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Lunar and Solar Eclipses: 2016 and 2017
lunar eclipse
Lunar eclipse, the Blood Moon, at totality, Delray Beach, in April 2015.

(Editor's Note: This page will be updated from time to time as we proceed toward 2017.)

There are few routinely occuring astronomical events that rival an eclipse, be it lunar or solar. There are usually several a year, though they might fall in places on the globe where few may see them — in 2015, a solar eclipse was visible in totality only in the Faroe Islands and a few other equally inaccessible spots.

An eclipse occurs when the earth, moon and sun line up essentially in a straight line. When the moon is the middle body, you get a solar eclipse; when it's the earth, a lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse happens with the new moon; conversely, a lunar eclipse occurs only with a full moon.

How they line up and their positions relative to each other determine the type of eclipse. A person's position on the earth determines what he or she will see, if anything.

With a solar eclipse, the path of totality — the track across the globe where observers on the ground will be able to see a total eclipse — is narrow, about 100 miles across. Those on either side of the path will see a partial eclipse; closer to the path will see

There are three types of solar eclipse — total, partial and annular — and three types of lunar — total, partial and penumbral. Total and partial are pretty much self explanatory. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is at or near its farthest point from the earth in its orbit. Because of the difference in distance, the moon's shadow is smaller; when full eclipse is reached, a firey ring is left surrounding a darkened, inner disc. There are hybrid eclipses, which start as annular but develop into an annular along their path.

A penumbral lunar eclispse occurs when the outer shadow of the earth falls on the moon, only dimming it rather than darkening it, as in the photo of a total lunar eclipse above, taken in April 2015. In fact, a penumbral eclipse might not even register with most people, the change is so minimal.

Obviously, the time of day when an eclipse occurs is a critical factor in whether an eclipse is visible at any given spot.

No special gear is need to view a lunar eclipse, of course; solar eclipses cannot be directly viewed without some kind of eye protection.


Eclipses 2016

Sept. 13: Solar Eclipse. Annular eclipse visible only from southern Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica and a few islands in the Indian Ocean.

sep 1 lunar eclipse

Sept. 28: Lunar Eclipse. Penumbral eclipse. Will be visible in North America. The eclipse is expected to last three hours and 20 minutes, with one hour and 12 minutes of totality.

lunar eclipse


Eclipses 2017

Feb. 11: Lunar Eclipse. Penumbral, visible from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Time of greatest eclipse: 5:45:03 a.m., Eastern Standard Time.

Feb. 26: Solar Eclipse.

August 7: Lunar Eclipse, partial, visible from Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

August 21: Solar Eclipse. Total, visible throughout North America and South America as far south as parts of Brazil. Path of totality sweeps across the United States from South Carolina to Oregon. Maximum duration: 2 minutes, 40. 2 second in southern Illinois. Here in South Florida, we will see a partial eclipse.

path of eclpse 2017


Charts from NASA. Sources: Sky and Telescope magazine, NASA's Eclipse website. Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC.



The Almanac Index


Sun, Moon and Tides

Eclipses 2016-17

The Great American Eclipse 2017

Meteor Showers 2016

Significant Astronomical Events