What is an eclipse of the Moon? What causes eclipses and why? How often do eclipses happen and when is the next eclipse of the Moon? You’ll learn the answers to these questions and more in this article on lunar eclipses.
The Moon is a cold, rocky body about 2,160 miles (3,476 km) in diameter. It has no light of its own but shines by sunlight reflected from its surface. The Moon orbits Earth about once every 29 and a half days. As it circles our planet, the changing position of the Moon with respect to the Sun causes our natural satellite to cycle through a series of phases:
New Moon > New Crescent > First Quarter > Waxing Gibbous> Full Moon >Waning Gibbous > Last Quarter > Old Crescent > New Moon (again)
The phase known as New Moon can not actually be seen because the illuminated side of the Moon is then pointed away from Earth. The rest of the phases are familiar to all of us as the Moon cycles through them month after month. The difference between solar and lunar eclipse is a solar eclipse is an eclipse of the Sun. It happens when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. This is only possible when the Moon is in the New Moon phase.
Many early civilizations used the Moon’s monthly cycle to measure the passage of time. In fact, some calendars are synchronized to the phases of the Moon. The Hebrew, Muslim and Chinese calendars are all lunar calendars. The New Moon phase is uniquely recognized as the beginning of each calendar month just as it is the beginning on the Moon’s monthly cycle. In comparison, the Full Moon phase occurs mid-way through the lunar month.
Read full article by Pritish Kumar Halder to get full knowledge about Lunar Eclipse and its facts below:
Types of Lunar Eclipses
An eclipse of the Moon (or lunar eclipse) can only occur at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth’s shadow. That shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped components, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun’s rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.
Astronomers recognize three basic types of lunar eclipses:
- Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
The Moon passes through Earth’s penumbral shadow.
These events are of only academic interest because they are subtle and hard to observe.
- Partial Lunar Eclipse
A portion of the Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow.
These events are easy to see, even with the unaided eye.
- Total Lunar Eclipse
The entire Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow.
These events are quite striking due to the Moon’s vibrant red color during the total phase (totality).
Now we don’t have an eclipse once a month during every Full Moon. The Moon’s orbit around Earth is actually tipped about 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This means that the Moon spends most of the time either above or below the plane of Earth’s orbit. And the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun is important because Earth’s shadows lie exactly in the same plane. During Full Moon, our natural satellite usually passes above or below Earth’s shadows and misses them entirely. No eclipse takes place. But two to four times each year, the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth’s penumbral or umbral shadows and one of the above three types of eclipses occurs.
Observing Lunar Eclipses
Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are completely safe to watch. You can watch the lunar eclipse with nothing more than your own two eyes. It isn’t even necessary to use a telescope. If you have a pair of binoculars, they will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration brighter and easier to see. A standard pair of 7×35 or 7×50 binoculars work fine.
Amateur astronomers can actually make some useful observations during total eclipses. It’s impossible to predict exactly how dark the Moon will appear during totality. The color can also vary from dark gray or brown, through a range of shades of red and bright orange. The color and brightness depend on the amount of dust in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse. Using the Danjon Brightness Scale for lunar eclipses, amateurs can categorize the Moon’s color and brightness during totality.
Another useful amateur activity requires a telescope. Using a standard list lunar craters, one can careful measure the exact time when each crater enters and leaves the umbral shadow. These crater timings can be used to estimate the enlargement of Earth’s atmosphere due to airborne dust and volcanic ash.
Of course, an eclipse of the Moon also presents a tempting target to photograph. Fortunately, lunar eclipse photography is easy provided that you have the right equipment and use it correctly.
When an eclipse of the Moon takes place, everyone on the night side of Earth can see it. About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type which are very difficult to detect, even with a telescope. Another 30% are partial eclipses which are easy to see with the unaided eye. The final 35% or so are total eclipses, and these are quite extraordinary events to behold.
Why is the Moon Red During a Total Lunar Eclipse?
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. Astronauts on the Moon would then see the Earth completely eclipse the Sun. While the Moon remains completely within Earth’s umbral shadow, indirect sunlight still manages to reach and illuminate it. However, this sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth’s atmosphere which filters out most of the blue colored light. The remaining light is a deep red or orange in color and is much dimmer than pure white sunlight. Earth’s atmosphere also bends or refracts some of this light so that a small fraction of it can reach and illuminate the Moon.
The total phase of a lunar eclipse is so interesting and beautiful precisely because of the filtering and refracting effect of Earth’s atmosphere. If the Earth had no atmosphere, then the Moon would be completely black during a total eclipse. Instead, the Moon can take on a range of colors from dark brown and red to bright orange and yellow. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in Earth’s atmosphere. Total eclipses tend to be very dark after major volcanic eruptions since these events dump large amounts of volcanic ash into Earth’s atmosphere.
All total eclipses start with a penumbral followed by a partial eclipse, and end with a partial followed by a penumbral eclipse (the total eclipse is sandwiched in the middle). The penumbral phases of the eclipse are quite difficult to see, even with a telescope. However, partial and total eclipses are easy to observe, even with the naked eye.