Celestial coincidence: Size of sun, moon play vital role in total eclipse

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Many Americans will get a once in a lifetime opportunity to view a total solar eclipse on August 21.

Total solar eclipses are rare and occur when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth.

Everything has to be set up just right for this spectacle to occur. If it weren't for the size of the moon, we wouldn't even see solar eclipses.

The moon's diameter and distance from earth and from the sun make its size big enough to cover the sun, making solar eclipses possible.

In this case, the moon will be at perigee - the moon's closest position to the earth - coming as close as 225,623 miles. At apogee - the moon's farthest position to the earth - the moon is 252,088 miles.

The Earth is almost four times the size of the moon and the sun is just over 400 times the size of the moon, with the moon's diameter of more than 2,100 miles.

If the sun were any bigger, the moon any smaller, or if the moon were any farther from the earth or the sun… we wouldn't get this once in a lifetime opportunity to see a total solar eclipse.