Observing and Understanding Lunar Eclipses


lunar eclipse

A lunar eclipse is an interplay between celestial motions, and the reflection, refraction and scattering of sunlight. Total lunar eclipses are beautiful events, and can be simply enjoyed for their own sake, or, whether with the unaided eye, binoculars, or a small telescope, are opportunities to do some basic science. Large telescopes confer no great advantage in viewing lunar eclipses.

Lunar Phases and Motions

Normally, the Moon shines by reflecting unaltered sunlight. A common misconception is that lunar phases are somehow caused by the shadow of the Earth falling onto the Moon. In reality, since the Moon is in orbit around the Earth, the Moon’s phases are the result of changing viewing angle of the Moon as it orbits the Earth once every 29.5 days.

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Thanks to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for the permission to share this article.