Science Questions

Do thungs other than the moon get eclipsed?

Sun, 11th Mar 2007

Part of the show Naked Scientists Question and Answer Show

Question

Colin in Norwich asked:

Does anything other than our moon gets eclipsed, such as stars or other planets?

Answer

 

What happens with an eclipse with the moon is the Earth passes exactly between sun and the moon, so basically the Earth's shadow is cast on the surface of the moon. Which is why you get that dark colour going across the surface, its sort of a reddish colour basically because you're getting a little bit of light filtering round the edge of the Earth through the atmosphere. The atmosphere lets red light get through better than blue light so you get a reddish tinge to the moon. Other things do get eclipsed, with the sun that's when the moon passes exactly between the Earth and the sun. Actually the day before the lunar eclipse we had an occultation of Saturn, where are moon passed exactly between us and Saturn. So Saturn disappeared out of view, you get the same affect from stars and other planets. They can be really useful things to watch; you can find out about the atmospheres of other planets by watching the stars vanish behind them.

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It's a really good way to detect a planet around another sun. As the planet passes in front of that other star it blocks out a little bit of the light and it goes slightly dimmer for perhaps a few hours and we can actually see that from the Earth sometimes and actually work out that there's another planet orbiting around another star somewhere.

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