Eclipses happen when one object in space, like a planet or a moon, passes through the shadow of another object in space. An eclipse is an awe-inspiring celestial event that drastically changes the appearance of the two biggest objects we see in our sky: our Sun and Moon. On Earth, people can experience both lunar and solar eclipses when Earth, the Moon, and the Sun line up.
There are typically two lunar and solar eclipses each year. However, eclipses are only viewable from some locations. For example, a total solar eclipse, where the Moon completely blocks the view of the Sun from Earth, is only visible from a specific location once every 350 years on average. Other locations may experience total solar eclipses more often than that. This means that while eclipses happen on Earth fairly regularly, the chances of experiencing one in a specific location could be rare. Many eclipses only occur over Earth’s bodies of water, which cover 71% of our planet, making it even more unlikely to witness one. Learn more about the types of eclipses and why they happen.
In October 2023, an annular solar eclipse will cross North America. Then, just six months later, in April 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross the continent. These events provide a unique opportunity for people all across the United States to experience an eclipse.10 Facts About Eclipses
An eclipse season is one of only two periods during each year when the Sun, the Moon and Earth are aligned and eclipses can occur. Each season lasts about 35 days and repeats just short of six months later!
A Round Earth
Lunar eclipses probably taught people that Earth is round when they saw Earth’s shadow on the Moon.
Never look at a solar eclipse without proper safety methods — except for the brief period, known as totality, when the Moon is completely blocking the Sun. Looking at the Sun can damage your eyes!
Scientists at Work
The corona – the Sun’s outer atmosphere – normally can’t be seen because of the bright solar surface, but during a total solar eclipse, the corona emerges, offering unique science opportunities.
There are four types of solar eclipses (partial, total, hybrid, and annular) and three types of lunar eclipses (total, penumbral, and partial).
A Red Moon
A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth passes between the Moon and the Sun, casting the Moon in its shadow. This causes the Moon to appear red, since Earth’s atmosphere filters out blue light coming from the Sun.
A Lasting Experience
While lunar eclipses can last for a few hours, solar eclipses only last for a few minutes.
20 Years Later
After the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from the continental United States will be on August 23, 2044.
When a solar eclipse reaches totality, nocturnal wildlife sometimes wakes up, thinking that it’s nighttime, and non-nocturnal wildlife might think it’s time to head to sleep!
A Different Perspective
If you were standing on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, it’s the Earth that would be dark, because the Sun would be behind it!