by Taya Briggs

What is an Eclipse?

A lot of people know at least a little information about awe-inspiring Eclipses. They've heard stories or seen images of the Moon passing over the Sun. However, their information usually stops there. They don't know about the interesting history or the different types. They also have no idea how an Eclipse is caused; I thought I had known, but I'd barely scratched the surface. The Moon doesn't simply pass over the front of the Sun. In fact, many people don't know a thing about the rest of this event, and how truly amazing it actually is.

An eclipse isn't just a pretty picture. At least, the ancients didn't believe it was. They feared eclipses! In their Mythology, they were terrified and believed it signaled portents of war, symboled pestilence, and brought on death of their leaders. They even believed it hinted the end of the world! In fact, even the word 'Eclipse' comes from the Greek word 'Ekleipsis,' which means forsaking and abandonment. The Greeks believed that the Sun or Moon was abandoning them as it disappeared behind the other.

How is an Eclipse Caused?

For an Eclipse to occur, the Sun, Earth and Moon must all line up in just the right way. Their orbits actually have to be parallel, or only a partial or annular Eclipse will be caused. A Solar Eclipse occurs when the Moon moves between the Earth and Sun, which only can happen during a New Moon. However, a Lunar Eclipse can only occur when the Earth moves between the Moon and Sun; only during a Full Moon does this happen. If the orbit of the moon was parallel to the Sun's orbit, we would actually observe an eclipse every day. However, the Moon's orbit is inclined roughly five degrees that of the Sun's. This makes eclipses a lot more rare. A lot of deeper information can be found on National Geographic's website:

Solar and Lunar Eclipse Pictures


Information Sources

"Eclipses." The New Book of Popular Science. Vol. 1. Scholastic Library Publishing, Inc, 2006. 175. Print.

"Eclipses of the Sun and Moon." The New Book of Popular Science. Vol. 1. Scholastic Library Publishing, Inc, 2006. 118. Print.

"Encyclopedic Entry: eclipse." Education Beta. National Geographic Society, 1996-2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

Picture Sources

"Cairns Solar Eclipse 2012." Cairns Conferences. Discount Conference Accommodation, 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

"Solar Eclipse 2012: How to See "Ring of Fire" May 20." National Geographic: Daily News. National Geographic, 1996-2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

"When is the next lunar eclipse?." EarthSky. Earthsky Communications Inc., 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

"5/20/12 Southern California Partial Eclipse." ApertureLads., 20 May 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

Video Source

Solar Eclipse blocks sun in Australia - video. Dir. Reuters. 14 Nov. 2012. The Guardian. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.