fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Lunar eclipse on moon would look like solar eclipse

During a lunar eclipse, if you were on the moon, would you see a solar eclipse?

— T.C., Eagle Point

Technically speaking, it's not possible for a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse to happen at the same time.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes behind the Earth into the Earth's shadow. The Earth is between the moon and the sun, blocking the sun's rays from directly hitting the moon. Visualize the sun, Earth and moon in a line.

During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and casts a shadow on the Earth. In that case, the sun, moon and Earth are in a line.

But if you were able to stand on the moon during a lunar eclipse and look toward the sun, you would see the Earth blocking out the sun. It would, in fact, be similar to seeing a solar eclipse while standing on the Earth. One difference would be that you would be bathed in an eerie, reddish-orange light as you stood on the moon. That's because the Earth's atmosphere scatters and bends sunlight, according to earthsky.org.

The Earth also would block out the sun more completely. The Earth as seen from the moon looks about four times bigger than the moon looks in our sky, according to earthsky.org.

To see an artist's conception of a lunar eclipse as seen from the moon's surface looking toward the sun, visit earthsky.org/space/five-best-things-to-see-during-an-eclipse-from-the-moon.

What would happen if you were able to stand on the shadowed side of the moon and look back at the Earth during a solar eclipse?

NASA has given us an idea what that would look like with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — a camera-equipped, robotic spacecraft that orbits the moon.

During a 2012 solar eclipse, the orbiter took four photos as the moon's shadow fell upon the Earth, casting a round, fuzzy blob of darkness onto our home planet. One photo, for example, shows the dark blob covering the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska.

To see images captured by the orbiter, visit lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/513.

The 2012 solar eclipse was an annular, or "ring of fire," eclipse in which viewers from Earth still saw a bright ring of the sun shining from behind the moon. During an annular eclipse, the moon is farther away from the Earth, looks smaller in the sky and doesn't cover the sun.

The eclipse that is coming Aug. 21 is a total solar eclipse, meaning the moon will briefly block out the sun for people in the path of totality. The moon's shadow on the Earth will be about 70 miles wide.

As the moon's shadow sweeps across the Earth, it will cross over the Lincoln City area on the Oregon coast, the Salem area in the Willamette Valley and the Madras area in Central Oregon. In the span of about 90 minutes, the shadow will move along an arched pathway from Oregon on the Pacific coast to South Carolina on the Atlantic coast, according to NASA.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.