Long ago, and still in some cultures today, eclipses have been attributed to supernatural causes. They were frightening for people especially when suddenly, in the middle of the day, the sun seemed to disappear as the sky darkened.
However, today we have the answer on what causes this natural occurrence.
An eclipse is a phenomenon in astronomy (the science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere). That happens when a space body such as the moon or the sun moves into the shadow or path of another.
The term eclipse comes from a Greek word that means ‘to cease to exist.’
There are many types of eclipses but the most common are the Solar and Lunar eclipses.
The Solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth so that the sun is fully or partially covered. When the sun is totally covered it is termed to be a Total eclipse of the sun.
A total solar eclipse is a spectacular and rare natural phenomenon and many people travel to remote locations to observe one. This is because a total eclipse cannot be observed from any part of the earth except in that particular location.
In order to view a solar eclipse scientists advice the use of special eye protection that is designed to block the solar rays as they can damage ones eyesight.
There are people who use sunglasses, used camera films or other self –made filters but all are highly discouraged by scientists.
A Lunar eclipse on the other hand, occurs whenever the moon passes behind the earth such that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon thus causing the moon’s illumination to dim to some extent.
For this to occur, the sun, the earth and the moon should be aligned in such a way that the earth is in the middle. It only occurs at night and in the presence of a full moon.
Scientists have predicted that the next total lunar eclipse will occur on December 21, 2010.