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Date: 1993 - 1999


Question:
What makes an eclipse occur?


Replies:
Eclipses occur when one astronomical object gets in the way of another, so that the second objects light is blocked from reaching the earth. In a solar eclipse, our moon gets between the earth and the sun, and blocks the light from it for a while.

It's actually a rather remarkable coincidence that the moon and the sun are roughly the same angular size right now, so that this is possible but rare (and very spectacular). It's thought that trying to understand and predict solar eclipses was one of the motivations for the development of astronomy thousands o f years ago. In lunar eclipses the earth gets between the sun and the moon, so that the moon becomes darker as we see it from earth. There are all sorts of variations on these eclipses where only part of the object is blocked by the other - this happens because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle and is not quite p erfectly aligned with the earth's orbit about the sun.

A Smith



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