We are in the middle of an 'Eclipse Season' as we just had a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
last Friday, Feb 11th at 22 Leo. Next we will have a more powerful Annular Solar eclipse
on Sunday Feb 26th at 8 Pisces. Read below to find out more about eclipses.
Although the Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, it is 400 times as far from the Earth than the Moon. This causes the two luminaries (Sun and Moon) to appear as the same size in the sky (Geocentric view that astrology is based upon.)
When the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, it casts a shadow. If this shadow falls on the earth, it causes an eclipse.
The Moon passes between between the Sun and Earth every month, yet it does not cause an eclipse to occur every month. An eclipse can only occur when the Moon is on the ecliptic or plane of orbit of the Earth around the Sun.
The points of intersection of the planes of the Moon around Earth and the Earth around the sun are represented in an astrology chart as the North and South Nodes (Rahu and Ketu in vedic astrology.) N. Node (Rahu) is the ascending node (i.e. turning point when the Moon begins to gain in latitude which represents the rise of materialism.) S. Node (Ketu) is the descending node of the Moon and represents spiritualism.
When an eclipse occurs, the Sun and Moon appear to conjoin in the sky (solar eclipse) or oppose in a Full Moon (Lunar eclipse). It is necessary for either of the nodes to be in contact for the shadow to fall on the Earth. Since the shadow can fall on the Earth only when either of the nodes conjoins this conjunction/opposition of the luminaries, the nodes are called shadowy planets or shadow causing by nature.
To understand the difference between a Total and Annular eclipse of the Sun, we must remember that the Moon has an elliptical orbit around the Earth.
The Moon's distance from Earth varies from a minimum of 221,000 to a maximum of 252,000 miles. Therefore the Moon's apparent size in our sky will vary by 13%. When the Moon's orbit is closest to the Earth, the Moon will appear to be the same size as the Sun. If an eclipse occurs during this time, it will be a Total Solar Eclipse
because the Moon had totally obscured the Sun, producing a beautiful solar corona ejecting outward from the Sun's rays.
The Moon's shadow become narrower as it is cast to the Earth (in the shape of a cone with the wide end at the Moon and the narrow end on the Earth.) Therefore the path of the eclipse is narrow on the Earth. Eclipses are short-lived (10 minutes or less) as the Moon moves quickly.
In an Annular Solar Eclipse
the Moon is further away from the Earth than with a Total Eclipse. The Moon appears smaller in an Annular eclipse and its shadow does not reach the earth. What reaches the Earth is the autumbral or "negative" shadow. If you are within the autumbral shadow, you will see a solar eclipse where a thin ring or annulus or bright sunlight surrounds the Moon.
A Lunar Eclipse
occurs when the Sun casts the Earth's shadow on the Moon. (NOTE:
In a solar eclipse the shadow of the Moon is cast on the Earth but in a Lunar Eclipse the Earth's shadow is cast on the Moon.) Solar Eclipses are considered more powerful and have a longer lasting effect on Earth than Lunar Eclipses. Often a Lunar Eclipse brings to a head something that began with the previous New Moon (Solar Eclipse.)
In a Lunar Eclipse, the Earth is between the Sun and Moon with all three bodies lying on the same orbital plane. A Lunar Eclipse can only occur during a Full Moon and when the Moon passes through all or a portion of the Earth's shadow.
The outer portion of the shadow cast from the Earth is known as the penumbral shadow, which is the area where Earth obstructs only a part of the Sun's light from reaching the Moon. The umbral shadow is the 'inner' shadow, which is where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. A penumbral Lunar Eclipse
is subtle and very difficult to observe. A partial Lunar Eclipse
is when a portion of the Moon passes through the Earth's umbral shadow. Finally a Total Lunar Eclipse
is when the entire Moon passes into the Earth's umbral shadow. During a Total Lunar Eclipse, the sequence of eclipses are penumbra, partial, total, partial and back to penumbral.
Unlike Solar Eclipses (which are 10 minutes or less) a Total Lunar Eclipse lasts a few hours, with totality itself usually averaging anywhere from about 30 minutes to over an hour. This is due to the large relative size of the Earth over the Moon. (Remember: In a solar eclipse the shadow of the Moon is cast on the Earth but in a Lunar Eclipse the Earth's shadow is cast on the Moon.) The Moon's diameter is only about 2150 miles while the Earth's diameter is 7,918 miles, therefore the much larger earth is casting a larger umbral shadow on the Moon.
Lunar Eclipses occur more frequently than Solar Eclipses. There are zero to three Lunar Eclipses per year where the Moon passes through at least a portion of the Earth's umbral shadow (producing a partial to total eclipse.)
For an eclipse to occur, the Moon and Earth have to be on the same orbital plane with the Sun, so the Earth's shadow can be cast onto the Moon from the Sun. This is why lunar eclipses only occur on average one or two times a year instead of every month.
Even though the Moon is immersed in the Earth's umbral shadow, indirect sunlight will still reach the Moon thus illuminating it slightly. This is because indirect sunlight reaches the Moon and also the Earth's atmosphere will bend a very small portion of sunlight onto the Moon's surface. Many times during a total lunar eclipse, the color of the Moon will take on a dark red hue or brown/orange color. As sunlight passes through Earth's atmosphere, the blue-light is scattered out. The amount of illumination of the Moon will vary depending on how much dust is in the Earth's atmosphere. The more dust present in the atmosphere, the less illuminated the Moon will be. Lunar Eclipses are totally safe to be viewed by the naked eye, through binoculars or a telescope - unlike Solar Eclipses which should not be viewed directly.
Read how astrologers interpret Eclipses in previous articles:Eclipses and the Nodes in Astrology Part 1
Eclipses and the Nodes in Astrology Part 2