Everything Astrotourist’s Need to Know About Eclipses

Solar Eclipse 2019 - Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr
Photo credit: Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

Eclipses are one of the amazing astronomical wonders we can experience here on earth. Thanks to a special balance between the sun, earth, and moon, we have the chance to experience total eclipses, where the alignment of the sun, moon, and earth create a unique astronomical experience.

Solar Eclipses

Experiencing a solar eclipse is a humbling, powerful experience. Watching the moon slide between us and the sun, blotting out the powerful source of energy for our planet, is unforgettable. Here’s what you need to know about solar eclipses and how to see one.

The Physics of Solar Eclipses

The Physics of Solar Eclipses

In a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the earth and the sun.

The moon casts two shadows: a diffuse “penumbra” and a defined “umbra.”

The shadow of the umbra creates a “path of totality” where the sun is completely blocked by the moon.

The Types of Solar Eclipses

The Types of Eclipses

There are three types of solar eclipses:

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon partially obscures the sun.

An annular solar eclipses occurs when the moon obscures the sun, but is too far away to block it completely, creating a “ring of fire” in the sky.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon perfectly and totally obscures the sun.

The Next Solar Eclipse

The next solar eclipse around the globe will be a total solar eclipse on December 14, 2020.

Total Solar Eclipse - NASA Goddard via Flickr

Click Here for Info on How to See the 2020 Total Solar Eclipse on December 14

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses are almost equally impressive compared with solar eclipses – and they’re visible across a much larger part of the planet each time they occur! Lunar eclipses also occur a bit more frequently than solar eclipses.

The Physics of Lunar Eclipses

Lunar Eclipse Science Graphic: How Lunar Eclipses Work

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth passes between the sun and the moon.

Just like with a solar eclipse, the earth casts two shadows: a penumbra and an umbra.

Whether the earth’s umbra or penumbra pass across the moon determine the type of lunar eclipse.

The Types of Lunar Eclipses

Types of Lunar Eclipses Graphic

Like solar eclipses, there are three types of lunar eclipses, but they are a bit different.

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s umbra shadow passes over part of the moon.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is completely within the earth’s umbra.

A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon only passes through the penumbra, but not the umbra.

The Next Lunar Eclipse

The next lunar eclipse is a penumbral lunar eclipse that will occur on November 30, 2020.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

It will be visible across most of North America, South America, Africa, and Antarctica.