Eclipse Frequency

How often and when do they occur?

How often? There's not an easy answer. For an eclipse to occur the Sun, Moon and Earth have to line up in the same plane. This can only happen when the Moon is full or new and when the Moon passes through the ecliptic. Because the Moon's orbit is inclined 5 degrees to the Earth's, it spends most of its time below or above the plane of the Earth and the ecliptic.

A lunar eclipse line up could look like this ... Full Moon rising–Earth–Sun setting ... or like this … Sun rising–Earth–Full Moon setting. In either case the Earth's shadow blocks out the "ecliptic" Full Moon. Note: Lunar eclipses, unlike solar eclipses are completely safe to watch. Lunar Eclipses for Beginners

A solar eclipse line up could look like this ... Earth–New Moon setting-Sun setting ... or like this ... Sun rising-New Moon rising–Earth. In either case the "ecliptic" New Moon passes in front of the Sun and blocks the Sun's light to the Earth. Solar Eclipses for Beginners Note: New Moons are invisible, hidden in the Sun's bright light, but during a solar eclipse the New Moon "appears" as a darkness covering some portion of the Sun. Viewing Solar Eclipses Safely

APOD: August 24, 1998 - An Annular Eclipse of the Sun
Image: Olivier Staiger

The above picture was taken by a video camera in Mersing on the East Coast of Malaysia and emailed to APOD from an internet cafe in Kuala Lumpur. An annular solar eclipse will occur when the Moon's angular size is slightly less than the Sun's angular size. Therefore, when the Moon is directly in front of the Sun, the edges of the Sun are still visible. This solar ring is so bright that the Moon's surface normally appears dark by comparison. The angular sizes of the Sun and Moon change slightly because of the elliptical nature of the Moon's and Earth's orbit. A total solar eclipse would have occurred, were the Moon much closer to the Earth. Current Astronomy Picture of the Day

Total solar eclipses can be expected about every year and a half or so, but in any one calendar year, there are at least two and as many as five solar eclipses ... these can be partial, total and annular (see description under image) and often only visible from isolated regions of the Earth, which is why they seem so infrequent. In fact, solar eclipses outnumber lunar eclipses by almost 5 to 3, if you ignore the penumbral lunar eclipses that are essentially unobservable.

Total lunar eclipses come in clusters. There can be two or three during a period of a year or a year and a half, followed by a lull of two or three years before another round begins. When you add partial eclipses there can be three in a calendar year and again, it's quite possible to have none at all. Lunar eclipses are visible from the entire night time hemisphere of our planet and as a result are more frequently observed and seem to be more numerous.

Exceptions to this lunar eclipse rule ... Between May 15, 2003 and October 28, 2004 there were four total lunar eclipses — an eclipse occurring roughly at 6 month intervals (see Tetrads below) within less than a year and a half! Three of the four were visible from New York and other parts the U.S. East Coast. This flood of lunar eclipses made them seem commonplace. December 30, 1982 to August 18, 1989 was a seven year eclipse drought for the New York region, even though other parts of the world experienced several totalities! All of those eclipses occurred during the daytime when the Moon was below the New York region horizon.

Eclipses also tend to come in pairs with solar and lunar types complementing each other. Combining both solar and lunar eclipses, it's possible but rare for one calendar year to contain a maximum of seven eclipses. However, these can only occur in the combinations of five solar and two lunar, or four solar and three lunar. In 1982 there were four solar eclipses and three rare total lunar eclipses. This will not happen again until 2485 AD. The November 9, 2003 total lunar eclipse was visible across much of the United States, although like the May 15, 2003 total lunar eclipse, the Moon rose already in partial eclipse. After October 28, 2004, the next total lunar — visible anywhere on Earth — didn't occur until March 2007! Similar to the May 31, 2003 annular solar eclipse, North America missed out seeing the November 23, 2003 total solar eclipse. From articles by: Joe Rao and Fred Espenak

Note: August 21, 2017 the contiguous United States experiences its first total eclipse of the Sun since 1979! Learn more from This solar eclipse pairs with the August 7, 2017 partial lunar eclipse.

Schiaparelli Discovers Tetrads

Four consecutive total lunar eclipses, occurring at six-month intervals, are part of an uncommon lunar cycle known as a tetrad. Such a series ended October 2004 and another began April 2014.

2003–2004 Tetrad
2014–2015 Tetrad
May 16, 2003
April 15, 2014
November 9, 2003
October 8, 2014
May 4, 2004
April 4, 2015
October 28, 2004
September 28, 2015

Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses 2014-2015
NASA ScienceCast Video

The Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910) discovered that during a period of about three centuries tetrads can occur rather frequently; then in the next three hundred years tetrads never occur at all. "Presently we are living in a period where tetrads take place, while no tetrads at all occurred at the time Louis XIV was king of France," says the well-known Belgian eclipse calculator Jean Meeus. From a 2004 article by Joe Rao

2014-2015 Tetrad ~ "Blood Moons"

Mark Blitz and John Hagee, Christian pastors, apply the term Blood Moon to the 4 total eclipse Full Moons of the 2014-2015 tetrad. They feel this lunar tetrad represents a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, when the moon is supposed to turn blood red before the end times, as described in Joel 2:31 (Common English Bible).

Though there are a total of 8 tetrads in the 21st century (2001 to 2100), the 2014-2015 tetrad is significant to the Biblical prophecy because it coincides with two important Jewish holidays: Passover and Tabernacles. says, "However, if we want to know which tetrads specifically fell on the Jewish feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, there appear to be a total of 8 in these 21 centuries ... [from 162-163 C.E. to 2014-2015 C.E.]."

Learn more from at What is a Blood Moon?

Lunar Eclipses: Past, Present, Future

Solar Eclipses: Past, Present, Future

Eclipse at
Eclipse Science and More!

How To Deal With Eclipses
(Scroll below eclipse dates.)
During an eclipse period, you may feel like you are
walking across a bridge to a brand new place,
with no turning back from where you started.
(Link includes information on eclipses from 2016-2025.)

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