Professor Astro Cat Explains… Eclipses
To us, the Sun and Moon look the same size, but actually they are completely different. The Sun is much, much bigger than the Moon and even much bigger than the Earth, but because it is so far away, it looks much smaller. Sometimes, the orbits line up and the Moon floats in between the Sun and the Earth. When this happens, the Moon completely covers the Sun’s light and casts a shadow onto the Earth, sometimes plunging it into complete darkness; this is a solar eclipse.
When a solar eclipse happens, as the Moon starts to move across the Sun, everything gets cold and goes dark. The Moon completely covers the Sun for up to 7 and a half minutes before moving on its way and allowing the Sun to shine its light once again.
If you’re watching a solar eclipse, you have to be very careful to not look directly at the Sun unless you’re wearing special glasses because the Sun is so bright, it can damage your eyes.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow across the Moon so we would see a bright Moon disappear from the night sky.
To find out more about eclipses, head to the NASA Eclipse website for a full list of past and upcoming eclipses.
Test your knowledge about eclipses in the Prof’s solar system app, available to download here!