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Types of solar and lunar eclipses

Eclipses have been the subject of superstition and scientific curiosity throughout history. timeanddate.com explores the different types of eclipses.

Eclipse History

The Moon obscures parts of the Sun's disk during this 2006 partial solar eclipse.

©iStockphoto.com/Hans-Walter Untch

Types of solar eclipses

Solar eclipses only happen at New Moon, when the Moon moves between Earth and Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line: Earth - Moon - Sun.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, as seen from Earth.

Total solar eclipses explained

Partial solar eclipses can be observed when only the lunar penumbra (the partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an object) touches the Earth.

Partial solar eclipses explained

Annular eclipses occur when the Moon appears smaller than the Sun as it passes centrally across the solar disk and a bright ring, or annulus, of sunlight remains visible during the eclipse.

Annular solar eclipses explained

“Hybrid” eclipses are a rare form of solar eclipse, which changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse along its path.

Ancient traditions linked to solar eclipses

Tips on viewing eclipses

Illustration image

Partial lunar eclipse in 2008 seen in Germany.


Types of lunar eclipses

Lunar eclipses only happen at Full Moon, when the Earth moves between Moon and Sun, and the three celestial bodies form a straight line: Moon - Earth - Sun.

Total lunar eclipses occur when the Earth's umbra obscures all of the Moon's visible surface.

Total lunar eclipses explained

Partial lunar eclipses can be observed when only part of the Moon's visible surface is obscured by the Earth’s umbra.

Partial lunar eclipses explained

Penumbral lunar eclipses happen when the Moon travels through the faint penumbral portion of the Earth’s shadow.

Penumbral lunar eclipses explained