An eclipse occurs when one heavenly body, such as a moon or planet,
moves into the shadow of another.

On Earth there are two types;
Total Solar Eclipse and Total Lunar Eclipse.

Total Solar Eclipse

  • a solar eclipse is when the Moon comes from between the Sun and the Earth,
    casting a shadow up to 45 miles wide onto the Earth’s surface.
  • in a total eclipse of the Sun, the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, completely covering it so that only its corona can be seen.


  • there are at least two solar eclipses every year, but they are only visible from a narrow strip of the world.
  • totality is when the Moon blocks out the face of the Sun completely; it only lasts for a few minutes!
  • solar eclipses are possible because the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, and the Moon appears to be the same size in the sky..


Total Lunar Eclipse

  • a lunar eclipse is when the Moon travels behind the Earth, and into the Earth’s shadow. (Earth is between the Moon and The Sun.)
  • lunar eclipses happen about once or twice a year and last only a few hours.
  • lunar eclipse can be seen from anywhere on the half the Earth facing the Moon.

In a total lunar eclipse, the Moon turns rust-red.


Types of shadow

During a solar eclipse, the moon casts two shadows on Earth.

  • first shadow is called the umbra, and this gets smaller as it reaches Earth.
  • second shadow is known as the penumbra, and this gets larger as it reaches Earth.


Three types of solar eclipses

Three types of solar eclipses
(Total, Annual and Partial)

  • Total
    – a total solar eclipse is only visible from a certain region on Earth and those who can see it are in the centre of the moon’s shadow when it hits Earth.
    – for a total eclipse to take place, the sun, moon & Earth must be in a direct line.
    – people standing in the umbra will see a total eclipse.
  • Annular
    – an annular eclipse happens when the moon is farthest from Earth.
    – because the moon is further from Earth, it appears smaller.
    – as a result, it doesn’t block the entire view of the sun. The moon in front of the sun resembles a dark disk on top of a larger sun-coloured disk and creates what looks like a ring around the moon.
  • Partial Solar Eclipse
    – this occurs when the sun, moon and Earth don’t line up exactly.
    – people standing in the penumbra will see a partial eclipse.

More infographic


Back to The Solar System page /  next to  Next Eclipses to be seen  page.

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