A time-sequence composite of the Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse that passed through the United States. (Photo: VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images)

The next solar eclipse will happen on July 2 and will be visible from South America and the South Pacific.

Details: The upcoming solar eclipse will be a "total" solar eclipse, per NASA. Solar eclipses happen about every 18 months and only last for a few short moments.

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves between the sun and the Earth and blocks the light of the sun from reaching Earth, per NASA. As a result, the Moon casts a shadow onto Earth.
  • The last solar eclipse, a partial eclipse, occurred on Jan. 6.
  • The last total solar eclipse happened on Aug. 21, 2017.
    • This was also the last solar eclipse visible from the United States and passed through Kansas City, St. Louis, Nashville, Salem and Charleston. The next solar eclipse that will be visible in the U.S. isn't until 2023.

There are 3 different types of eclipses: Total solar eclipses, partial solar eclipses and annular solar eclipses.

  • A total solar eclipse is only visible from a small area and happens when the sun, Moon and Earth are in a direct line.
    • During a total solar eclipse, areas in the limited "path of totality" go completely dark as the Moon covers the sun.
  • A partial solar eclipse occurs when the 3 are not in a direct line and the sun "appears to have a dark shadow on only a small part of its surface," NASA said.
  • An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon is farthest away from the Earth, making the Moon look particularly small. It does not block the entire view of the sun.
    • The eclipse creates what looks like a ring of fire around the Moon.

What's next: Following the July 2 eclipse, the next solar eclipses will happen on:

  • Dec. 26
    • Type: Annular
    • Visible from: Asia, Australia
  • June 21, 2020
    • Type: Annular
    • Visible from: Africa, southeast Europe, Asia
  • Dec. 14, 2020
    • Type: Total
    • Visible from: Pacific, southern South America, Antarctica

Be smart: Don't ever look directly at the sun. Always use proper equipment when looking at a solar eclipse.

Go deeper: The next lunar eclipse

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