Today is a great day for debunking woo! If you have eyes and either live in a part of the U.S. where the moon eclipsed the sun, or just had access to media all day, you got to witness one of the most beautiful dances the heavens can provide: A total solar eclipse. I was unable to directly watch the eclipse for multiple reasons, not the least of which is living just a little too far south to get the “totality”, but I have watched it on TV, and it truly is glorious. The world goes dark for two minutes, being like twilight in the middle of the day and the sun becomes a halo of light around a black circle. It’s an amazing sight, and one that teaches us a lot about the nature of our celestial bodies, specifically about the sun and the moon.
First off, let’s be clear here: A lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse are very different things, at least from our perspective. The solar eclipse is simply the moon coming between us and the sun, blocking out the light in a small area on the planet at any given time, while the lunar eclipse is us blocking the sun’s light out for the moon. It’s virtually the same thing, but there are some key differences that should give us all a pretty good hint about the flat Earth vs. the scientifically-accurate Earth.
First, take a look at any map showing the totality path of this year’s awesome event. You’ll notice something: totality happens in a very, very small portion of that path. The moon’s umbra is relatively tiny, because the moon itself is quite tiny. It’s basically a little line compared to the vast size of the United States and the Earth as a whole. This is also something to bear in mind as we explore further: You can only see the solar eclipse in a small portion of the world at any given time. We’re talking about 100 square miles, which sounds large, but compared to even one state, it’s miniscule. If you’re not in the path of the totality, you may see the sun somewhat obscured. The further from the totality you get, the less the moon covers the sun until you move entirely out of that zone. In these areas, there is no eclipse, even though the moon is nearby. This is possible because the moon is so relatively close and so small that you’re basically peering around it to see the sun. But what about the lunar eclipse? How does it fit in with proving the spheroid nature of our planet?
Well, it’s not as much of a slobberknocker as, say, measuring two points on Earth for their shadows or noticing the tidal forces, completely locked in place with the moon’s orbit, but it definitely shows that these two events aren’t the same thing, at least visually-speaking. A lunar eclipse is another beautiful convergence, leaving the moon dark and red. Unlike the solar eclipse, the lunar eclipse has almost all of the moon blocked out from the sun’s light, with the penumbra providing some red-tinted lighting through Earth’s atmosphere.Were you to view an eclipse from the moon, you would see the Earth almost menacingly block out the entirety of the sun, completely covering it. There would be no view of the corona. Just blackness, no matter where you are on the moon. You may see some red light coming off the sides of the Earth at that time if you were in the penumbra, but it would be as a glow around the planet, rather than direct sunlight. And this is where we come to how different these two events are.
A lunar eclipse, unlike the solar, can be seen from any vantage point from which the moon is visible on that night. A little less than half the entire world can see the lunar eclipse at the same time, unlike the solar one. There is no disk that slip in front of the moon to hide it. It’s the shadow of our planet cast on the shiny white ball. By that same token, a solar eclipse is clearly not a simple disk sliding between us and the sun, as this wouldn’t happen at different, predictable times throughout the day. The only way for this to be possible is parallax, allowing some to see around the moon while others have the light blocked out, all at the same time.
These are both fantastic events, and I hope to see another one in my lifetime. I know one will happen in 2026 because math. The fact that we can predict these events due to the orbits of the Earth and moon further cements the reality that we’re talking about spheres in space, not discs on a firmament.