A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow).This can occur only when the sun, Earth and moon are aligned (in “syzygy”) exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. A total lunar eclipse has the direct sunlight completely blocked by the earth’s shadow.
Unlike a solar eclipse, which can be viewed only from a certain relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere on the night side of the Earth.However, as a result of the Sun’s large angular size, solar illumination is only partially blocked in the outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, which is given the name penumbra.
- Total penumbral eclipses are rare, and when these occur, that portion of the moon which is closest to the umbra can appear somewhat darker than the rest of the moon.
- In particular, when the moon is near its apogee, the farthest point from the Earth in its orbit, its orbital speed is the slowest.
- Although the moon is in the Earth’s umbra, the Sun and the eclipsed Moon can both be seen at the same time because the refraction of light through the Earth’s atmosphere causes each of them to appear higher in the sky than their true geometric position.
- The moon does not completely disappear as it passes through the umbra because of the refraction of sunlight by the Earth’s atmosphere into the shadow cone; if the Earth had no atmosphere, the Moon would be completely dark during an eclipse.
- This is the same effect that causes sunsets and sunrises to turn the sky a reddish color; an alternative way of considering the problem is to realize that, as viewed from the moon, the sun would appear to be setting (or rising) behind the Earth.
- When Christopher Columbus came to the New World—specifically, the north coast of Jamaica—he was able to use European scientific understanding to correctly predict a lunar eclipse.
- The event is known as the March 1504 lunar eclipse, and occurred when Columbus, after he wanted to be seen as god-like, stated that he would make the moon disappear during the night of February 29, 1504.
- The reason Columbus wanted to prove he could make the moon disappear is because he and his crew were eating a great deal of the inhabitants’ food, and the inhabitants refused to feed them anymore.
- Similarly to the Mayans, the Incans believed that lunar eclipses occurred when a jaguar would eat the moon, which is why a blood moon looks red.
- This attack was more than just one on the moon, however, for the Mesopotamians linked what happened in the sky with what happened on the land, and because the king of Mesopotamia represented the land, the seven demons were thought to be also attacking the king.