The Moon's Role in a Solar Eclipse

  • Released Friday, July 21, 2017
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While the sun is the main focus of a solar eclipse, our moon plays the most crucial role in creating this unique event. This video tutorial explains what happens during a total solar eclipse and a partial eclipse and how often they both occur. The video also explains how a solar eclipse differs from a lunar eclipse, and gives a helpful tip on how to remember the difference. In addition, the video examines how the two parts of the moon’s shadow, the umbra and penumbra, affect how we see an eclipse on the Earth, and illustrates the surprising true shape of the umbra. The video concludes by highlighting how data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has helped us better map a solar eclipse’s path of totality. Visualizations included in this piece showcase the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse happening in the United States.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Friday, July 21, 2017.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:47 PM EDT.