Science from home: How an eclipse happens


What you need:

  • Dark room
  • Flashlight
  • 2 round objects that are different sizes
  • Something to hold the larger object in place (you can also stabilize it by holding the object)


  1. Find a dark space for this experiment (example: you can do this at night, or in a room with no windows)
  2. Stabilize your larger round object by holding it or placing it on top of another object
  3. Turn on flashlight and point directly at the larger round object
  4. Check to make sure that your flashlight and larger round object are in perfect alignment
  5. Move the smaller object around the larger one
  6. Watch to see how shadows are cast between the larger and smaller object based on where it is

The science & how it applies to the Earth:

In this experiment, the flashlight represents the sun, the larger object represents Earth, and the smaller object represents the Moon. While the objects may not be to scale with how they are in space, having different sizes will still demonstrate what happens when the the are in alighnment.

When the Sun, Moon and Earth are perfectly aligned in that order, the Moon will cast a shadow onto Earth. This shadow is called a solar eclipse.

Solar eclipses are rare, because since the Moon is smaller than the Earth, it casts a much smaller shadow. The next total solar eclipse will be on April 8, 2024. Parts of Ohio will be fortunate enough to be in the path of totality, and experience the moon’s shadow being cast down on earth.

When the Sun, Earth and Moon are in perfect alignment, the Moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow, creating a lunar eclipse.

Since the Earth is larger than the moon, a lunar eclipse is more common than a solar eclipse, but still doesn’t happen every month during the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. This is becuase the path that the Moon takes around the earth is at a slight tilt, which helps the moon to work its way around the Earth’s shadow, or sometimes only cross part of the Earth’s shadow.

If the Moon only passes through part of the Earth’s shadow, it is called a partial or penumbral lunar eclipse.

A penumbral lunar eclipse is the least noticeable because the Moon only passes through the outer edge of the Earth’s shadow.

This weekend, July 4- July 5, we will not only see a full “buck” moon, but a penumbral lunar eclipse. This will take place in Ohio between 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. But, since the moon will not be passing through the center of the Earth’s shadow, the difference will be faint, so you might have to look hard to seen that little bit of shadow on the face of the moon.

To learn more about penumbral lunar eclipses, like the one happening this weekend, visit:

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