70 YEARS AGO – People living in Nigeria and most other parts of the world witnessed a total solar eclipse from 12:30 pm (on May 20, 1947). There was total darkness, the kind normally witnessed at midnight. Stars appeared in the sky; insects and night birds all sang in the bushes.
People ran and cried in all directions. Marketplaces were deserted. Christians thought it was the Rapture taking place.
Then, after about 35 minutes, it was dawn again and then day.
That was a total solar eclipse, not a partial or annual eclipse that has occurred several times since then.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. It occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness.
Scientists or astronomers can predict the occurrence of an eclipse with precision. That’s why they are able to warn people in advance. They have, for instance, predicted that another total solar eclipse will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017. It’s not certain the region(s) that may witness complete darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth’s surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.
There have also been lunar eclipses. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra. This can occur only when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. [Additional resources: Wikipedia]