Eclipse season

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An eclipse season is one of only two periods during a year when eclipses can occur, due to the orbital inclination of the Moon. Each season lasts for approximately 34 days and repeats just short of six months, thus two full eclipse seasons always occur each year. Either two or three eclipses happen each eclipse season. During the eclipse season, the inclination of the Moon's orbit is low, hence the Sun, Moon, and Earth become aligned straight enough (in syzygy) for an eclipse to occur.

During each season, the type of solar eclipse (whether total or annular, as seen from the sublunar point) depends on the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon, which is a function of the elliptical distance of Earth from the Sun and of the Moon from Earth, respectively, as seen from Earth's surface.

If the Earth had a perfectly circular orbit centered around the Sun, if the Moon's orbit was also perfectly circular and centered around the Earth, and if both orbits were coplanar (on the same plane) with each other, then two eclipses would happen every lunar month (29.53 days). A lunar eclipse would occur at every full moon, a solar eclipse every new moon, and all solar eclipses would be the same type.


An eclipse season is the only time during which the Sun (from the perspective of the Earth) is close enough to one of the Moon's nodes to allow for an eclipse to occur. During the season, whenever there is a full moon a lunar eclipse will occur and whenever there is a new moon a solar eclipse will occur. If the Sun is close enough to a node, then a total eclipse will occur. Each season lasts from 31 to 37 days, recurring about every 6 months. At least two (one solar and one lunar, in any order), and at most three eclipses (solar, lunar, then solar again, or vice versa), will occur during every eclipse season. This is because it is about 15 days (a fortnight) between full moon and new moon and vice versa. If there is an eclipse at the very beginning of the season, then there is enough time (30 days) for two more eclipses.

In other words, because the eclipse season (34 days long on average) is longer than the synodic month (one lunation, or the time for the Moon to return to a particular phase and about 29.5 days), the Moon will be new or full at least two, and up to three, times during the season. Eclipse seasons occur slightly shy of six months apart (successively occurring every 173.31 days - half of an eclipse year), the time it takes the Sun to travel from one node to the next along the ecliptic. If the last eclipse of an eclipse season occurs at the very beginning of a calendar year, it is possible for a total of seven eclipses to occur since there is still time before the end of the calendar year for two full eclipse seasons, each having up to three eclipses.[1][2][3]


Visual sequence of two particular eclipse seasons

In each sequence below, each eclipse is separated by a fortnight. The first and last eclipse in each sequence is separated by one synodic month. See also Eclipse cycles.

Eclipse season of May/June 2002
May 26th
Descending Node (Full Moon)
June 10th
Ascending Node (New Moon)
June 24th
Descending Node (Full Moon)
Lunar eclipse chart close-2002May26.png SE2002Jun10A.png Lunar eclipse chart close-2002Jun24.png
Penumbral lunar eclipse
Lunar saros 111
Annular solar eclipse
Solar saros 137
Penumbral lunar eclipse
Lunar saros 149
Eclipse season of June/July 2011
June 1st
Descending Node (New Moon)
June 15th
Ascending Node (Full Moon)
July 1st
Descending Node (New Moon)
SE2011Jun01P.png Lunar eclipse chart close-2011jun15.png SE2011Jul01P.png
Partial solar eclipse
Solar saros 118
Total lunar eclipse
Lunar saros 130
Partial solar eclipse
Solar saros 156

(The two eclipse seasons above share similarities (lunar or solar centrality and gamma of each eclipse in the same column) because they are a half saros apart.)[4]

Two-year chart of eclipses (2013–2014) demonstrating seasons

Date Type (phase) Time of season next eclipse will occur...
April 25, 2013 lunar (full) beginning next new moon
May 10, 2013 solar (new) middle next full moon
May 25, 2013 lunar (full) end next eclipse season
... no eclipses for about 5 months...
October 18, 2013 lunar (full) beginning next new moon
November 3, 2013 solar (new) end next eclipse season
... no eclipses for about 5 and a half months...
April 15, 2014 lunar (full) beginning next new moon
April 29, 2014 solar (new) end next eclipse season
... no eclipses for about 5 and a half months...
October 8, 2014 lunar (full) beginning next new moon
October 23, 2014 solar (new) end next eclipse season (spring of 2015)

The partial lunar eclipse of August 7-8, 2017 was followed by the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017.

See also


  1. ^ Littmann, Mark; Fred Espenak; Ken Willcox (2008). Totality: Eclipses of the Sun. Oxford University Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-19-953209-5. 
  2. ^ Periodicity of Lunar and Solar Eclipses, Fred Espenak
  3. ^ Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar and Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000, Fred Espenak and Jean Meeus
  4. ^ A Catalogue of Eclipse Cycles, Robert Harry van Gent

External links

  • NASA Eclipse Web Site
  • Sun-centered animation of moon inclination UNL Astronomy
  • Solar Eclipses: A Multimillenium Tale of Computation
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