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SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Total lunar eclipse. Illustration showing the positions of the Earth, Moon and Sun during a total lunar eclipse. Total lunar eclipses occur when the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon, and casts its shadow across the surface of the Moon. As seen here, the cone of Earth's shadow is larger than the Moon's width at the same point, and because of this, totality can last up to 107 minutes. Lunar eclipses occur only at full Moon, and then only when the Earth and full Moon are correctly aligned (about 2-3 times a year). They do not occur every full Moon as the Moon's orbit is slightly inclined to the Earth's orbit around the Sun.
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