Given the following, why will more lunar eclipses than solar eclipses be visible from North America in this decade?

A person living in North America will be able to see 15 lunar eclipses in the 2010–2020 decade. In the same time period, only two solar eclipses can be observed in North America.

1 Answer
Apr 25, 2016

Lunar eclipses are visible from much greater areas of the Earth's surface.


The Earth is quite a bit larger than the Moon. When the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned during a lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow is cast over the whole of the Moon's face. The eclipse is also visible from an entire hemisphere of the Earth.

The angular diameter of the Moon and the Sun as seen from the Earth are about the same. During a solar eclipse the Moon's disc is slightly larger than that of the Sun. To see a total solar eclipse it is necessary to be in the path of the umbra of the Moon shadow. This is a band which crosses the surface of the Earth which is typically 100 to 200km wide.

Much of the Earth's surface is water or sparsely populated, the chances of the Moon shadow passing over a large city are quite small.

A solar eclipse is an amazing sight. Often the best place to view an eclipse is on a ship. A ship can sail to the centreline of the eclipse and can possibly avoid cloud cover.