The Three Types of Eclipses

by Linda Bading, age 12

An eclipse is a phenomenon when the sun or moon is hidden from sight, of which there are three types.

One is a solar eclipse, the most dramatic of the three. It happens when the sun is hidden by the moon. When a new moon is perfectly aligned between the earth and the sun, the moon throws a dark inner shadow called the umbra, and a light shadow called the penumbra. The umbra comes to a point on the Earth's surface while the penumbra spreads over a wider area. In order to see a full solar eclipse, one must be on earth where the moon's umbra falls. If a person is in the spot where the moon's penumbra falls he will only be able to see a partial eclipse. Humans should never look directly into a solar eclipse because their eyes will get damaged. But there are special sunglasses which allow a good look.

The lunar eclipse involves the moon. This eclipse only occurs when the shadow of the earth falls across a full moon. During the eclipse, the moon passes into Earth's outer shadow, which is very thin and hard to see. Then it passes into Earth's inner shadow, which is very heavy and dark. A lunar eclipse is visible to everyone on the night side of the Earth.

The final eclipse is the ring eclipse, sometimes referred to as the Annular eclipse. It occurs only sometimes during a solar eclipse when a ring of sunlight appears around the sun. This happens when the moon is partially blocking the sun. The moon does not totally block the sun because when it is further away from the Earth, it looks smaller.

All three can be amazing to see when the opportunity arrives

[Source: National Audibun Society First Field Grade: Night Sky]

Great article! It made me curious when the next solar eclipse visible from Madison will occur. Turns out there will be a annular solar eclipse on June 11 2048. The next one after that, a total eclipse, will happen on September 14, 2099! I think it is awesome that science can predict astronomical events decades in advance. Not only that, but NASA knows to the second when the 2048 eclipse will start!

It's too bad they are so far in the future, but one could always take a road trip. There will be a total eclipse over parts of the US in 2017. – BenMadison (2014-04-26 11:54)