Solar Eclipse vs. Lunar Eclipse

Posted by Nisha Ferrell on

We had a Solar Eclipse recently, on March 8th/9th.  And we'll be having a Lunar Eclipse on March 23rd.

So what is a Solar Eclipse, right?  And what is a Lunar Eclipse?  And what is the difference?


(Total Solar Eclipse pictured above)

Simply put, a Solar Eclipse is when the Moon travels in front of the Sun and obscures or blocks its view from the Earth.  The Sun is being eclipsed by the Moon, and the Sun, Moon, and Earth are in perfect alignment.  In the 'Sun in Aries vs. New Moon in Aries' post, we learned that when the Sun and the Moon are together, this is called a New Moon.  So, Solar Eclipses always happen on a New Moon, but every New Moon is not a Solar Eclipse.  And this is because, you'll also remember, the Moon is very fast moving and it's orbit is not always the same.  So, on every New Moon the Moon isn't always lined up in front of the Sun, in between the Sun & the Earth, to create an eclipse.


(Total Lunar Eclipse pictured above)

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Moon is the furthest away from the Sun, behind the Earth, and all three (the Sun, Moon, and Earth) are in perfect alignment.  In the 'Sun in Aries vs. New Moon in Aries' post we learned that the Moon is furthest away from the Sun, when they are in opposite zodiac signs, also known as a Full Moon.  So from the Earth, the Moon appears darkened because the Earth is the one doing the blocking of the light of the Sun, and this creates the shadow on the Moon.  Like the Solar Eclipse & New Moon, not all Lunar Eclipses are a Full Moon because of the Moon's tilted and fast moving orbits.

Different Types of Solar Eclipses

  • Partial: When the Moon only partially covers the Sun; when the Earth, Moon & Sun do not all three perfectly align.
  • Annular: When the Moon crosses centrally across the Sun and appears smaller than the Sun and some sunlight still remain visible.
  • Total: When the Moon completely covers the Sun. (The Solar Eclipse on March 8th/9th was Total.)
  • Hybrid: When the Eclipse changes from Annular to Total during the same Eclipse. (This is a very rare Eclipse.  The last one occurred on November 3, 2013 and the next one won't occur until April 20th, 2023!)

Different Types of Lunar Eclipses

  • Total: When the Moon is completely covered by the Earth's shadow (or umbra).
  • Partial: When only part of the Moon is covered by the umbra.
  • Penumbral: When the Moon only travels through the faint portion of the umbra. (The Lunar Eclipse on March 23rd will be Penumbral.)

I hope this provides some clarity.  Let me know in the comments below if it does and if there are other questions you'd like to see answered.



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