2 (i.b.) Lunar and Solar Eclipses
When the moon’s shadow hits Earth or Earth’s shadow hits the moon, an eclipse occurs. When an object in space comes between the sun and a third object, it casts a shadow on that object, causing an eclipse (ih klips) to take place. There are two types of eclipses: solar eclipses and lunar eclipses. (The words solar and lunar come from the Latin words for “sun” and “moon.”)
When Do Solar Eclipses Occur?
During a new moon, the moon lies between Earth and the sun. But most months, as you have seen, the moon travels a little above or below the sun in the sky. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between Earth and the sun, blocking sunlight from Earth. The moon’s shadow then hits Earth. So a solar eclipse occurs when a new moon blocks your view of the sun.
When Do Lunar Eclipses Occur?
During most months, the moon moves near Earth’s shadow but not quite into it. A lunar eclipse occurs at a full moon when Earth is directly between the moon and the sun. During a lunar eclipse, Earth blocks sunlight from reaching the moon. The moon is then in Earth’s shadow and looks dim from Earth. Lunar eclipses occur only when there is a full moon because the moon is closest to Earth’s shadow at that time.