There are two 2024 lunar eclipses in store for us. 

There are no total lunar eclipses this year; the next is in March 2025. Instead, we’ve got a penumbral lunar eclipse this March, when the Moon will pass through the outer shadows cast by Earth, and a partial lunar eclipse in September.

Partial lunar eclipses occur when the Earth, the Sun and the Moon are almost in a straight line, so the Earth casts its umbral shadow on the moon. However, the three bodies are not quite perfectly lined up, so at no point does the whole surface of the moon get covered by Earth’s umbra.

If that doesn’t quite make sense, don’t worry. There’s a full, detailed guide later on in this article. Or click here to read it now.

But first, let’s look at the detail behind this year’s two lunar eclipses.

Discover the solar eclipses of 2024


Lunar Eclipses 2024

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse | March 25, 2024

Eclipse Visibility favors all of the Americas, eastern Asia and Australia, and western Europe and Africa.

The first lunar eclipse of 2024 will be a penumbral one lasting almost 4 hours 39 minutes from 04:53 UT to 09:32 UT on March 25, 2024. Maximum eclipse occurs at 07:12 and, at that point, over 95% of the lunar surface will be bathed in the penumbral shadow from Earth.

Of course, no part of the lunar surface falls into Earth’s umbra – although it is close – otherwise this would be classed as a partial lunar eclipse.

The best place to view this eclipse is anywhere in the Americas. The western side of the USA will see the whole eclipse, but the deepest part of the shadow will be visible everywhere on the continent.

If you’re viewing from eastern Asia or Australia, you’ll see only the end of the eclipse as the moon rises. Conversely, viewers in Western Europe will glimpse only the start of it before the moon sets.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins04:53 UT
Maximum Eclipse07:12 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends09:32 UT
Path of March 2024 penumbral lunar eclipse.
Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, EclipseWise.com

Partial Lunar Eclipse | September 18, 2024

Eclipse Visibility: Most of the Americas, Europe, and western Asia.

The second and final lunar eclipse of 2024 is a partial eclipse phase lasting four hours and six minutes in total. The moon makes only a very shallow pass through Earth’s umbral shadow and, as such, the partial phase only lasts for 63 minutes.

The moment of greatest eclipse will occur at 02:44 UT. At this moment, just 8% of the lunar surface will be covered by the Earth’s deepest shadow, making this a very weak partial eclipse and more akin to a penumbral.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins00:41 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins02:13 UT
Maximum Eclipse02:44 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends03:15 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends04:47 UT
Path of 2024 partial lunar eclipse.
Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, EclipseWise.com

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

Eclipses occur when the Moon’s orbit places it between Earth and the Sun, an alignment called syzygy (pronounced SIZ-eh-gee). At times, the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, i.e. the Earth falls directly between the moon and the sun. 

Since our planet blocks sunlight from landing on the moon, it causes a lunar eclipse. The only light coming from the moon during an eclipse is sunlight that passes through Earth’s atmosphere, hits the Moon’s surface and reflects back towards Earth.

This is why the Moon is much darker during an eclipse, and why it can appear red, as you’ll see in the ‘Blood Moon’ section, further down the page.

A NASA image showing the moon, the Sun and Earth’s alignment for a lunar eclipse
How three celestial bodies should be aligned for a lunar eclipse to occur (Source)

Lunar eclipses are visible from a much larger part of the globe than a solar eclipse. This is because Earth creates the shadow (the Moon creates the shadow which causes a solar eclipse) and its shadow is larger than the Moon. The Moon stays in the shadow for a long time, allowing more of Earth’s surface to witness the eclipse.

What Are the Different Types of Lunar Eclipses, and How Often Do They Occur?

There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, penumbral, and partial. The time period between two lunar eclipses can be 1, 5 or 6 synodic months.

A lunar eclipse only occurs when the moon is full, which is logical because the Sun needs to be behind the Earth, opposite the Moon, to cast a shadow on its surface. The Moon is full whenever the Sun is opposite it.

However, not every full moon results in an eclipse because the orbital plane of the Moon varies by about 5° from Earth’s. Sometimes the Moon is above Earth’s shadow and, other times, below it.

Astronomers recognize two kinds of shadows: the outer penumbra, where the Earth blocks only part of the Sun’s rays from reaching the moon, and the umbra, where the Earth shields the moon from all of the Sun’s rays.

Think of it from the perspective of standing on the lunar surface. If you are in the penumbra, the Earth blocks only some of the Sun from view. In the Umbra, our planet would stop you from seeing any part of the Sun.

Depending on how much of each of these two shadows falls on the lunar surface, three types of lunar eclipses can occur: Penumbral, Partial, and Total. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

This occurs when the Moon, Earth and the Sun are imperfectly aligned such that the moon is only in Earth’s penumbra, and does not touch the darker umbra. 

These eclipses are hard to observe because the lunar surface is not drastically darkened unless it travels very near to the umbra.

The best way to think of a penumbral eclipse is to imagine yourself standing on the lunar surface when it happens. What you’ll see is Earth covering part of the sun. From your perspective, you’re witnessing a partial solar eclipse.

However, some sunlight is still shining on you, so the shadow is not very dark; this is the penumbral shadow.

An image showing the Earth’s shadow on the moon during a penumbral lunar eclipse
A penumbral lunar eclipse (Source)

Partial Lunar Eclipse

In a partial lunar eclipse, the Moon is at least partly covered by Earth’s umbral shadow. Using the same thought experiment as above, the umbral shadow is cast when Earth completely covers the sun from your perspective on the moon’s surface. You are, in effect, seeing a total solar eclipse.

This is why the umbral shadow is much darker on the lunar surface and much easier to observe with the naked eye – there is no sunlight landing where the umbral shadow is.

An image showing the Earth’s shadow on the moon during a partial lunar eclipse
A partial lunar eclipse (Source)

There are five partial lunar eclipses due in the 2020s. One of them is in September this year, the rest can be found in the table at the bottom of the page.

Total Lunar Eclipse

When all three celestial bodies are perfectly or near-perfectly aligned, the Moon moves completely into Earth’s umbra. No sunlight can make it directly to the lunar surface, causing a total lunar eclipse. Again, using the thought experiment from above, no matter where you are standing on the lunar surface, the sun is totally covered by Earth.

The entirety of the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, casting it in complete darkness. Some sunlight, especially the red part, is scattered by Earth’s atmosphere and falls onto the moon, giving it a dim, often reddish, glow. 

An image showing the moon during a total lunar eclipse
A total lunar eclipse (Source)

Total lunar eclipses make up 35% of all lunar eclipses each year and are seen from any location on Earth approximately every 2.5 years.

What Causes a Blood Moon During An Eclipse?

A blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse when the moon is completely snuggled inside Earth’s umbral shadow. 

Sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere scatters through a process called Rayleigh scattering (similar to how the Sun is red during sunsets and sunrises). Red wavelengths are not scattered as much and pass right through Earth’s atmosphere and land on the moon

The moon then reflects this red color, which we see from Earth. This phenomenon is called a Blood Moon. Although widely used, Blood Moon is not a scientific term.

A NASA image showing a Blood Moon
A Blood Moon (Source)

How to See a Lunar Eclipse

The good news is that you don’t need any special equipment to observe a lunar eclipse. So long as the full moon is visible from your location on eclipse night, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye.

You can, of course, use binoculars or a beginner’s telescope (these links open our favorite choices in a new tab) to heighten your enjoyment of the experience. These will let you more closely track the progress of Earth’s shadow as it passes over the lunar landscape.

At their most extreme, Lunar eclipses can last almost four hours, with totality itself lasting more than 100 minutes.

How Often Do We See an Eclipse of the Moon?

Lunar eclipses are much more frequent than those of the Sun. There are approximately five lunar eclipses every two years somewhere on the Earth’s surface.

Any particular location can expect to see some kind of lunar eclipse at least annually because the Earth’s shadow, by definition, covers half the planet.

It is possible to have as many as five eclipses in a calendar year, but this is a rarity, happening just 35 times in 5000 years; the next one is in 2132.

Most years (71%) have two eclipses in them if we include all types of eclipses. If we only look at total lunar eclipses, the maximum number that can occur in one year is three. The last time this happened was 1982, and the next is due in 2485.

Lunar Eclipses for the Next 10 Years

This table shows all the lunar eclipses we expect to see over the decade. We will, of course, bring full details of each nearer the time.

DateVisibilityType
13-14 Mar 2025Eastern Asia and Australia, all of North and South America, Western Europe and AfricaTotal
7-8 Sep 2025All of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, western North America, eastern South AmericaTotal
3 Mar 2026East Asia, Australia, North and South AmericaTotal
27-28 Aug 2026Most of North and South America, most of Europe, all of Africa, western AsiaPartial
20-21 Feb 2027Most landmasses, except western USA and Canada, and western AustraliaPenumbral
16-17 Aug 2027North and South America, western Africa, eastern Australia and AsiaPenumbral
11-12 Jan 2028All of North and South America, all of Africa, most of EuropePartial
31 Dec 2028Eastern Africa, most of Europe, all of Asia and Australia, western North AmericaTotal
26 Jun 2029North and South America, Western Europe and AfricaTotal
20 Dec 2029North and South America, all of Europe and Africa, most of AsiaTotal
15 June 2030Most of Europe, Africa and AustraliaPartial
9-10 Dec 2030Most landmasses except eastern AustraliaPenumbral
7 May 2031The Americas, Africa and western EuropePenumbral
5 Jun 2031Australia, Western AmericasPenumbral
30 Oct 2031Eastern Asia, the Americas, Western fringes of Europe and AfricaPenumbral
25 Apr 2032Australia and eastern AsiaTotal
18 Oct 2032All land masses except the AmericasTotal
14 Apr 2033Central Asia, east Africa, Western AustraliaTotal
8 Oct 2033Eastern Asia and Western Canada and USTotal

Summary

Lunar eclipses give you a chance to watch the solar system at work right in front of your eyes; of the Moon around Earth and Earth around the sun.

Improve your moon observing skills, with our Guide to The Lunar 100

What’s more, they are so easily viewed that they make a compelling introduction to astronomy for stargazers of all ages.

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