaking, for an eclipse to occur, Rahu and Ketu have to be within approximately 20 degrees of the Sun and Moon.
It's always best to do spiritual practices during eclipses and not anything of significance in the material world like starting a major project or signing important documents. Eclipses are excellent times for meditation, chanting mantras, or other spiritual practices. It's recommended to fast. Traditionally in India Brahmans (priests) will do spiritual practices like chanting mantras while submerged up to the neck in a body of water like a sacred river during the final hours of the eclipse. It is believed that any spiritual practices done during the eclipse will be many times more powerful and effective than at other times.
If the eclipse happens to occur at a key location in your astrology chart, like ascendant, Sun or Moon, then that period of time can represent a dramatic change or transition in your life relative to the house it occurs in and/or the planets it aspects. This is especially true when the dashas and other major transits like Jupiter and/or Saturn also indicate this dramatic change.
To learn about lunar eclipses click here.