I had been looking into two solar eclipses (Saros series 147 and 152) that will both be occurring in 2021. Each of these eclipses will be happening near the opposite poles of the earth. Both are part of young saros series. Saros 152 is comprised of 70 eclipses, while saros 147 contains a total of 80 eclipses. These series are 10 eclipses difference in length and began 180 years apart. So, I happened to check out their ending dates and found that both series are projected to end during the exact same year - 177 day apart – together in the year 3049. I thought that both of these series ending together one semester apart in the very same year was a pretty interesting coincidence which further piqued my interest.

So, checking further – it seems new saros series begin from as few as 7 years apart to as many as 100 years apart (new saros initiations have extremely variable spacing, but on average new series start about 31 years apart. I wanted to know why series 147 and 152 would both be ENDING at the same time. I went back to the NASA website, and checked the 5000 year listing of all solar saros series numbering 0 through 180. I only found one other such instance of two solar saros series ENDING in the same year – series 49 and 54 both ENDED together in 32 CE – so this phenomenon does seem to be a pretty rare event.

Update EDIT - I subsequently found one other nearby solar saros pair (only 108 years earlier) that BEGAN together in the same year - solar saros series 87 and 92 both BEGAN together in 77 BCE.

EDIT - additional information - I now submit that "solar series 87 and 92" (that began together in 77 BCE above) are both related to today's solar saros "142, 147, and 152" by virtue of being part of the same (evolving) semester series - all are spaced 5 apart in numbering. Solar series 49 and 54 are likewise part of the same semester series and are similarly related to the more recent solar series numbers "124, 129, and 134" (but none of those current semester series, however, begin or end together).

I checked to see if there were any other occasions of two saros series BEGINNING together in the same year. Going back to the NASA website again with this question, I checked the 5000 year listing of all solar saros series numbering 0 through 180. I only found one other example of two saros series both BEGINNING in the same year. This time series 142 and 147 both BEGAN together in the year 1624 CE.

Not only is solar saros 147 involved in BOTH of these "same year" cases, but all three series eclipses will be presenting themselves during a single upcoming semester series in 2021 – solar series 142 (Dec 14, 2020), 147 (June 10, 2021), and 152 (Dec 4, 2021).

Can anyone explain to me the actual mechanics behind what causes saros series to begin and end? I am familiar with Saros/Inex Panorama – but unfortunately they do not answer this question, and I can’t even read them online anyway.

Does anyone know why solar saros 147 may have STARTED in the same year as saros 142 or why saros 147 will be ENDING together in the same year as saros 152? Are these two occasions both very rare coincidences, while at the same time, both involve the same series 147?


1 Answer 1


The reason Saros Cycles begin and end is down to the positions of the orbits of the Sun, the Moon and the Earth. From the main Wikipedia page on Saros:

For an eclipse you need the 3 bodies to line up at a full or new moon,

and repeat occurrences of these lunar phases result from solar and lunar orbits producing the Moon's synodic period of 29.53059 days...however for the majority of these, the shadow of the Earth or Moon fall to the north or south of the other body.

It can only happen when a full or new moon is around the ecliptic.

The period of time for two successive lunar passes through the ecliptic plane (returning to the same node) is termed the draconic month, a 27.21222 day period. The three-dimensional geometry of an eclipse, when the new or full moon is near one of the nodes, occurs every 5 or 6 months when the Sun is in conjunction or opposition to the Moon and coincidentally also near a node of the Moon's orbit at that time, or twice per eclipse year.


Two Saros eclipses have the same appearance and duration due to the distance between the Earth and Moon being nearly the same for each event because the Saros eclipse cycle is also an integer of the anomalistic month, the period of the eccentricity of lunar orbit, 27.5545 days.

After one saros, the Moon will have completed roughly an integer number of synodic, draconic, and anomalistic periods (223, 242, and 239) and the Earth-Sun-Moon geometry will be nearly identical

The reason we get varying start and ends is because of this. Those roughly integer periods vary.

This diagram from that Wikipedia page illustrates perfectly why they can be different lengths, stop and start at changing intervals etc.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry about the wording of the question, but it is vanishingly low probability. And, sorry again, but this is definitely not an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user22542
    Oct 21, 2018 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ There really isn't a question. There is nothing to ask. It is a very low probability. It happens. Seriously. That's it. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 21, 2018 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, it was very confusing with all your questions and bits in bold and capitals etc. With that clarity I can probably give you an answer to your question 1. Question 2 is still not a question though. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 22, 2018 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean? The definition of the start of a new series is that the relative positions are nearly identical. That's it. Saros series 1 was arbitrary, and all others are counted from that one. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 22, 2018 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ The other animation on the Wikipedia page shows that. To be honest, I found it less clear, but it may work for you. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 23, 2018 at 6:27

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