Solar eclipses are not more rare than lunar eclipses; in fact, they occur in almost similar numbers, with around two of each occurring each year. A solar eclipse, on the other hand, is significantly less often at any given location on Earth than a lunar eclipse. Only around four percent of places on Earth experience a total solar eclipse, while nearly all locations on Earth will see at least a partial lunar eclipse some time during their existence.
The reason for this difference is that solar eclipses can only happen on Earth where the Moon is located between Earth and the Sun. From our point of view, the Moon is always dark because it is too far away from us to reflect any sunlight back towards the Earth. However, if you were standing on the Moon during a total solar eclipse, you would see the Earth completely covered by a black shadow. Because we know that there is light outside of this shadow, this means that there must be something inside the shadow which blocks out the sunlight.
This "something" is actually the Moon itself. The Moon has no surface as we know it, but instead is made up of craters on top of solid earth. Where there are mountains or deep valleys, you can sometimes find yourself looking down into these things as bright sunshine filters down through gaps in the clouds. During a total solar eclipse, the Earth's atmosphere prevents any direct sunlight from reaching these areas so they remain in darkness.
Eclipses of the moon and the sun occur with almost similar frequency. Because the Earth creates a far wider shadow on the Moon during a lunar eclipse than the Moon casts on Earth during a solar eclipse, lunar eclipses are more noticeable. As a result, a lunar eclipse is more likely than a solar eclipse. In fact, over 95% of observers on Earth will see a lunar eclipse at some point in their lives.
Lunar eclipses can be visible on half of Earth while a solar eclipse cannot be seen from anywhere other than its immediate vicinity. A lunar eclipse appears in the night sky as the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon. Because the Earth's atmosphere refracts light, colors within the spectrum are blurred; red becomes orange or yellow, white become bright blue, violet becomes indigo, and green becomes red. The eclipse also makes stars appear brighter than normal, because darkness increases the contrast with which they can be seen.
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth's atmosphere refracts all the sunlight falling on it so that it forms a sharp-edged shadow that covers the entire Moon. The effect is most dramatic when the eclipse is total: not only does the full Moon become dimly lit, but so do those parts of it that were previously in darkness. The reason for this is that all the direct sunlight is refracted into the shadow side of the Earth's atmosphere, leaving those regions completely free of direct sunlight.
Amazing rarity and greatness Total solar eclipses would be substantially more often if the Moon were significantly bigger (or significantly closer). Lunar eclipses, for example, occur around six times every year (when the Moon passes through the shadow of the much bigger Earth). When the Moon is full, it completely covers the Sun's face, causing darkness to descend on the planet for a few hours. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth's atmosphere refracts light from the Sun that reaches it from the Moon, creating a reddish hue on its surface.
Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon is fully illuminated by sunlight from the Sun, blocking out the stars and galaxies beyond it. Only about a quarter of the moon is visible at any time during a total solar eclipse, since part of it is always obscured by the Earth. The path that the Moon takes as it orbits the Earth determines which regions will experience a total eclipse at any given moment; at maximum eclipse, only an area about 1/4th the size of North America is in total darkness.
Lunar eclipses are visible on half of Earth at any one time. They can only be seen in certain parts of the world, including all of North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa.
When you observe a partial solar eclipse from Earth, you're actually standing in the moon's penumbral shadow. So, which is more often, solar or lunar eclipses? On a global scale, solar eclipses are believed to outnumber lunar eclipses by a factor of three to two. However, on Mars, the opposite is true: A lunar eclipse will always be visible from Mars.
The reason for this discrepancy is that when viewing these events from Earth, we are looking at all the planets' reflections in the sun's surface. So, when the moon passes between us and the sun, we cannot see any part of its surface; only parts of its atmosphere can be seen in certain areas because they block out light from the sun. But what if we could travel to another world? On Mars, with no atmosphere to obscure its view, every part of the moon is visible during a total lunar eclipse.
On the other hand, when viewing a total solar eclipse from Earth, only the outer portion of our planet's atmosphere blocks out some of the sun's light. So, depending on where you are located on Earth, you might see all or none of the eclipse.
From space, however, we can see that there are places on Earth where people experience a total eclipse and others where they do not see any part of it at all.
Eclipses can only be seen along a certain path due to the tilt of the Earth and the placement of the moon and sun. Because that route is constantly changing, most people will never see an eclipse. It's not that they aren't happening, it's just that you have to be in the right place at the right time.
People love to talk about eclipses because they are such a rare event. If you look up in the sky during a total solar eclipse, you'll see that almost everywhere on Earth, the moon is covering the sun. In other words, almost all observers outside of a small area between the Earth and the Sun have a clear view of the show.
The reason we don't usually see total solar eclipses is because the Moon is always slightly out of line with the center of our planet. This is called its "eccentricity." The closer the Moon is to Earth, the more influence it has over how often we get a total eclipse. Right now, the distance is about 4.9 million km (3.1 million miles).
When calculating where to locate telescopes and what features to observe, astronomers take into account both the position and orientation of the Moon. A location that appears to be ideal for viewing the sunset this evening might not offer a good view of the moonrise tomorrow morning.