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The difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse

solar lunar eclipse

This year the Earth will play host not only a solar eclipse, but a lunar eclipse as well.

Where to see the 20 March 2015 solar eclipse

On March 20, Europe will see the biggest solar eclipse since 1999. The path of totality (where a full eclipse is visible) will travel from under Greenland’s peninsula up to the Arctic Circle.

The best places to observe the total eclipse are the Faroe Islands and Northern Scandinavia.

The solar eclipse will start at around 8.30am, with the actual moment of totality peaking at around 9.40am and lasting for about two minutes.

The eclipse will end at 10.45am.

Where to see the 4 April 2015 lunar eclipse

Most parts of Northern America, South America, Asia, and some areas of Eastern Australia will be able to observe the lunar eclipse.

As for actual times, the lunar eclipse will travel over the Eastern Coast of the U.S in the dawn, and over Southern Asia after dusk.

The lunar eclipse will last for around 3 and a half hours, with the actual totality occurring for only five minutes.

How do a solar and lunar eclipse differ?

In both a solar and a lunar eclipse, the same three cosmic bodies are involved: these are the Sun, the Earth and the Moon.

A solar eclipse

When a solar eclipse occurs, the Moon travels directly in front of the Sun and manages to block out the Sun’s light. This is because the distance between the two bodies renders them exactly the same size.

If the Moon blocks all the light it is known as a total eclipse, if it is a portion it is known as a partial eclipse of the Sun.

A solar eclipse takes place during the day.

Because of the brightness of the Sun, it is not safe to view a solar eclipse without special solar eclipse eyewear, or specially made protection. Experts say that the best way to view a solar eclipse is via a pinhole device.

Diamond Ring Effect

Diamond Ring Effect

Solar eclipses are stunning phenomenon. As the eclipse gets underway, the skies darken and give an eerie atmosphere which may cause animals and wildlife to change their behaviour.

Just before totality occurs, it is possible to see effects such as Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring Effect. This is when a single beam of light bursts out from the Sun as the Moon covers the last of the Sun’s surface.

A lunar eclipse

The Moon does not produce its own light, its surface instead reflects the Sun’s rays. It is this that causes the Moon to shine in the night’s sky.

When a lunar eclipse occurs, it is the Earth that passes between the Moon and the Sun, and this then causes a shadow to fall over the Moon.

Lunar eclipses only happen during the night, only when there is a Full Moon and only when the Moon is directly opposite the Sun.

Because it is safe to look at the Moon at night, it is also safe to view a lunar eclipse. In fact, you can even use a telescope to get a close up view of the eclipse.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon

When a lunar eclipse occurs, the Moon often turns a red colour, which has caused people to name the lunar eclipse Moon the ‘Blood Moon’.

Which is more frequent? A solar or lunar eclipse?

Solar and lunar eclipses occur with the same frequency as each other, it’s just that we can see lunar eclipses more often. This is because the Earth casts a bigger shadow on the Moon, than the Moon’s shadow casts on the Earth.

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