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Types of solar and lunar eclipses

An eclipse is an astronomical event when one celestial body partially or totally covers another celestial object. We can see two kinds of eclipses from Earth - eclipses of the Sun (Solar eclipses), and eclipses of the Moon (Lunar eclipses).

Eclipse History
A partial solar eclipse.
The Moon covering parts of the Sun during a partial solar eclipse.
©iStockphoto.com/Hans-Walter Untch

Solar eclipses

Solar eclipses can only occur during the new Moon, when the Moon moves between Earth and Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line: Earth - Moon - Sun.

There are 4 kinds of solar eclipses: total, partial, annular, and hybrid.

Total solar eclipses

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, as seen from Earth.

Partial solar eclipses

Partial solar eclipses can be observed when only the lunar penumbra (the partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an object) touches the Earth.

Annular solar eclipses

Annular eclipses occur when the Moon appears smaller than the Sun as it passes centrally across the solar disk and a bright ring, or annulus, of sunlight remains visible during the eclipse.

Hybrid solar eclipses

Hybrid eclipses are a rare form of solar eclipse, which changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse along its path.

Lunar eclipses

Illustration image

Partial lunar eclipse in 2008 seen in Germany.


The Moon does not have its own light. It shines because its surface reflects the Sun's rays. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon and blocks the Sun's rays from directly reaching the Moon. Lunar eclipses only happen at full Moon.

There are 3 kinds of lunar eclipses: total, partial, and penumbral.

Total lunar eclipses

Total lunar eclipses occur when the Earth's umbra obscures all of the Moon's visible surface.

Partial lunar eclipses

Partial lunar eclipses can be observed when only part of the Moon's visible surface is obscured by the Earth’s umbra.

Penumbral lunar eclipses

Penumbral lunar eclipses happen when the Moon travels through the faint penumbral portion of the Earth’s shadow.

Topics: Astronomy, Eclipses, Moon, Earth, Sun


All about solar eclipses

  1. Types of solar and lunar eclipses
  2. What are solar eclipses?
  3. Total solar eclipses
  4. Partial solar eclipses
  5. Annular solar eclipses
  6. Solar eclipses in history
  7. Solar eclipse myths and superstitions
  8. Eye safety during solar eclipses
  9. Make a pinhole projector


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