What's the difference between solar and lunar eclipse?

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — We’re less than a month away from a total solar eclipse that will be visible in north Georgia, but what is the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse?

The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is a rare occurrence. It will be the first total eclipse to hit this area since 1970. It’s also the first total eclipse to come transcontinental for almost 100 years.

The solar eclipse will travel across the U.S. from Oregon, eastward through the north Georgia mountains, to South Carolina. The path will be 71 miles across.

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Those in the center of the path will experience a total eclipse that will last for two and a half minutes.

During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking all or part of the sun.

Lunar Eclipses happen two to four times a year, but solar eclipses occur about every 18 months.

“Normally, the moon’s shadow misses the earth, so we don’t have an eclipse every month,” Tellus Science Museum astronomer David Dundee said.

During a lunar eclipse, the earth is between the moon and sun, and the earth’s shadow blocks the moon.

“The whole hemisphere of the earth can see the lunar eclipse, not so with a solar eclipse where you have to be so precisely in the right place,” Dundee said.

During a solar eclipse, it’s not safe to look directly at the sun without special glasses or a pinhole viewer.

“For lunar eclipses, you can stare at the moon all you want. It’s perfectly safe,” Dundee said.

In metro Atlanta, about 97 percent of the sun will be covered on Aug. 21. The next transcontinental solar eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024, but its path will be far north of Georgia.

Georgia will be in the path of a total solar eclipse in 2045.