eclipse


eclipse

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Eclipses of the Sun and Moon. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

The passage of all or part of one celestial body into the shadow of another, the eclipsing body. Observers on Earth experience two major types—lunar eclipses and solar eclipses—each of which involves the Sun and the Moon. The type observed depends on whether Earth is the eclipsing body or the body in shadow. In a lunar eclipse the orbit of the Moon carries it through Earth's shadow. Observers see the full Moon dim considerably, but it remains faintly visible. In a solar eclipse the Moon is the eclipsing body, passing between Earth and the Sun while casting a traveling shadow across Earth's lighted surface. Observers along the shadow's path see a total or partial obscuring of the Sun's disk by the Moon's silhouette. The shadow cast by the eclipsing body consists of the central umbra, into which no direct sunlight penetrates (total eclipse), and the encircling penumbra, reached by light from only part of the Sun's disk (partial eclipse). Solar eclipses visible from different parts of Earth occur two to five times a year; one total solar eclipse occurs in most years. When Earth is closest to the Sun and the Moon farthest from Earth, the Moon's silhouette may fall entirely within the Sun's disk, with a ring of the disk visible around it (annular eclipse). Lunar eclipses occur twice in most years. Other kinds of eclipses include those of the Sun by Mercury or Venus (transits), of distant stars by planets or planetary satellites (occultations), and of stars by orbiting companion stars (see eclipsing variable star). See also Baily's beads.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on eclipse, visit Britannica.com.

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