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Astronomy for Kids

Lunar and Solar Eclipses

What is an eclipse?

An eclipse occurs when one object in space blocks an observer from seeing another object in space. From Earth there are two main types of eclipses: solar eclipses and lunar eclipses.

Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun causing a shadow to fall on certain portions of the Earth. The eclipse is not seen from every place on Earth, but only from the locations where the shadow falls. From these locations, it appears as if the Sun has gone dark.



There are three main parts of the Moon's shadow during an eclipse called the umbra, penumbra, and antumbra. Types of Solar Eclipses

Depending on what part of the shadow you are located in, there are three types of eclipses: Don't Look at A Solar Eclipse

We should warn you here to never look directly at a solar eclipse. Even though it appears darker, the harmful rays of the Sun can still damage your eyes.

Lunar Eclipse

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow. Lunar eclipses have the same three phases or types as solar eclipses including the umbra (total), antumbra (annular), and penumbra (partial).



Lunar eclipses can be seen by a much larger area of the Earth than solar eclipses. They also can be viewed without special equipment to protect the eyes. Lunar eclipses are not totally dark. The Moon will reflect some sunlight that is refracted by the Earth's atmosphere. The light that is refracted is reddish in color and can cause the Moon to appear a dark brownish-red.

Eclipses in Ancient Times

Eclipses have been tracked and recorded by astronomers since ancient times by such civilizations as the Ancient Babylonians and the Ancient Chinese. Eclipses were often thought to be signs from the gods.

Interesting Facts about Eclipses

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