A natural phenomenon that can be as rare as it is beautiful, eclipses have always been an event that have captured our imaginations and put us in awe as to the beauty of the universe. Of course there are many types of eclipses, the most common being the lunar eclipse, followed by the much more impressive solar eclipse. Both eclipses have influenced more than one ancient society or culture, with the advent of blood moons (a total lunar eclipse) or total solar eclipse given many different definitions and meanings across various civilizations.
It isn’t just the sun or moon who can experience eclipses, with the other planets in our solar system also occasionally undergoing them. After all, an eclipse is defined as being an astronomical event that occurs when astronomical objects – such as planets or the sun – are obscured by another such object. Of course, that means you might not be able to view an eclipse depending on where you are in the world, this is especially true for solar eclipses.
For example, viewers in North America will be treated to a solar eclipse on August 21st of this year. As NASA explains on its’ website, only certain sky-gazers will be able to see the full eclipse, namely those between Salem, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina. Anyone outside of those zones within North America will witness only a partial eclipse, but fear not, NASA and its’ partners will still be organizing events in those areas, so be sure to keep an eye on their website!
That being said, solar eclipses are certainly easy to miss due to their relatively small vision area. This is untrue for total lunar eclipses, which can be seen across an entire hemisphere and are a lot more frequent than its’ solar counterpart. Other larger planets, such as Jupiter, who have many moons experience a lot more eclipses, likewise for other solar systems that have two suns (binary). Mercury and Venus, who have no moons, only go through solar eclipses, with happen only occur a dozen times a century.
From a science perspective, planetary eclipses can help them identify many parameters of these planets. A lot of telescopes and other technologies are set up to identify the fluctuations in luminosity of stars in different systems, which usually suggest the existence of a planet or other mass. From there scientists can determine the size, classification, distance and composition of these planets or moons.