What is a lunar eclipse and how is it different from a solar eclipse?

This November 19, the longest lunar eclipse of the century will be the main protagonist in the sky of the Earth. It is a spectacular astronomical event of great duration that can be seen with the naked eye and will not be repeated until 2669.

On this occasion, the lunar eclipse will be appreciated during the early morning in America, while in its last stage it can be seen in Eastern Europe and Asia at the beginning of the night.

According to Time and Date, although technically it is a partial lunar eclipse, it will look like a total one. But what does this mean and what other types of eclipses do we see from Earth?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks part or all of the sunlight that hits our natural satellite. However, this astronomical phenomenon receives different classifications depending on the position that the satellite occupies in the Earth’s shadow, either its umbra or penumbra. Thus, according to Time and Date, there are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial and penumbral.

The total lunar eclipse it occurs when the natural satellite is completely hidden in the Earth’s umbra; that is, the central and darkest part of its shadow. In this type, the moon is called the blood moon since it shines like sunrises and sunsets that occur on Earth due to the scattering of light in the Earth’s atmosphere.

At partial lunar eclipse on the other hand, only a part of the moon hides behind the celestial planet. The astronomical phenomenon of November 19 will be of this type, since the shadow will be projected on 97% of the satellite and will leave a small strip still exposed.

Finally, a penumbral lunar eclipse it happens when the satellite is located in the gloom of the Earth, the faintest part of its shadow. For that reason, to a novice sky watcher it may look similar to a normal full moon.

Lunar eclipses are counted, since they only happen when the orbits of the Sun and the Moon coincide in the same plane.

In most calendar years, the average lunar eclipses are two; however, there may be cases where three or even none are present. Also, about 29% of all these are total lunar eclipses, so they can be seen from anywhere every 2.5 years, according to Time and Date.

Total lunar eclipses go through different stages as they continue their journey around the Earth. Thus, they move from being located in the semi-darkness to the complete umbra of the Earth and then back to the semi-darkness. In total, the usual time is on average 100 minutes; However, the partial lunar eclipse of this November 19 will last three hours 28 minutes and 23 seconds from the moment you enter the gloom and exit it.

According to NASA‘s lunar eclipse registry, one of similar extent only occurred in 1440.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks the path of sunlight — at least partially because of the difference in size — and casts a shadow on the Earth. This causes the planet to darken during the day and a ‘ring of Fire’ around the satellite. Always when the moon is in a new phase, otherwise the phenomenon is impossible.

While a lunar eclipse can be seen from anywhere on the night side of the Earth, a solar eclipse can only be seen from a single point, since the moon’s shadow is not very large. According to NASA, this event usually occurs annually somewhere on Earth for a few minutes and only happens again in the same location after 375 years.

According to Time and Date, the next total solar eclipse will occur on December 4, 2021 and can only be seen for a few minutes from Antarctica and southern Africa, Australia and America.

Solar eclipses are also differentiated from lunar eclipses by precautions when observing it, such as the use of special solar viewing glasses.