The Cosmic Dance

Imagine the sun as a gigantic glowing ball of fire at the center of the solar system. Our Earth is a planet that dances around the sun in an orbit, and the moon is a satellite that twirls around the Earth.

The sun is always shining and illuminating the Earth and the Moon. 

Occasionally, during the cosmic dance between the sun, moon, and Earth, the three celestial bodies will play a lineup game.

A fascinating shadow play called an “eclipse” occurs when either the moon or the Earth blocks the sun’s light.

Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, blocking all or part of the Sun’s light and casting a shadow on the Earth. 

There are three types of solar eclipses:

  • Total Solar Eclipse: This is when the Moon completely covers the Sun, blocking it from view. It’s like a big shadow that moves across the Earth, making it look like nighttime during the day in the path of totality. 
  • Partial Solar Eclipse: In a partial solar eclipse, the Moon only covers part of the Sun, like a bite taken out of a cookie. People outside the path of totality see the Sun as a crescent shape.
  • Annular Solar Eclipse: An annular eclipse happens when the Moon is farther away from Earth, so it looks smaller and doesn’t cover the Sun completely. A bright ring of sunlight is seen around the edges of the Moon, called a “ring of fire.”

Lunar Eclipse

In a lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon, blocking sunlight from reaching the Moon. 

There are three types of lunar eclipses:

  • Total Lunar Eclipse: The Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon during a lunar eclipse. The Earth’s shadow covers the Moon entirely, making it look red (blood moon). 
  • Partial Lunar Eclipse: In a partial lunar eclipse, only part of the Moon enters Earth’s shadow, making it look like a bite has been taken out of the Moon.
  • Penumbral Lunar Eclipse:  The Moon passes through the outer part of Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra. It’s hard to notice, and the Moon might look slightly dimmer.

Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about eclipses:

  • The word “eclipse” comes from the ancient Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “abandonment” or “failure.” The ancient people believed that during a solar or lunar eclipse, the Sun or Moon was being abandoned or swallowed by a celestial being.
  • Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with your eyes, unlike solar eclipses, which can hurt your eyes if you look at them directly.
  • The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century occurred on July 22, 2009, lasting 6 minutes and 39 seconds.
  • There are typically two to five solar eclipses and two to four lunar eclipses each year, but not all are visible from the same location on Earth.


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about the cosmic dance of the Sun, Moon, and Earth:

  • How should the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up for a solar eclipse to occur?  The Moon is between the Sun and the Earth
  • How should the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up for a lunar eclipse to occur? The Earth is between the Sun and the Moon
  • In which type of solar eclipse does it look like nighttime during the day?  Total Solar Eclipse
  • What color is the moon during a total lunar eclipse? Red (Blood Moon)
  • What spectacular sight is seen in the sky during an annular solar eclipse? Ring of Sunlight Around the Moon (Ring of Fire)
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