What is an eclipse?

An eclipse occurs when two planetary bodies are in line with the Sun. The body farther away from the Sun is in the shadow of the one closer. For us here on Earth, we can have eclipses of both the Sun (solar eclipse) and the Moon (lunar eclipse).

Lunar Eclipse of the Moon
Lunar Eclipse from November 2003

A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon, thereby rendering our satellite in darkness as it passes through our planet’s shadow. Lunar eclipses occur on a full moon and are visible anywhere on Earth that happens to be in night time. Like solar eclipses, there are also many myths and superstitions associated with lunar eclipses.

Partial Solar Eclipse
Partial solar eclipse from May, 2012

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon cuts off some of the Sun’s light coming to the Earth. A total solar eclipse is when the moon is aligned in such a way as to totally cut off the light from the Sun. The much smaller Moon is able to accomplish this because of our distance from the Sun, whereby the two bodies appear to be of the same size for us on Earth. This is a very rare occurrence that usually occurs for a few minutes. Because of their rarity, total solar eclipses were very scary event for our ancestors, who did not have an explanation for the disappearance of their source of light, which in many cultures was considered a god and worshipped. Solar eclipses are not safe to view with the naked eye and require special care.