Solar Eclipse vs Lunar Eclipse: Are You Ready For The Next One?

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Solar eclipse in the sky (caption: Guide To Watching The Solar Eclipse)Do you want to watch one of the coolest and rarest sights ever? Solar and lunar eclipses are known for their uniqueness and the awe they bring to people around the world. But do you know the difference (beyond the obvious) between a lunar eclipse vs solar eclipse? Let’s discuss the differences and similarities between solar and lunar eclipses. We also let you know how to safely view a solar eclipse.

What Is A Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon orbits Earth and moves between the sun and Earth. During this time, the moon blocks the sun’s light from reaching Earth, and the moon’s shadow is cast onto Earth. Solar eclipses occur every 18 months and only last a few minutes long.

Types Of Solar Eclipse

There are three types of solar eclipses:

  • A total solar eclipse is only visible to those who are in the center of the moon’s shadow. During this time, the sky becomes very dark as it does at night time. For a total solar eclipse to occur, the Earth, moon and sun must be in a direct line.
  • A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are not lined up perfectly. The sun has a dark shadow on part of its surface.
  • An annular solar eclipse is when the moon is the farthest from the Earth. During this time, the moon seems smaller, and it does not block the full view of the sun. The moon appears as a dark circle on top of the sun, which looks like a sun-colored ring circling the moon.

There are two shadows cast onto Earth from the moon. The first is called the umbra, and it gets smaller as the moon reaches Earth. If you stand in the umbra, you will see a total eclipse. The second is called the penumbra, which gets larger as the moon reaches Earth. If you stand in the penumbra, you will see a partial eclipse.

When Is The Next Solar Eclipse?

The next total solar eclipse in the Americas is December 14, 2020, in South America. Totality lasts only two minutes, but the entire solar eclipse lasts two hours and 38 minutes leading up to and after the total eclipse.

Upcoming Total Solar Eclipse Dates

  • December 14, 2020: South America
  • December 4, 2021: Antarctica
  • April 20, 2023: Australia, Southeast Asia
  • April 8, 2024: North America
  • August 12, 2026: Western Europe, Iceland, Greenland, Arctic, Norway, Russia

Upcoming Partial (“Annular”) Solar Eclipse Dates

  • June 10, 2021: Northern parts of North America, Russia
  • October 14, 2023: North, Central and South America
  • October 2, 2024: South America, Antarctica
  • February 17, 2026: Africa, southern South America, Antarctica
  • February 26, 2027: Africa, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Antarctica

When Was The Last Total Eclipse In The U.S.?

Are you wondering when the last U.S. total solar eclipse was? 2017 marked the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979. The Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, took place in the lower 48 states. This was a big deal because some portion of the eclipse was visible from nearly every spot in the United States.

To get the best view of an upcoming eclipse, be sure to check out the solar eclipse path, which is the direction each eclipse will follow so you know which locations will be seen in totality.

How To Safely View A Solar Eclipse

To watch a solar eclipse, you should NEVER look directly at the sun. It can damage your eyes permanently. Solar eclipse glasses block the sun’s ultraviolet, visible and infrared radiation to keep your eyes safe. Please use proper safety equipment to watch any solar eclipse, from beginning to end. Looking at the sun without protection can cause lasting vision problems. Using regular sunglasses is not considered adequate protection. Solar eclipse glasses should be ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 12312-2 compliant.

Beware Of Fake Solar Eclipse Glasses!

As mentioned above, viewing the solar eclipse with inadequate equipment can permanently damage your eyesight. Unfortunately, unscrupulous sellers are taking advantage, and there’s a lot of fake solar eclipse glasses flooding the market. Amazon recently conducted a bunch of withdrawals, but there are still products available that may ship in time for the next solar eclipse.

Where And How To Buy Safe Glasses

Check availability on Amazon here and then cross-reference the product with a list of approved brands published by the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.

5 Ways To Safely Watch The Solar Eclipse [Video]

What Is A Lunar Eclipse?

The Earth orbits the sun, and the moon orbits around the Earth. There are times when Earth is between the moon and the sun, and when this happens, Earth blocks the sunlight that is reflected by the moon. This sunlight is what makes the moon shine, so instead of sunlight hitting the moon, Earth’s shadow is cast on it. This is what is known as an eclipse of the moon, or a lunar eclipse, and it can only occur when there is a full moon.

There are at least two partial lunar eclipses every year, but total lunar eclipses are rare. A lunar eclipse lasts a few hours typically, and it’s safe to watch without any eyewear.


There are two types of lunar eclipses:

  • A total lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth and moon (in that order) are in direct alignment, and some of the sun’s light reaches the moon, which gives the moon a reddish color to people on Earth.
  • A partial lunar eclipse takes place when part of the moon is in Earth’s shadow. The shadow of Earth is very dark on the side of the moon we see on Earth. The way a partial lunar eclipse looks varies depending on how the moon, Earth and sun are aligned.

When Is The Next Lunar Eclipse?

Here is a list of some upcoming lunar eclipses in North America:

  • November 30, 2020: partial lunar eclipse
  • May 26, 2021: total lunar eclipse (Super Full Moon)
  • May 16, 2022: total lunar eclipse (Blood Moon)
  • November 8, 2022: total lunar eclipse
  • March 14, 2025: total lunar eclipse
  • March 3, 2026: total lunar eclipse
  • December 31, 2028: total lunar eclipse

On January 21, 2019, there was a total lunar eclipse (aka Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse!)

How The Sun, Earth And Moon Align

You may have noticed that both solar and lunar eclipses occur due to the sun, Earth and moon all being aligned in a direct line. Depending on the order of these three and the shadows being cast, you could end up seeing one of the most beautiful sights in the world. If you’ve watched a solar eclipse and have glasses lying around, you may want to use them for an upcoming event or something else. Find out what you should do with your solar eclipse glasses now that the most recent solar eclipse is over.

Have you watched a solar or lunar eclipse before? Any tips?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She is one of Exploring Life's Mysteries most experienced researchers. When reviewing products and services her natural curiosity helps her dig deep and unearth the truth behind the marketing. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly grew up camping at the nearby lake with her family when she was a young girl. It wasn't until she met her husband that she rediscovered her love for the outdoors and began taking regular vacations to the national parks. Some of Kimberly's favorite memories include camping in a tent, hiking beautiful terrains, sitting around a campfire eating s'mores and sipping on a cold craft beer.

After three years of dating and exploring different regions of the U.S., Kimberly's husband proposed to her with the help of Exploring Life's Mysteries' online engagement content that she had researched and written. Not only was he able to design her ring himself, he was able to do so at great cost savings.

Kimberly likes starting her days with a warm cup of Nespresso, and she enjoys going for walks with her family and hound mix, Sally. In the evenings, she likes indulging in a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate while cozying up by the fire pit in her backyard.

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