The stars and their movements have been from the most remote antiquity a motive of astonishment and veneration for the human being, often associating them with spirituality and religion. One of the celestial phenomena that has most fascinated us because it is infrequent and impressive, and which has always contained a great deal of symbolism, is that of eclipses.
Today it is already known how and why they are produced, although they still retain a certain romantic mysticism. Eclipses continue and will continue to occur in the future, in all their forms.
Because there are different types of eclipse . In order to learn how to identify them, throughout this article we will briefly review the main types that we can see from our planet.
What is an eclipse?
An eclipse is understood as a celestial phenomenon in which at least three stars participate, and in which one of them interposes and aligns itself with the other two in such a way that it hides one of them from view from the other.
Its occurrence is due to the orbit of the planets around the stars, as well as that of the satellites around the planets , due to the gravitational force.
A meaning in mythology
As we have seen before, the eclipse has historically been linked to the religious and spiritual , since the reasons why the stars disappear from view or are partially hidden were not known.
For example, in Chinese mythology eclipses occurred when a celestial dragon, dogs or even a toad devoured the Sun or the Moon, while the Egyptians saw in this celestial phenomenon the combat between the Horus and Seth diodes (the loss of the star being the result of the latter plucking out an eye from the former, being subsequently returned by Ra) or the sinking of Ra’s boat by the serpent god Apep.
Kingdoms like Siam or India also considered that the stars were devoured by gods or dragons. Also in pre-Columbian civilizations were feared , often performing sacrifices to return the Sun or Moon to its place. The beliefs were many: from the star being devoured to the effect of battles between deities. Also the arrival of the Spanish in South America happened just after a solar eclipse, something that helped them to be initially taken by the gods.
Types of eclipse
Although there are a large number of types of eclipses that can occur from any planet, those that affect us directly are of two types: solar and lunar. We can also find another type of eclipse, that of the planet Venus.
1. Solar eclipses
We call solar eclipse to that cosmic phenomenon in which the Moon interposes itself between the Sun and the Earth, causing the star king not to be visible from our planet. They are usually the most spectacular and the ones that have had the greatest transcendence for humanity. They should never be observed directly , because even if the figure and the light of the Sun are not visible, the radiation can affect us equally. We can find different types of solar eclipses.
Total solar eclipses are those in which the Moon totally blocks the light from the Sun, totally blocking its vision from the Earth .
The partial solar eclipse occurs when only a part of the Moon is aligned between the Earth and the Sun, resulting in a part of the Sun being visible while a portion of it is blocked by our satellite.
This type of solar eclipse occurs because although the Moon stands between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the view of the latter, its smaller size and the separation between the Moon and the Earth means that even though the solar disk is covered by the Moon, a ring of sunlight can still be seen around it . The resulting vision would be the prototypical Moon with a ring and corona of light, as if the centre of the Sun had turned black.
One of the rarest, the hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the alignment between the three heavenly bodies causes a total eclipse to be seen in different parts of the globe while a partial one is seen in others.
2. Moon eclipses
Lunar eclipses are produced when an alignment between the Sun, Earth and Moon takes place, situating our planet between the Sun and the Moon and blocking the passage of sunlight to our satellite . There are three main types of lunar eclipses.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when our planet completely prevents the light from the Sun from reaching the Moon. When it occurs, the Moon gradually darkens until it completely disappears in the cone of shadow cast by the Earth. It then gradually returns to being seen again.
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon is not completely covered by the Earth or the cone of shadow cast by our planet does not cover its vision in its entirety.
In penumbral eclipses, the Moon is never obscured by the cone of shadow that our planet casts as it aligns between it and the Sun, although it does pass through the twilight zone. This makes although it remains visible its color darkens to a great extent .
2.4. Venusian Eclipse: the transit of Venus
Although we don’t usually consider it to be an eclipse, the truth is that other stars can also interpose and align themselves between the Earth and the Sun . This is what happens with the so-called transit of Venus, in which our neighbouring planet is situated between the Sun and the Earth.
However, the great distance between the Earth and Venus compared to the Moon, in addition to the relatively small size of the planet compared to ours, makes this type of eclipse very unnoticeable, barely covering a small point on the Sun.
Moreover, this type of eclipse is very rare, repeating itself in sequences: 105.5 years, then another at 8, then another at 121.5 and then another 8, in a 243-year cycle. The last one was in 2012, and the next one is expected to occur in 2117.