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Lunar Eclipse FAQs Pt. 1

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A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon form a perfect line up in space. This causes the earth to cast a shadow onto the moon, changing its color and making it appear darker. Since it’s eclipse season, let’s learn more about these astronomical events!

Witches and muggles alike celebrate lunar eclipses. In the first part of my lunar eclipse FAQ, I will address frequently asked questions about this astronomical phenomenon from a scientific perspective. More witchy questions will be answered in future posts.

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Lunar Eclipse’?

Total lunar eclipses progress in 3 stages. The first stage occurs when the moon enters the lighter part of the earth’s shadow, called the penumbral eclipse. During this time, the face of the moon that we can see gradually dims.

A partial eclipse occurs when the moon enters the dark part of the earth’s shadow. Some parts of the moon are completely covered by the shadow.

When the moon is totally eclipsed, it looks red. This is because the sun is blocking out the light coming from the moon. During an eclipse, the moon appears as if it is bleeding. This is called a blood moon.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow. When this happens, the Moon appears as if it were totally eclipsed by the Earth. This event is called a total lunar eclipse. During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon disappears behind the Earth. However, the Moon does not disappear entirely. Instead, the Moon remains visible due to the fact that the Moon is still partially illuminated by the Sun.

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Who Discovered The Lunar Eclipse

Realistically, lunar eclipses aren’t hard to “discover”. Any hominid that observed the lunar eclipse discovered it well before writing.

Millions of people around the world discovered the lunar eclipse independently of each other. They couldn’t communicate to each other and due lack of proper documentation, they had to rediscover the phenomenon time and again.

The first recorded mention of a lunar eclipse was in a book from 1137 BC. It was recorded in the Chinese book Zhou-Shu, which was about the Zhou dynasty in China. 

This book was discovered in the tomb of a king or nobleman in 280 AD.

What Causes A Lunar Eclipse To Occur

The moon orbits around the earth, and the earth orbits around the sun, all in roughly same plane. Because of this, from time to time, they line-up and there is a dark shadow cast on the moon.

Eclipses don’t happen every month, though. Why is that? Because we are roughly on the same plane, but not on the exact same plane. Because the moon’s orbit is inclined, there’s no eclipse most months.

timelapse photography of moon
Photo by samer daboul on

Can A Lunar Eclipse Occur At Day Time

When is an eclipse visible? Think about it this way: When it’s day for you, it’s night somewhere else. By definition, lunar eclipses occur when it is daytime somewhere on earth.

That doesn’t mean you can see a lunar eclipse during this time, however. When the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, it will be on the opposite side of our planet from the Sun. It will therefore be an “eclipse.” In order for the eclipsed moon to be visible, the sun must not be visible.

So if it is daytime where you are during a lunar eclipse, you won’t be able to see the eclipse. It can only be observed at night.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to see a total lunar eclipse, you might want to go for a hike up a mountain or atop a hill.

What Does A Lunar Eclipse Look Like In Daytime

As noted above, it doesn’t look like anything. It simply won’t be visible. 

It is possible to observe a total lunar eclipse at moonrise and moonset. A selenelion is when the eclipsed moon is visible at the same time as the rising sun.

Is It Dangerous To Watch A Lunar Eclipse With Your Naked Eyes

Nope! Even a solar eclipse is only a little more damaging to the eyes than staring at the normal sun.

How Long Will A Lunar Eclipse Last?

There’s no set duration for a lunar eclipse. Total lunar eclipses last anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours. 

low angle photography of full moon under silhouette of tall trees
Photo by Tom Fisk on

Is A Lunar Eclipse The Same As A Blood Moon

Yes. A blood moon is a term used to describe a lunar eclipse that occurs during a full moon.

When the moon is completely covered by the Earth’s shadow, the entire surface of the moon looks red or ruddy brown. This makes it appear as if the moon is bleeding.

In reality, the moon isn’t actually bleeding. Rather, it is turning black because the light coming from the sun is being blocked out by the Earth.

Why Isn’t There A Lunar Eclipse Every Time Earth Is In Between The Sun And The Moon

Because the moon, the sun, and the earth aren’t always exactly aligned. That little bit of difference makes it so that we only have a few lunar eclipses every year.

Why Does A Lunar Eclipse Only Occur During Full Moon Night

The lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the shadow cone of the earth. Since both the moon and the earth move relative to each other, during lunar eclipses the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.

When the moon is opposite the sun, we see its full lit side, which is called “full moon.” Except for the few hours of an eclipse.

What’s The Difference Between Phases Of Moon And Eclipses?

The moon phases are caused by the moon’s own shadow and not by the Earth’s shadow. Its shadowed side moves around as it revolves around the Earth.

The eclipses occur when the Earth or the Moon passes through the other’s shadow. The Moon is eclipsed from the Sun when it passes through the Earth’s shadow, and the Earth is eclipsed from the sun when it passes through the moon’s shadow.

These celestial bodies are both moving, but they are orbiting in different directions. So their shadows cross and cover each other in a certain order determined by the distance of the objects from one another.

pink clouds during nighttime
Photo by JV Buenconcejo on

What Is The Umbral Shadow? What Is The Penumbral Shadow?

The umbra is the darkest portion of a shadow. It can be caused by the obstruction of sunlight by the atmosphere. The Earth’s umbral eclipse occurs whenever the Moon passes through the path of totality of the Sun’s disk. During a lunar eclipse the Moon will appear darkened but not completely black.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the outer part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbral shadow. During a penumbral eclipse, the Moon will pass through the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. The Moon will then move into the umbral shadow, where the Moon will be completely covered by Earth’s shadow.

During a penumbral eclipse the Moon will appear dark red or reddish brown. As the Moon moves closer to the center of the umbra, the color of the Moon will change to yellowish orange. As the Moon moves further away from the center of the umbral shadow, the color of the moon will turn back to red.

When the Moon leaves the umbra, the light intensity will increase rapidly. The Moon will quickly regain its original brightness.

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