Q:

Why do lunar and solar eclipses not occur every month?

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Quick Answer

Lunar and solar eclipses do not happen every month because the orbit of the moon and Earth are not on the same orbital plane. The moon's orbit has an incline of approximately 5 degrees in relation to the Earth's. This means that the moon, sun and Earth will not line up as often to create the conditions that are needed to create a lunar or solar eclipse.

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Full Answer

Lunar and solar eclipses occur when all three celestial bodies line up in a specific way. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is in its full moon phase and passes through the Earth's shadow. These eclipses can be partial or can be full depending on the alignment of the moon, Earth and where a person is viewing the eclipse. Not all eclipses are able to be viewed from everywhere on Earth, especially not at the same angle due to the shape and tilt of the Earth at the time of the eclipse. A similar alignment occurs with a solar eclipse. The moon in this case is in its new moon phase, and lines up with the sun in such a way that people in certain areas of the Earth will view a full solar eclipse. The distances of the moon and sun from the Earth keep them appearing the same size to the human eye, so when the moon moves in front of it, it blocks the view of the sun.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why do we have eclipses?

    A:

    According to NASA, solar eclipses occur when the moon blocks the view of the sun from Earth, and a lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's shadow covers the surface of the moon. The perfect alignment necessary for a full eclipse is relatively rare, with partial eclipses happening much more frequently.

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  • Q:

    What causes a lunar eclipse?

    A:

    Lunar eclipses are caused when the moon travels through the Earth’s shadow. Complete lunar eclipses are rare, but partial lunar eclipses may occur up to four times per year.

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  • Q:

    How long does a lunar eclipse last?

    A:

    The length of time a lunar eclipse takes varies, depending on the distance between the earth and the moon when the eclipse occurs, and whether it is a partial, or total eclipse. In general, a total lunar eclipse can last between 1 and 2 hours.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse?

    A:

    A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth so that the Moon's shadow falls on the Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon and the Sun casts the Earth's shadow on the Moon. Both events happen only when the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned.

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