Types of Lunar Eclipse

When you say the word ‘eclipse,’ most people think of a solar eclipse when the moon blocks the light of the sun, but there’s another astronomical event – a lunar eclipse – that is also fascinating to study. An eclipse occurs when an object in space blocks the view of another object. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, blocking the sunlight that normally reflects off of it. Unlike a solar eclipse, which is only visible from a small area and may last only a few minutes, a lunar eclipse can be viewed from anywhere on the night side of the earth and may last a few hours.

There are three types of lunar eclipses: Penumbral Eclipse, which occurs when the moon moves into the lighter, outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, Partial Lunar Eclipse, which occurs when a portion of the moon moves into the umbra or darkest portion of the Earth’s shadow, and Total Lunar Eclipse, which occurs only when the entire moon crosses through the darkest part of the earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses can only occur when the moon is full, when the sun, Moon, and Earth are perfectly aligned. Because the moon’s orbit around the earth is tilted, lunar eclipses do not occur every time there is a full moon. Because the moon’s orbit changes throughout the year, about twice a year the moon’s orbit will match up with the Earth’s orbit enough to cause a lunar eclipse.

During a total lunar eclipse, the shadow of the Earth will cross gradually over the surface of the moon, but once the moon has entered the umbra, completely blocking the sun’s light, the moon will often look reddish. The red colour appears because sunlight passing beside the Earth goes through a long, thick layer of the atmosphere. The air in the atmosphere scatters colours like blue, green, and purple, so by the time the light gets to the moon mostly red light is left. This is the same reason that sunrises and sunsets look orange and red. In fact, if you were standing on the moon streaming the eclipse, the sun would seem to move behind the earth and the moon where you stood would turn reddish, very much like a sunset on earth. A lunar eclipse is one of the easiest astronomical events to observe since no special equipment is needed to stream it. Just find out when the eclipse will happen, go outside, and look up! If you missed the last eclipse, don’t worry. Lunar eclipses happen every year, and so before long you, too, will have an opportunity to observe one.