What would a solar eclipse look like from the moon?

This coming weekend the Moon will experience an eclipse, and in less than three weeks the Sun will be eclipsed by the Moon. The best views for both are in America, but you may wonder what the view would be like if you were not on Earth but on the moon. The view a future astronaut might witness.

First of all, the eclipses on the moon are reversed. A lunar eclipse for us becomes a solar eclipse for the moon. And you may get different experiences and views depending on what you hope to observe and your location.

A lunar-solar eclipse

Let’s start with a lunar eclipse. That means you are on the moon and the earth is eclipsing the sun. This can happen in three ways: total, partial and penumbral.

Due to the relative size and position of the Earth and the Sun, our planet casts a shadow in a specific way. A thin cone where all sunlight is blocked is called the umbra, Latin for shadow. A larger cone where only some of the sunlight is blocked is called the penumbra – Latin for near shadow.

During a penumbral solar eclipse, the moon only passes through the penumbra. The full moon will look dimmer, but the near side will still be illuminated by some sunlight. This is what happens next weekend. From late Sunday evening through Monday morning, the full moon loses its luster as the moon travels through the penumbra.

During a partial solar eclipse, the moon would travel a short distance into complete shadow. That means that in certain parts of the surface the entire sun would be blocked. Those areas would experience a total solar eclipse, while the rest would experience a partial solar eclipse.

a grainy black and white video shows the sun disappearing behind the earth

NASA’s Surveyor 3 saw the total lunar eclipse from the moon on April 24, 1967.

Image credits: NASA, Surveyor 3/Credit: RD Sampson (ECSU)

However, the most interesting thing would probably be a total lunar eclipse. When the entire moon is in the umbra, something spectacular happens. All sunlight coming directly from the sun is blocked, but we discover that the Earth’s shadow is not black. As sunlight is scattered in the atmosphere, it takes on a red hue, causing the moon’s silver surface to glow that color.

An Earth eclipse

The Earth is much larger than the moon, so its shadow can cover the entire moon and be seen from an entire hemisphere. This Sunday’s lunar eclipse will be visible from Western Europe to East Asia. A solar eclipse covers a much smaller part of the Earth.

During the April 8 total solar eclipse, the path of totality will be about 125 miles (200 kilometers) wide when the eclipse occurs in Mazatlán, Mexico’s Sinaloa state, shrinking to 100 miles (160 kilometers) by the time it occurs. Reached Newfoundland. In the US alone, 31 million people are already living on the path of totality, and this path will go from Texas to New York State through Tennessee. Some of the areas that will witness this are quite small, and so residents are warned to stock up on water, fuel and food for the day.

The space station's solar panel wings can be seen in the foreground.  in the background clouds on Earth with the moon's shadow on it

NASA astronaut Don Pettit captured a total solar eclipse from the International Space Station in 2012.

Image credit: NASA

From the moon or from space in general, the solar eclipse will look like a dark spot moving across the Earth’s surface at about 1,500 miles per hour. If you were on the moon when that happened, you wouldn’t see much difference – the near side of the moon would be in its 14-day night, while on the blue marble next to it a sweeping shadow passed over the seas and lands.

So if you ever find yourself on the moon, hope for what on Earth would be a total lunar eclipse to see your surroundings turn crimson. The next total lunar eclipse will be in March next year. The next one will be in September 2025, when Artemis II is launched. Although the astronauts won’t land on that mission, it would be cool if they were around the moon during the solar eclipse.

A nice option would be to have astronauts on the Moon on December 31, 2028. A total lunar eclipse as seen from the Moon would be a spectacular way to celebrate the end of that year. Come on, NASA!

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