What is the difference between a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse?

Allen Versfeld's picture
Lunar eclipses are rather more common than Solar Eclipses, even though they have the same cause.  When the Earth, Moon and Sun are all positioned in a straight line, the Sun casts a shadow from one of the remaining two objects onto the other.  When the Moon is in the middle of the alignment, the Moon's shadow is cast upon the surface of the Earth, and this gives us a Solar Eclipse.  When the Earth is in the middle, it's shadow is cast upon the Moon, and we call it a Lunar Eclipse.  When you hear it explained like this, though, the names might not make a lot of sense.  Shouldn't one be called an 'Earth Eclipse', maybe?  But actually, the names come from the way it looks to an observer on Earth.  When we're standing in the moon's shadow and look up, we see that the Sun has been hidden - hence, Solar eclipse.  When we see the Moon vanish, it's a Lunar eclipse.

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