Solar vs Lunar Eclipse

Published: Aug. 3, 2017 at 8:47 AM CDT
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We are just weeks away from the great american solar eclipse.

This will be the first time since 1979 that anyone in the United States will be able to see a total solar eclipse and the first time in almost a century since a total solar eclipse crossed the entire continental area.

When most people think eclipses, they think of a lunar eclipse when the earth is positioned between the sun and moon, blocking the sunlight from reaching the moon.

These eclipses cover a larger area on the earth, in comparison to solar eclipses, so more people can see them.

While these may be visible to more people, for a longer amount of time, they happen less frequently.

A total solar eclipse can usually be seen from somewhere on the earth every 18 months, but the path of totality normally only covers a path that's about 50 miles wide.

This year, with the solar eclipse in August, the path of totality will span from coast to coast, but it's only 70 miles wide. With this eclipse, most people in the path of totality will only have around 2 minutes to see it.

Overall, at least 2 solar eclipses -total, partial or annular- occur each year, with a maximum of 5 seen from somewhere on earth. With total lunar eclipses, the area coverage is far greater and totality lasts far longer.

When a total lunar eclipse occurs, the moon is in the earth's umbra, or full shadow. These are visible from over half of the earth, with totality lasting about 1 to 2 hours. These eclipses are less frequent, though. A lunar eclipse, either penumbral, partial, or total, can occur from 0 to 3 times a year on average.

The next total lunar eclipse will be visible on January 31, 2018 from Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean and western North America. Unlike a solar eclipse, you can view a lunar eclipse with the naked eye.