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Sometimes the Earth and Moon cause  strange happenings in the sky.  The Moon might cast a shadow onto the Earth or the Earth might cast a shadow onto the Moon.  These shadows are known as eclipses.  When the Earth’s shadow covers the Moon, it is called a Lunar Eclipse.  Lunar Eclipses ONLY happen during a Full Moon.  This is because the Earth must pass between the Sun and the Moon.  We often have two or three Lunar Eclipses every year.  Unfortunately, we can not always see them.  There is going to be a lunar eclipse on Dec 10th but it will only be visible from here just before the Moon goes down, around 5:30am.  There will be another lunar eclipse in June 2012, so watch for information about it. 
During a lunar eclipse, the Moon seems to turn red.  This is because we only see the Moon from reflected Earth light instead of sunlight.  The reflected earth light is red because the Earth’s atmosphere filtered out all the other colors of light.  Our atmosphere makes it look red. 

What happens during a lunar eclipse?


Why does the Moon turn red during a lunar eclipse?


On rare occasions, when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, its shadow will fall on part of the Earth’s surface.  This shadow is what we call a solar eclipse.   Solar eclipses ONLY happen during a NEW MOON!  Think about how on a cloudy summer day, as a cloud passes between you and the Sun, it will get a little darker, in its shadow.  This is EXACTLY what happens during a solar eclipse, only it is the Moon’s shadow instead of a cloud.  Solar Eclipses are MUCH more rare than lunar eclipses. They are rare because the Moon is so small that it casts a very small shadow onto the Earth and you must be directly under the shadow to see the eclipse. The next total solar eclipse that will be visible in North America won’t occur until August 21, 2017, whereas, the next lunar eclipse that we could see part of is in December. 
We know that the Moon orbits the Earth every month, so why don’t we have an eclipse every month?  The answer is simple, those elliptical orbits!  Remember, the Earth’s orbit is elliptical around the Sun and the Moon’s orbit is elliptical around the Earth.  Those elliptical orbits have to match up just right to cause an eclipse. 

Which is more common, a lunar eclipse or a solar eclipse?


What happens during a solar eclipse, and when can one happen?


How are the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun positioned during a lunar eclipse?


How are the Earth, Moon, and Sun positioned during a solar eclipse and during which phase?


Why don’t we have a solar or lunar eclipse every month?


One more SUPER IMPORTANT fact, Never look directly at the Sun, EVER!  During a solar eclipse, the Sun’s glare is greatly reduced by the Moon’s shadow, so it is actually easy to look at the Sun.  The problem is that even though the Moon’s shadow is covering the glare of the Sun, the dangerous radiation is still getting through to the Earth.  The Sun’s invisible radiation will actually burn the optic nerve inside your eye. DON’T LOOK at a SOLAR ECLIPSE unless you have a specially made pair of eclipse glasses.  Now, about those elliptical orbits, some books talk about the orbital plane of the Earth and the Moon, same thing. 

Why should you NOT look at a solar eclipse with your eyes?


Compare elliptical orbits to orbital planes.

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