Eclipses have been fascinating people since time immemorial to present day; in the old days, their sudden presence was never predicted and the effect on the masses, quite understandably, may have caused pandemonium.

Failing to comprehend these celestial events, our distant forefathers attached a mystic importance to them - about what was to come - ranging from mild chaos to doom's day scenarios. Even in the 21st, we are not short of people who still think they are astrologically significant, when scientists debate their astronomical importance. Let's explore the simple science behind them ignoring the superstition.

There are two types of eclipses:

  1. Solar Eclipse
  2. Lunar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse



Solar eclipse takes place when the sun, earth and moon happen to be in the same plane with the moon being in the middle, shadowing the sun. The effect is that people in some parts of the earth, do not see the sun or part of it. This phenomenon is called a solar eclipse.
Solar eclipse happens on new moon days. However, it does not happen on every new moon day, as it is very rare that these three heavenly-objects lie in the same plane. This is the reason that the arrival of a full solar eclipse leads to a hysterical break-out of  enthusiasm among masses - of astronomical proportions, of course - defying both intellect and geographical barriers.


Total Solar Eclipse: April 8, 2024

A unique celestial spectacle will unfold across North America as a total solar eclipse is going to wrap up the continent in an ethereal twilight. This rare event, dubbed the "Great North American Eclipse" by those who romanticize events of this kind, will see the moon completely obscure the sun for a brief period, turning day into a breathtaking dusk-like experience. This total eclipse is special because its path cuts directly across a narrow band of North America. The band in question, stretching from Mexico all the way to Canada, will experience totality, where the moon entirely blocks the sun's visible disc. Observers within this path will witness a dramatic darkening of the sky, a sudden drop in temperature, and the appearance of the corona, the sun's faint outer atmosphere, which is usually hidden by the sun's brilliance. The total eclipse will only last for a few precious minutes, with a maximum duration of 4 minutes and 28 seconds along the path, provided that the spectacle is not spoilt by thick cloud cover.

During the eclipse that will last very short period of time, even animals, especially birds, will suddenly find their surroundings going strange and will react to it - a scene of pandemonium.

A total solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon. Not only do the Earth, Sun and Moon align i a straight path but also stay in the same plane - something that makes it rare. Those who congregate to watch the celestial spectacle will be able to witness the the total solar eclipse for little over 4 minutes. Since solar eclipses, let alone total solar eclipses, are a few and far between in any given decade, physics enthusiasts try to make the best of it - for obvious reasons.


The animation sums up that all.

Lunar Eclipse


Lunar eclipse takes place when the earth happen to be moving between the sun and moon, while all three objects are in the same plane. As a result, the earth blocks the arrival of sunlight which otherwise falls on the moon. Being a non-luminous object by nature, the moon does not light up itself and appears to us as a dark object, losing both its charm and gentle presence. This is called a lunar eclipse
It has been reported that people with obvious psychological problems show some sensitivity to this event. So a derived word, but with a rather unpleasant ring to it - of course, it is lunacy to beat about the bushes - resonates with the event in some quarters of the globe; anyway, this event has been fascinating our ancestors as well, from time immemorial, sometimes even triggering off torrents of superstition.
Lunar eclipses take place on full moon days.


Please answer the following questions.

  1. You cannot expect to see eclipses on Venus. Explain.
  2. It is dangerous to look at a solar eclipse with a naked eye. Explain.
  3. We get a full moon day once in every month, but not a lunar eclipse. Explain.
  4. Eclipses can be explained by rectilinear propagation of light. Discuss.
  5. Discuss the impact on earth, when the moon is in its penumbra and umbra regions of the shadow.
  6. Compare and contrast our only natural satellite with an artificial satellite.
  7. What is light year? Calculate the distance between the moon and the earth in terms of light years.