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An eclipse is an astronomical event. It is a process that develops slowly across time.
The eclipse is when one object in the sky moves into the shadow of another such object. When an eclipse happpens within a system of stars, like the Solar System, it makes a type of syzygy. This means that three or more objects in the sky are lined up in a straight line in the same gravitational system.
The term eclipse is most often used to describe a solar eclipse, when the Moon's shadow crosses the Earth's surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the shadow of Earth. No solar eclipse can last longer than 7 minutes and 58 seconds because of the speed at which the Earth and Moon move.
When the Sun is not involved, the event is called occultation.
- The New York Times (March 31, 1981). "Science Watch: A Really Big Syzygy". Press release. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9F02E5DB1039F932A05750C0A967948260&fta=y. Retrieved 2008-02-29.