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The Lunar Eclipse: The Science of How it Happens by Petra P.

Lunar eclipses are extraordinary sights that are worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

A Lunar Eclipse is a period of time when the Earth passes between the Moon and Sun, leaving a shadow on about half of Earth’s surface. This occurs about two times a year, each lasting about a few hours. There are three phases of a Lunar Eclipse: a partial eclipse, penumbra eclipse, and a total eclipse. During some phases of a Lunar Eclipse, the Moon may appear to look reddish. This is because the remaining sunlight reaches the Moon from Earth’s edges and that light can be seen on the Moon’s surface. Lunar Eclipses are safe to look at, and scientists proclaim that the next Lunar Eclipse is going to be on July 5, 2020.

Penumbra Eclipse and Partial Eclipse

One of the three phases of a Lunar Eclipse is a penumbra eclipse. A penumbra eclipse is when the light of the sun is partially extinguished. In this case, the Moon misses the umbra completely and only passes through the penumbra shadow. This phase is more difficult to observe and never dramatically progresses into a total eclipse within a few minutes. Eclipse expert Fred Espenak states that penumbra eclipses will take up 35% of the time of a Lunar Eclipse, while a partial eclipse takes up 30% and a total 35%.

A partial eclipse is when the Moon is slightly to the side of the Earth, so you can see what some people call a "crest" eclipse. During a partial eclipse, only a part of the Moon enters the umbra. Although it never reaches the total eclipse phase, about ¾ of the Moon turns red.

Total Eclipse

The third phase of a Lunar Eclipse is a total eclipse. A total eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the central part of Earth’s surface. This phase of a Lunar Eclipse can be seen on the nightside of Earth only and can last up to six hours. During a total eclipse, the entire Moon is in Earth’s umbra mid-eclipse. The moon may look blood-red, in which case many people call this occurrence the "blood-red Moon."

If you want to see a Lunar eclipse, find out when and where it is, and if you’re in the area go and enjoy the wondrous sight!


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