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Why are some eclipses longer than others?
The longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century is coming on July 27, with a totality set to last a full hour and 43 minutes over Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Nearly 4 hours will pass from the moment Earth's shadow darkens the leading edge of the moon to the moment the moon's full shine returns, according to Earthsky.org.
Comparison - Lunar - Eclipse - North - America
For comparison, the next lunar eclipse visible from North America, on Jan. 21, 2019, will last just an hour and 2 minutes. The solar eclipse that swept across 14 U.S. states in August 2017 remained in totality for no more than 2 minutes and 40 seconds, according to NASA.
So, what's the reason for these huge disparities between eclipses?
Eclipses - Moon - Sun - Light - Earth
Solar eclipses — when the moon blocks the sun's light from reaching Earth — are always way shorter than lunar eclipses, when our planet moves between the sun and moon. That's because of the differences in the shadows involved, said Kaisa Young, an astronomer at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.
"If you think about it from an outside perspective, a solar eclipse is a small moon casting a small shadow on a big planet," she said. "A lunar eclipse is a big planet casting a big shadow on a small moon."
Moon - Sun - Shadow - Earth - Happens
When the moon blocks the sun's shadow from hitting Earth, as happens during a solar eclipse, the umbra — the area of complete shadow, where the sun is totally blocked — is a just a few dozen miles wide and zips across the planet. But Earth's umbra is large, and the moon can take a long time to pass through it — especially if it moves through the middle of the shadow, rather then skirting along the edges, she said.
But there are also significant differences between different solar...
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