Types Of Eclipses And How They Work

An eclipse, whether solar or lunar, happens when the Sun, Moon, and Earth align with each other. A solar eclipse, like the one on August 21, 2017, is when the Sun’s light will be blocked by the Moon. A lunar eclipse is when the Moon passes behind the Earth into its shadow. As the Sun’s light is refracted through the earth, the shadow will give the Moon a red-orange tint as the Moon moves directly behind the Earth.

Lunar Eclipse

A lunar eclipse is when the Earth’s shadow is cast over the Moon. During this time the Sun’s light passing through the Earth illuminates the Moon giving it an orange tone as the Moon moved closer to the center of Earth’s shadow. There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial and penumbral.

Total lunar eclipses are when the Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow -giving it that red-orange tone. The red-orange glow is caused by the umbral shadow. This is the inner darkest part of the shadow. The reason it has that reddish color it’s because the Sun’s light is passing around the whole circumference of Earth. Partial lunar eclipse is when the Moon passes through only a portion of the Earths shadow. Depending on how far in the Moon moves into the shadow, the Moon may or may not get the orange glow.

Take a look at this list of upcoming lunar eclipses.

Solar Eclipse

Solar eclipses, either total or partial, happen twice every year. In very rare occasions, there can be five solar eclipse s in a year. The last time this happened was in 1935 and the next time it will happen will be in 2206. There are four types of solar eclipses: total, partial, annual and hybrid.

Total solar eclipses happen when the sun is completely blocked by the moon. Total solar eclipses are only visible from a specific part of the Earth. The moon is considerably smaller and this its shadow will only pass through a narrow path on Earth’s surface. Areas around that path will only see a partial solar eclipse.

Partial solar eclipses are when the Moon doesn’t completely cover the Sun. The Moon passes off-center and only a portion of the Sun is obscured.

An annular eclipse is when the Moon doesn’t cover the entirety of the Sun, even if the Moon’s completely centered in front of it. This happens because the Moon’s orbit is an ellipsis and the Moon is closer to the Earth. During this kind of eclipse, the bright ring around the Moon is called the “ring of fire.”

A hybrid eclipse is a combination of a total and an annular eclipse; its starts as one type and transitions to another.

Take a look at this list of solar eclipses in the next couple of years.


More Resources for Educators:

  1. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/how-eclipses-work
  2. https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/eclipse-information.html
  3. https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-is-an-eclipse-58
  4. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety