Two total lunar eclipses occur this year, on April 4th and September 27−28. Meanwhile, a total solar eclipse in March sweeps across remote Arctic waters on March 20th, and a partial event on September 13th is likewise poorly placed for observing.

Any list of nature's grandest spectacles would certainly include eclipses of the Sun and Moon. Up to seven of them can take place in one year, though the last time that happened was 1982. The fewest possible is four, as will be the case in 2015. Neither of the solar eclipses — one total and one partial — is observable from the Americas. Both lunar eclipses are total; April's favors the West Coast, while September's is best on the East Coast.

Why Do Eclipses Happen?

Total solar eclipse over China

Few events in nature offer the drama and spectacle of a total solar eclipse, as demonstrated by this one seen over China on August 1, 2008.
S&T: Dennis di Cicco

A solar eclipse, such as the one pictured at right, occurs only at new Moon, when the lunar disk passes directly between us and the Sun. Conversely, a lunar eclipse takes place during full Moon, when our satellite passes through Earth's shadow. These alignments don't happen at every new and full Moon because the lunar orbit is tipped about 5° to Earth's orbital plane — only occasionally do the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up exactly enough for an eclipse to occur. (The technical name for that, by the way, is syzygy.)

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