A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow.This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned (in syzygy) with Earth between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon. The type and length of a lunar eclipse depend on the Moon’s proximity to either node of its orbit.

Totality during the lunar eclipse of 21 January 2019. Direct sunlight is being blocked by the Earth, and the only light reaching it is sunlight refracted by Earth’s atmosphere, producing a reddish color.

Latter phases of the partial lunar eclipse on 17 July 2019 taken from GloucestershireUnited Kingdom.

A totally eclipsed Moon is sometimes called a blood moon for its reddish color, which is caused by Earth completely blocking direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. The only light reflected from the lunar surface has been refracted by Earth’s atmosphere. This light appears reddish for the same reason that a sunset or sunrise does: the Rayleigh scattering of bluer light.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be viewed from a relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere on the night side of Earth. A total lunar eclipse can last up to nearly 2 hours, while a total solar eclipse lasts only up to a few minutes at any given place, because the Moon’s shadow is smaller. Also unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to view without any eye protection or special precautions, as they are dimmer than the full Moon.

Types of Lunar Eclipse:

A schematic diagram of the shadow cast by Earth. Within the umbra, the central region, the planet totally shields direct sunlight. In contrast, within the penumbra, the outer portion, the sunlight is only partially blocked. (Neither the Sun, Moon, and Earth sizes nor the distances between the bodies are to scale.)

A total penumbral lunar eclipse dims the Moon in direct proportion to the area of the Sun’s disk covered by Earth. This comparison of the Moon (within the southern part of Earth’s shadow) during the penumbral lunar eclipse of January 1999 (left) and the Moon outside the shadow (right) shows this slight darkening.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

This occurs when the Moon passes through Earth’s penumbra. The penumbra causes a subtle dimming of the lunar surface, which is only visible to the naked eye when about 70% of the Moon’s diameter has immersed into Earth’s penumbra.A special type of penumbral eclipse is a total penumbral lunar eclipse, during which the Moon lies exclusively within Earth’s penumbra. Total penumbral eclipses are rare, and when these occur, the portion of the Moon closest to the umbra may appear slightly darker than the rest of the lunar disk.

Partial lunar eclipse

This occurs when only a portion of the Moon enters Earth’s umbra, while a total lunar eclipse occurs when the entire Moon enters the planet’s umbra. The Moon’s average orbital speed is about 1.03 km/s (2,300 mph), or a little more than its diameter per hour, so totality may last up to nearly 107 minutes. Nevertheless, the total time between the first and the last contacts of the Moon’s limb with Earth’s shadow is much longer and could last up to 236 minutes.

Total lunar eclipse

This occurs when the moon falls entirely within the earth’s umbra. Just prior to complete entry, the brightness of the lunar limb– the curved edge of the moon still being hit by direct sunlight– will cause the rest of the moon to appear comparatively dim. The moment the moon enters a complete eclipse, the entire surface will become more or less uniformly bright. Later, as the moon’s opposite limb is struck by sunlight, the overall disk will again become obscured.

This is because as viewed from the Earth, the brightness of a lunar limb is generally greater than that of the rest of the surface due to reflections from the many surface irregularities within the limb: sunlight striking these irregularities is always reflected back in greater quantities than that striking more central parts, and is why the edges of full moons generally appear brighter than the rest of the lunar surface.

Central lunar eclipse

This is a total lunar eclipse during which the Moon passes through the centre of Earth’s shadow, contacting the antisolar point. This type of lunar eclipse is relatively rare.

The relative distance of the Moon from Earth at the time of an eclipse can affect the eclipse’s duration. In particular, when the Moon is near apogee, the farthest point from Earth in its orbit, its orbital speed is the slowest. The diameter of Earth’s umbra does not decrease appreciably within the changes in the Moon’s orbital distance. Thus, the concurrence of a totally eclipsed Moon near apogee will lengthen the duration of totality.


A selenelion or selenehelion, also called a horizontal eclipse, occurs where and when both the Sun and an eclipsed Moon can be observed at the same time. The event can only be observed just before sunset or just after sunrise, when both bodies will appear just above opposite horizons at nearly opposite points in the sky. A selenelion occurs during every total lunar eclipse it is an experience of the observer, not a planetary event separate from the lunar eclipse itself. Typically, observers on Earth located on high mountain ridges undergoing false sunrise or false sunset at the same moment of a total lunar eclipse will be able to experience it. Although during selenelion the Moon is completely within the Earth’s umbra, both it and the Sun can be observed in the sky because atmospheric refraction causes each body to appear higher (i.e., more central) in the sky than its true geometric planetary position.


The timing of total lunar eclipses is determined by what are known as its “contacts” (moments of contact with Earth’s shadow)

P1 (First contact): Beginning of the penumbral eclipse. Earth’s penumbra touches the Moon’s outer limb.
U1 (Second contact): Beginning of the partial eclipse. Earth’s umbra touches the Moon’s outer limb.
U2 (Third contact): Beginning of the total eclipse. The Moon’s surface is entirely within Earth’s umbra.
Greatest eclipse: The peak stage of the total eclipse. The Moon is at its closest to the center of Earth’s umbra.
U3 (Fourth contact): End of the total eclipse. The Moon’s outer limb exits Earth’s umbra.
U4 (Fifth contact): End of the partial eclipse. Earth’s umbra leaves the Moon’s surface.
P4 (Sixth contact): End of the penumbral eclipse. Earth’s penumbra no longer makes contact with the Moon.

Danjon scale:

L = 0: Very dark eclipse. Moon almost invisible, especially at mid-totality.
L = 1: Dark eclipse, gray or brownish in coloration. Details distinguishable only with difficulty.
L = 2: Deep red or rust-colored eclipse. Very dark central shadow, while outer edge of umbra is relatively bright.
L = 3: Brick-red eclipse. Umbral shadow usually has a bright or yellow rim.
L = 4: Very bright copper-red or orange eclipse. Umbral shadow is bluish and has a very bright rim.