You probably already know what lunar eclipses are and how they come to happen but did you also know…
- Solar and lunar eclipses follow a cycle called Saros and it repeats 18.6 years.
- A solar eclipse (see image) always occurs two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse.
- Eclipses very often occur in threes, alternating lunar, solar and lunar.
- Lunar eclipses can occur up to three times a year.
- Solar eclipses can occur a minimum of two times a year and maximum of five times a year.
- Solar eclipses are visible in a narrow path that is about 300km wide.
- The Stonehenge, a famous Stone Age construction, was used to study the cycles of the moon and sun. It was, therefore, useful to the ancient people of England, to determine the schedule of eclipses.
- When the entire moon is in the umbra (inner part of the shadow created by the earth), we say the earth is in totality. This can last up to 1.66 hours and allows you to observe small or far-away stars that you couldn’t see before.
Isn’t science remarkable? We’re lucky we understand all these patterns, but our ancestors weren’t as lucky. At times, they were frightened by eclipses and thought them to be ominous, at other times, they attempted to remove their confusions by creating harmless stories about the moon. You can read some of the interesting ones here.
Image: Heinz-Peter Bader